The Gameslinger's blog, Games Obscura, is a blog dedicated to covering strange, obscure, underrated and overlooked games. Some games covered are amazing games that were simply overlooked or forgotten. Some are flawed or poorly received, yet have interesting aspects or concepts that make them worth a second look. Others are downright weird; but fun and interesting, too. In any case, all are worth digging up and taking a second look at, and that's what this blog is all about: In-depth second looks at games that are worth rediscovering, for one reason or another.
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Brutish Mine is a 3D, turn-based Japanese RPG, set in the year 2058, in the futuristic metropolis of Kannazawa City. Technology has continued to advance, but the continued destruction and pollution of the environment by humans has led to a number of strange space anomalies, which have resulted in the appearance of aggressive, hostile “monster-like” creatures on Earth. The worst of it, too, is their ability to blend in with human society, with many of the creatures taking the form of humans with superhuman or, seemingly, supernatural, powers . The humans take to calling these monsters “demons.” As the game begins, we glimpse some images of Kannazawa City, and an ominous scene of a blue comet hurdling through space, observed by a mysterious figure in what appears to be a satellite in orbit above the Earth. The scene soon shifts to a young man named Kento, a resident of Kannazawa City, who, while leaving a bar, encounters a “demon” in human form and is nearly killed by it, only to be saved by a young woman named Maki. Maki treats Kento’s wounds and escapes with him, and he soon finds himself at the headquarters of “SPAT,” or “Spirited Attackers” a small rebel organization dedicated to investigating and combating the demons, and the sinister corporation known as “Gaian Global,” which SPAT suspects is somehow at the center of the crisis. Maki, a member of “SPAT,” introduces Kento to the team, and he is soon inducted into their ranks.
Brutish Mine begins with some ominous glimpses of things to come....but the scene quickly shifts to our main characters......
From there, Kento, Maki, and the other members of SPAT adventure and investigate around Kannazawa City, looking for clues and adventuring while combating monsters and the forces of Gaian Global. Brutish Mine plays similarly to many RPGs of the PS1/Dreamcast era, and will no doubt remind players more than a little of the PS1 Final Fantasy entries in gameplay and style. As Kento and the other members of SPAT, you’ll explore every corner Kannazawa City (which most all of the game takes place within), unravel an increasingly sinister story, buy items, weapons and other upgrades, all while building your character’s stats to your liking on your quest to discover the dark secrets of Kannazawa City, Gaian Global and the so-called demons.
Kento is assaulted by a mysterious thug and his minions, who turn out to be of inhuman strength, but makes a narrow escape when he is rescued by the beautiful Maki. Soon after, he finds himself inducted into the rebel organization known as SPAT.....
With a story and style which infuses cyberpunk and fantasy/scifi with dark horror themes and hints of both realism and anime-styles in its art and character designs, Brutish Mine has a style which is somewhat reminiscent of the Final Fantasy series, yet still uniquely something its own, with a number of interesting inspirations coming together to create something very interesting, attractive and appealing.
Oh, and did I mention that Brutish Mine is technically a hentai game?
I didn’t scare you off there, did I? Now that the notion of taking a second look at a hentai game probably has some of you ready to walk away in disgust, others drooling with anticipation, and many more probably wondering just what the hell I’m thinking, I’d like to say this is the time to, as part of the theme always is here at Games Obscura, put aside any preconceived notions you may have about this game, as we take a good, honest second look at this forgotten gem. Brutish Mine is more than one might think upon first impression, and is a surprisingly well-made, great-looking, enjoyable, intriguing and totally overlooked piece of forgotten Japanese RPG lore.
Yep, that's right.....Brutish Mine is, technically, a "hentai" game......but don't make any assumptions just yet. This isn't your typical "adult" title, and there is actually an impressive and well-made RPG lying behind that dreaded "18-plus" label......
Brutish Mine was released solely in Japan in 2000 and, no doubt due largely in part to its “adult” content, got very limited attention, especially outside Japan, where it never really had a prayer of seeing an official release. It’s safe to say I’d heard nothing about it personally until a number of years later, in 2005, when my quest for the most obscure of PC games from Japan led me to a slew of hentai or otherwise 18-plus releases that had, naturally, never made it off the shores of Japan. While the majority of these titles pretty much fit the general stereotype of Japanese h-games, being either generally low-quality or long-winded and monotonous visual-novels with next-to-nothing in the way of gameplay or interactivity, a few surprisingly interesting titles popped out that didn’t quite fit that unfavorable bill. Most prominent were the games of a publisher/developer by the name of Illusion, a company whose line-up of games were shockingly high-quality and well-produced, and even more importantly, appeared to be genuinely creative and fun games, spanning a surprisingly ambitious variety of genres. And while some of their titles appeared to be straight-up erotic games, many others looked to be something quite substantially more.
