• John Bush

Game Review #457: Wizards of Brandel (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B Developer: EXE Create, Inc. Publisher: KEMCO Category: JRPG Release Date: 12.5.2019 Price: $12.99


Buy Wizards of Brandel from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

The KEMCO/EXE Create marriage has churned out a lot of decent retro-styled JRPGs for the Switch over the past couple of years, and today’s entry is no exception. Wizards of Brandel for the Nintendo Switch is their latest release, and it contains all of the features we’ve come to expect from these companies’ partnership. For the most part, that means it’s got a smooth, fun battle system and attractive, 32-bit graphics. Unfortunately, there are a few areas where this game stumbles where previous releases have succeeded—but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself. If you’re generally a fan of JRPGs, Wizards of Brandel will be like comfort food for you.



OH HI MARK!

Wizards of Brandel starts innocently enough in the world of Brandel, where heavily indebted wizard Darius has just had his house repossessed over unpaid loans. A young-looking but powerful wizard who happens to be a fan of Darius’s spellbooks—published under some embarrassing pen names—offers Darius sanctuary in his secluded mansion. One problem? It turns out this wizard is the Evil Lord Mark—the latest in a line of evil magicians that plague the world with demons. Except, well… he’s really nice, and generous, and generally not at all what one would expect from an Evil Lord. He claims that the whole situation must be some kind of misunderstanding, and Darius reluctantly agrees to let the whole thing be…


…Until a warrior from the Guild—Brandel’s most powerful peace-keeping institution—appears one day to take Mark’s life and bring peace to the world. This fateful encounter interrupts Darius and Mark’s life of peaceful contemplation and magical study, embroiling them in a worldwide conspiracy involving demons, savage experiments, and massacred villages. The story is decent enough, but it gets off to a slow start, and even when it gets going, it doesn’t quite have the same magic as other KEMCO releases like Alvastia Chronicles or the Asdivine series. The characters are mostly less-developed than other games from the company, and all-in-all the story is perfectly acceptable, but slightly disappointing given the studio’s history.



Six Pack

Battles are mostly traditional JRPG random encounters, with a few boss fights thrown in for good measure. They’re a mixture of turn- and time-based, with a timer bar across the top of the battle screen showing the order of turns. Your battle party contains six characters, arranged on the battle screen in pairs where one character is in the lead and one is in support. Main characters can attack, use magic, or defend. The support character is a summoned familiar that can use support to empower the action taken by the main, cast their own magic, or use items. If both members of a pair cast complementary magic spells, they will form even more powerful abilities that add a cool level of strategy to the proceedings. Each pair pools their HP together, but the game doesn’t use MP or SP to cast skills—each skill is able to be used at the start of battle, and each spell has a cool down period after it has been cast.



What’s on the Menu?

There are plenty of different activities to explore in the game’s menu, starting with weapon synthesis. You can sacrifice weaker weapons to level up your character’s weapons by either raising their damage or transferring special attributes. The Lab screen lets you spend money to make your magic or physical skills more powerful. The Magical Gardens offer you the ability to plant seeds which grow into attribute-enhancing flowers, search for additional items after every battle, or send your familiars off to do extra work for a special currency that can be traded in at certain locations for extra-special items. Finally, the menu shop is where you can exchange tickets and gems found throughout the game for a chance to win rare weapons and familiars.



Familiarity is a Double-Edged Sword

If you’ve played any KEMCO games before and this all sounds like a familiar game system, that’s probably because it’s basically the same one used in Asdivine Hearts II. I don’t personally have a big problem with it, however, since it’s a fun system to use. It made the game feel familiar, which was mostly a welcome feeling. It made getting into the system a lot easier. It did, however, also make the game feel a little less unique. It created a slight impression of a game that doesn’t really stand on its own, and, combined with the story that doesn’t quite live up to the studio’s standards, makes this game feel just good enough when I went into it expecting something really great.



Superb Sprites, Barren Backgrounds

Visually, the game offers mixed results. The character sprites in both the game world and the battle screen look fantastic. They are well-detailed, feature cool designs, and possess smooth, natural motions that imbue them—and the game world!—with life. The background screens during battle are similarly detailed and attractive, but some of the game’s overworld backgrounds look a little barren, especially the backgrounds for indoor areas. Mark’s house, a frequent setting, looks especially dull. It didn’t ruin the game, and the sprites provided more than enough life to the game to make up for the backgrounds, but it was something of a disappointment.



Enter the Wizarding World

Wizards of Brandel is a perfectly acceptable JRPG. It has a decent story that doesn’t run too long—I finished the main story in about fifteen hours without doing too many side quests or almost any grinding. I felt that the characters and story weren’t as strong as in other KEMCO releases, but that’s a far cry from them being bad. The overall game system is fairly familiar if you play a lot of KEMCO games, which has both good and bad effects. Despite feeling a little too familiar at times, the system is still a lot of fun on a basic level, so as long as you space your KEMCO fixes out, it shouldn’t even really be a problem. If the JRPG is your genre of choice, Wizards of Brandel will be a worthy addition to your library.


Score: 7/10


Buy Wizards of Brandel from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.


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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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