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Hacks & Homebrews: Brave Battle Saga

Hacks & Homebrews-Brave Battle Saga 7I never tire of RPGs. Old school grind-fests, turn-based battles, clunky menus, and wandering strange worlds on epic journeys. RPGs are designed to let you lose yourself in the story and become a part of it, and the 16-bit era produced some legendary masterpieces that have stood the test of time. The Genesis was home to many RPGs that flew under the radar and never garnered much attention, which gives them a certain underdog type of charm. Brave Battle Saga: Legend of the Magical Warriore was inaccessible to the rest of the world until 2010, when the dedicated Djinn and Steve Martin of Romhacking.net released a free translation patch for English-speakers. So is this a quest worth undertaking or should you just leave Tim and his buddies at home?

Imitation is the Sincerest Form…

The game starts off with two strikes: it’s an unlicensed Chinese game, and it is pieced together with sprites and engines stolen from other games. The sound engine is the same one used in High Seas Havoc, and many of the game sprites were culled from popular SNES titles like Breath of Fire and Final Fantasy VI. In some regions, the game was marketed with the generic title Final Fantasy, blatantly attempting to fool consumers into thinking they were getting a new FF game. All of this would seem to paint this as a buggy, uninspired cash-grab from some Chinese pirates, right? Wrong. While it’s no all-time classic, Brave Battle Saga borrows so much from better games that it can’t help but be competent. Despite its rather infamous backstory, I enjoyed this game a lot.

The translators did a great job at preserving the context and humor of the game. The story is at times hard to follow and may smell a bit generic to players well versed in SNES RPGs, but it still manages to feel epic in its own right. The world has separated into the technology-based humans and the magic-based demons. You start out as Tim, a young man who is unjustly banished from his village and forced out into the wilderness, where he runs across a girl and becomes part of a quest that takes him across the land to different kingdoms and eventually to an ancient space station. The party must stop an evil emperor from gathering the four plates that will reactivate the doomsday weapon. The main gist of the game is a lot of side quests and fetch quests, but there are also a lot of fun little scenes such as one where you must find ingredients to assemble a potion that will allow two people to switch bodies or where you must take control of a secondary character to go on a search for the Goddess of Life.

The party will encounter a wide variety of enemies that range from typical fantasy fare like skeletons and dwarves to more science-fiction types like robots and mechs. You wander the world map, eventually getting assailed by monsters, and are transported to a battle screen. The battles here are menu-based, but real-time, which adds a quick-thinking element to them. Party members can attack, use spells and items, or flee. There are also optional bosses that when beaten, can be summoned in battle as a spell (a direct homage/ripoff of the FF series). These bosses range from paladins to dragons to fairies, and they can turn the tide of many fights. Also, the majority of them are real graphical treats to watch.

As this is both a late release, and many sprites were “borrowed” from the graphically-capable SNES, the game looks exceptional. The wide variety of worlds, from caves to castles to waterfalls, look very nice and detailed. The spell effects in battle look very close to the SNES’s Mode 7 effect, and there is plenty of parallax scrolling in the backgrounds, making for some truly beautiful looking skies. However, at times, the mish-mash of graphics turns Brave Battle Saga into a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster. The incongruity of the main characters’ map-view and battle sprites can be a bit off-putting (though both look decent). The other misfire is when wandering the overworld, you will be assailed by a generic monster, say a purple wolf, yet when you transition to the battle screen, you’ll be fighting a dragon. The cheap nature of the project shows here as the number of monster overworld sprites is about half of the monsters you’ll actually be fighting. On the plus side, there are very few palette swaps! As this is an unlicensed title, the fairies and the Sea Nymph summons are all nude. There are also a few instances of light swearing and a scene where you buy a drunk woman a bottle of wine. While nothing M-rated, these aspects add a touch of character that is really needed. The music is very infectious and quite pretty, trading the brash, grating sounds of some early Genesis games for soft, pad-heavy tracks that run the gamut from vibrant, chipper town tunes to haunting slow drones when you’re traversing through caves or dungeons. It’s a truly great soundtrack that really adds a new dimension to the game.

Worthy of Attention?

Your like or dislike of this game will likely depend on your tolerance for the many battles that pop up. The game is a fairly lengthy quest, but I managed to beat in about a week. It is only artificially lengthened by the monster battles, which admittedly tend to get monotonous after a while. The story doesn’t really say anything deep or important, but it shows a bit of creativity. While Brave Battle Saga is no all-time classic, it’s one of the most interesting and obscure RPGs available for the Genesis, and a nice reminder that there are still games out there for our favorite systems that are only just being discovered.

The rights to the game have been acquired by Piko Interactive, which is planning a full physical release. A release date or any changes to be made have yet to be announced.


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