Out of their library of titles I’d never before heard of, Brutish Mine stood out to me in particular. It looked very far from the stereotypical hentai game I’d expect and, in fact, had me second guessing upon first glance if this fascinating, bright and beautiful-looking game, with its impressive 3D graphics, gorgeous prerendered cinemas, addictive RPG gameplay and genuinely interesting setting and story, was, in fact, a “hentai” game. It didn’t quite fit the stereotype, for sure, and even upon beginning my actual playthrough of the game, I was surprised to find that this game, right from the outset, was something different and, honestly, much more, than what I or most people would expect from a game labeled as “hentai” or “erotic.” In fact, one thing that really struck me was the game’s surprising LACK of focus on its erotic or pornographic elements, which were surprisingly few and far-between, and its much greater interest in telling a story, creating an interesting world and ultimately making a game that was a genuinely interesting, fun and engaging RPG experience.
Whether you’re preconceived notions of games labeled as “hentai” or “adult” be positive, negative, or somewhere in-between, I honestly encourage you to put them aside and approach Brutish Mine with a fresh, clear outlook and mindset. Brutish Mine just may surprise you and, especially for fans of classic Japanese RPGs, Brutish Mine is a pleasant surprise to be discovered.
Almost completely void of any mainstream awareness in the gaming community, due in part to its "adult" status, Brutish Mine is as obscure as they come. But this title begs a second look from any fan of classic turn-based RPGs.....
History, Release and Reception:
Brutish Mine was developed and published by Illusion, a Japanese PC gaming software company that, while never having released a single game outside Japan (due largely to the adult and somewhat controversial nature of their titles), has managed to gain a degree of infamy outside of Japan in the past several years due somewhat to word-of-mouth amongst fans and the generally unusual high quality of their titles. But perhaps much more so due to a string of negative controversy which haunted the company when certain audiences outside Japan became aware of some content in a couple of their more potentially-offensive titles.
Although Illusion grew into quite respectable prominence within the “adult” Japanese PC gaming field, it began a bit more humbly in the early 1990’s. In fact, their first title did not feature any of the “adult” elements that became a staple of the company’s releases. The first in a string of releases for the NEC PC-98, “Angel Army,” the developer/publisher’s very first game, was released on April 1st, 1993. A turn-based strategy/war game featuring bright anime character designs and art, Angel Army featured none of the sexual content of the company’s later releases. Just a few months later, the first game to feature their signature blend of established gaming genres with erotic scenes was released on August 27th, 1993; a 2D platformer called Sei Senshi Mokkoriman.
Illusion released its first game in 1993, a strategy/war game titled Angel Army (pictured above). Angel Army is, to date, Illusion's only game not to featured any "adult" content, and was also the first in a long list of releases from Illusion for the NEC PC-98.
The stark difference in genres and content between their first two releases was already indicative of the company’s fascination with genre experimentation, and willingness to work with different genres. In the coming years, they would continue to establish what would become a staple of their company: releases which experimented across a variety of genres, and created polished and well-rounded gameplay experiences, while implementing adult content or scenes into the games. Amongst a slew of continuing releases for the PC-98 over the following few years were a selection of titles featuring Mokkoriman, including Mokkoriman RPG (an RPG featuring Mokkoriman), Ai no Omochashi: Space Gigolo – Red Cobra (a Space Harrier-esque 3rd-person space shooter), and Ranko Nyotai Tsuri: Mokkoriman no Nani de Nushi Tsuri (a fishing game….yep, that’s right), alongside a number of other titles, such as Ura Mansion,Hakkin, Kankin, Hyoryu and several other “visual novel” style games; a genre which Illusion would soon distance itself from completely, in the interest of taking on a range of genres, gameplay styles and innovations unique to the Japanese adult gaming niche.
In 1997, Illusion released Des Blood, the first in a series that would become a staple of the company, and would ultimately be the series that put them on the map, as a sort of centerpiece of the company’s philosophy on game design and adult gaming in general. While the original Des Blood game was a first-person adventure game with first person shooting sequences (though not to be confused with a visual novel-style game), Des Blood 2, released the following year, would push the series, and the company, even further toward its ideals of genre experimentation rarely seen in Japanese hentai games, as it implemented a 3rd-person free-roaming style of adventure gameplay with strong ties to the action and survival horror genres.
