Brawl Brothers (SNES) Review

As mentioned in my review of Rival Turf last week I was completely unaware that a personal “guilty pleasure” (not I was aware it was at the time…) had two sequels until me and my friends discovered the shady world of ROMs in the mid-2000s. How did we find Brawl Brothers? Well… We got stuck in the sewer section of the game’s second or third level and gave up. How did I fair this time?! With the help of a guide as to how to pass the sewer level, better… but was it worth it? Let’s find out!

Background:

That’s two “Spaks”, not a “Sspak”. That’s something else entirely!

The sequel to Rival Turf, or Rushing Beat as it was known in the East, was released first in Japan as Rushing Beat Ran on December 22nd 1992, and then released in the US and Europe the following year. As for why it wasn’t named Rival Turf 2, or even carried on the character names from the original game? (Seriously, in Rival Turf the main characters were renamed Jack Flak and Oozie Nelson in the English versions, where here despite extremely similar sprites they’re called “Hack and Slash”… ugh) No idea. Maybe Turf didn’t sell well so they wanted to distance it from the old brand, who knows?

That being said, the PAL cover had a small image in the bottom right saying “Rival Turf 2!”, so maybe it sold better in Europe than it did in the US, but they still used the US name and cover art… which is an odd choice, especially as the PAL territory version of Rival Turf used a completely different cover and logo compared to the US one! Ah well, whatever…

Gameplay:

This is where my original exposure to the game ended…

So an attack button, a jump button, a health-draining special attack button and the Rushing Beat-exclusive “Rage Mode” where you gain temporary invincibility and strong attacks near-death are all still here. I will at least admit the animations are a bit more fluid, in that at least characters have more than three frames of movement when you attack them. There is still pick ups, both health restoring and weapons (including the ability to carry health items around and consume when you need them, which is unique!), and this time the weapons includes guns… guns that set opponents on fire, somehow… is that really less violent than shooting someone with a bullet?

There are also five playable characters, alongside the aforementioned … *sigh*, Hack and Slash (still called Rick Norton and Douglas Bild in the Japanese version at least) you have a judo fighter called “Lord J”, a generic ninja called Kazan and a female wrestler character called Wendy Milan. For the record the former Flak and Nelson are still generic scrolling protagonist and slow muscular wrestler in a red cop uniform, respectively. Once again there are no female enemies, though in a fun twists whichever two fighters are chosen at the start (in single player the second fighter will be available to select if you die) will have to face “evil clones” of the other three playable characters as stage bosses, with the original playable version of the characters becoming selectable when you defeat the clones. A unique and fun idea actually, and one that adds some replay value too!

The main thing I, and it seems a lot of people, remember about Brawl Brothers is the sewer stage, which in the non-Japanese versions of the game gets turned into a labyrinth that is extremely hard to find your way out of without a guide. What a stupid idea for a scrolling beat ‘em up! There’s a skyscraper with a lift later on with a similar problem. Odd choice from the English-language team, but luckily (as I’ve just found out) there is a code that allows you to play the Japanese version with your US/PAL cartridge, including the actual linear versions of those stages! Not quite as fun as the character renaming code, but still good.

Scrolling Beat ‘Em Up clichés? Very few. There are no fat guys, enemy wrestlers, ninjas or female enemies (well, unless you count the playable character bosses, then there is a ninja, wrestler and a female boss at least!), and no lift stage apart from an actual lift that you don’t fight enemies in, and Oozie Nelson’s boss stage takes place on a moving lift, so… I guess there sort of is. So yeah, a generic cast of Max Max rejects make up the grunts you face, which is disappointing, and makes for a far less interesting time…

Graphics and Sound:

Well… that’s not a ninja technique you normally see, but can’t say it’s not effective!

Graphics are much the same as Rival Turf, including the muted colour palette and average sprites. Again the animation has improved some, so that’s something!

The sound is also very reminiscent of Rival Turf, and not just the fact that some themes are remixes from the previous game, I mean they’re all just average and won’t really stick in your head for very long…

Story:

“A pair of Crashes for your trouble, Butch!”, says Hack… what a great script…?

A mysterious organisation is kidnapping people in Bayside City, including three of your chosen two people’s allies (see gameplay for more info on what the hell I’m going on about). As you defeat the evil clones of your allies and free the originals, the true leader becomes clear: the scientist Iceman, who oddly uses martial arts and a three-part staff to take you on in the heart of his large airship… Should’ve connected the dots sooner, really… Anyway, the now reunited “Brawl Brothers” (including one “Brawl Sister” I guess) defeat Iceman and presumably destroy the clones…? Let’s go with that. In other words, there isn’t much plot, but at least it’s not a gang kidnapping somebody’s love interest, not that three allies being kidnapped and cloned by a mad scientist is all that different in terms of motivation!

Thoughts Then:

The two protagonists from Rival Turf do battle! … Well, one does battle with an evil clone of the other, but it’s close enough…

As mentioned when first played there was a lot of anger at the sewer maze and an eventual turning it off to never play it again. At least that was our intention at the time!

Thoughts Now:

*Gasp!* A female character model?! In a Rival Turf et al. game?! Shocker!

Now? I mean, I appreciate the better animation and some of the unique ideas at the heart of it, but there isn’t much to speak about. The Japanese version is the way to go in order to skip the maze-like nonsense, but even then, it’s just okay. The generic enemy variety is what really lets it down in my eyes…

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