Beginning in 1997, the Des Blood series marked the beginning of a new era for Illusion, as the company placed an emphasis on genre experimentation and high-end 3D graphics. The Des Blood series itself would prove to be one of Illusion's most successful series of the late 90's and early 2000's.
At any rate, with the beginning of the Des Blood series, 1997 marked the year that Illusion would drastically evolve its games from a technical and game design perspective, to ultimately become the company they would be known as in the years to come. Placing an emphasis on detailed 3D graphics almost unseen in h-games, especially of the time, and opening up to create games in a broad range of genres seen often in gaming, but rarely in adult gaming. Illusion placed high-end graphics and production quality, with games running on their own, in-house 3D engines, as a staple of their releases, going hand-in-hand with a dedication to quality gameplay experiences and a strong relationship with their fans (the company did, and still does, release beta versions of many of their games for fans to openly try out and comment/give suggestions on for the final release), emphasizing itself as an “adult” PC gaming company that was really about quality games for gamers.
Over the course of the next several years, into the 2000’s, Illusion would continue mostly publishing and developing its own games, alongside a few releases which it published for a sort of sister development company by the name of Dreams. Illusion continued to experiment across a variety of genres, and Brutish Mine came about in the year 2000, amidst what were possibly some of the company’s best and most creative years. As the company’s first attempt at a 3D, turn-based RPG, Brutish Mine drew inspiration from some of the genre’s heavy-hitters of the time, including the Final Fantasy series. Indeed, Brutish Mine was, as many of Illusion’s releases at the time, something very unique to the adult gaming niche, but still, its status as a hentai game damned it from the outset to be cast aside by the mainstream. Brutish Mine received very little mainstream attention, naturally, and its release came and went quietly in Japan, with absolutely no attention to speak of at the time outside of Japan.
With very little reception to speak of at the time of its release, Brutish Mine faded into obscurity almost as soon as it was released, and was quickly swept up in the tide of other Illusion releases surrounding it. Illusion continued experimenting across genres, creating everything from action/adventure games (2001's Requiem Hurts), to fighting games (2002’s Battle Raper and its sequels), third-person shooters (2004’s A-GA), and even a series similar to DOA Xtreme (the Sexy Beach series, started in 2003 and still seeing installments), alongside a number of sequels and spin-offs to its successful Des Blood series.
The late 90's through the mid-2000's saw a good degree of success for Illusion, and numerous releases from across a wide variety of genres. A few highlights outside Des Blood and Brutish Mine included (pictured left to right) A-GA, Requiem Hurts, the Sexy Beach series, and the Battle Raper series.
It wasn’t until several years after Brutish Mine’s release that it, or most of Illusion’s games, would see any awareness outside of their homeland. But with the rapid expansion of the internet from the early to mid-2000’s, and the advent of considerably faster internet connections, download speeds, files sizes, “torrenting,” and, as part of all this, huge fan communities for niche areas of gaming and all manner of pop culture, Illusion’s games found a niche audience outside of Japan.
Specifically amongst large gaming/anime/Japanese pop culture communities online, Illusion found a very dedicated niche for their games outside Japan. Amongst them, sites such as the massive Hongfire website and its huge, dedicated community did much to bring awareness of Illusion’s games to people, and even saw groups creating English patches for some of their games. By around 2005/2006, Illusion had found a niche outside Japan, thanks to the internet, without even lifting a finger and, seemingly, without much awareness of it themselves. In this time, Brutish Mine itself managed to garner some special attention for its unique qualities, especially amongst communities who were already fans of the Japanese RPG genre.
While Illusion’s sudden popularity amongst this niche ultimately grabbed it popularity and attention where it never would have seen it, it also drew more awareness to the company with audiences outside of its homeland who were not used to, or very accepting of, some of its more controversial titles’ content.
Illusion found a niche audience outside Japan in the mid-2000's, as availability and awareness of its titles became more prevalent amongst niche anime/gaming communities on the internet. However, it didn't take long for this awareness to land Illusion at the center of a very serious controversy, sparked by a game called RapeLay, one of its most potentially-offensive titles.....
Beginning around the time of a controversial review of Illusion’s 2006 title “RapeLay,” on “Something Awful’s” website in 2007, almost a year after the game’s release, Illusion found itself at the center of some serious controversy that came with the sudden mainstream awareness of one of its most potentially offensive titles. Something Awful posted its somewhat-untimely review, expressing horror and disgust at the game’s content, and as the game suddenly hit mainstream awareness, it set off a chain-reaction of controversy and outrage triggered by sudden mainstream attention of the decidedly niche and potentially offensive game. It simultaneously became aware to a number of people, upon heightened awareness of the game, that it was available for purchase on Amazon.com, which lead to outrage from Keith Vaz, a British Member of Parliament, who expressed shock and disgust at the game and its availability for purchase on a mainstream website, subsequently vowing that if it and a number of other “rape-themed” games on Amazon weren’t taken down from the website, the issue would be taken before the British Parliament. Amazon quickly responded, removing all copies of RapeLay, and anything similar, listed by sellers on its website. As the controversy escalated, numerous politicians and other groups from various countries, including the United States, got behind the attack on RapeLay, ultimately lumping what was a game not even meant for distribution outside an of exclusively adult audience in Japan, in with the entire gaming industry, resulting in sweeping statements such as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s statement that “it appears that there is no antisocial theme too base for some in the video-game industry to exploit,” as well as bans in countries such as Argentina, and a ban of sale by the EOCS (Ethics Organization of Computer Software, an independent Japanese adult gaming ratings board) in Japan, making purchase of title impossible even in Japan.
Illusion’s reaction to the controversy surrounding its seemingly obscure, Japan-only title outside of its country of origin was one of shock and confusion, at the fact that the game had not only generated such an explosive controversy, but that the international mainstream was even aware of it. Defending itself from further backlash or controversy, Illusion cited that it and all its games conformed with Japanese law and were not for distribution outside Japan; and shortly thereafter, removed all references to RapeLay from its website and halted production and distribution of the title entirely.
The entire RapeLay debacle ultimately scared Illusion enough to block viewing of the company’s website to visitors outside Japan for a few years afterward, and served to solidify the company’s intentional isolation from non-Japanese audiences, as the company made sure to drive home the point that its games were not intended for international audiences. As Illusion closed its doors once and for all to the outside world in the latter half of the 2000 decade, it continued with much of the company's previous trends, including high-end production values and 3D graphics, although it moved away from the true genre experimentation of its late 90’s and early 2000’s “heyday,” and more into the realm of games strictly focused on their erotic content. The company has maintained a solid fanbase outside of Japan, however, especially for some it’s most ambitious works of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, who have maintained availability of even the company’s most recent titles to international fans via internet sharing and even English patches.
In more recent years, Illusion, somewhat sadly, moved away from the genre experimentation and innovation of its heyday, sticking more to games focused strictly on their erotic content. Entries in some on-going series have continued, including Artificial Girl 3 (far left) and Sexy Beach Zero (center left), but most of its less sexually-focused titles have been left behind in favor of titles such as HomeMate (center right) and Real Kanojo (far right) that favor flat-out erotica.
In a way, it’s a shame that Illusion’s reputation and, ultimately, its legacy, to most of the world is dominated by the RapeLay controversy. The shadow which this single game and its controversial reputation cast over the company and the rest of its library of titles is a shame because it has ultimately obscured even further a line-up of ambitious and high-quality games which Illusion has produced over almost two decades; a line-up which may fascinate many gamers, even those not interested in “adult” or “hentai” content. Regardless of one’s stance on RapeLay or the controversy surrounding it, it would be a mistake to judge the company and its variety of other releases based solely on one title, and gamer’s may find that many of Illusion’s releases are beyond what they’d expect. For fans of turn-based RPGs, especially those of the Playstation/Dreamcast eras, Brutish Mine should be of particular interest amongst Illusion’s surprisingly impressive library. If you enjoyed the likes of the Playstation Final Fantasy entries, or many of the other RPG greats of the time, and don’t mind the occasional adult content present in several scenes, Brutish Mine is a truly obscure RPG gem waiting to be discovered…..
Brutish Mine, as many of Illusions best titles from the late 90's to mid-2000's, offers up an excellent gaming experience regardless of its adult content. Those with a love for Japanese RPGs have a treat to look forward to in this engaging and satisfying RPG.....
Brutish Mine is not a terribly flawed game in most areas, and is a technically well-done and attractive game; if anything, most issues or flaws to be found with it are either subjective, or are a matter of preference or (of course) attitude towards some of its racier content.
That said, there are a few quips on the technical side that are worth mentioning in Brutish Mine. First amongst them is the game’s preset camera angles, which can be a bit awkward at times, occasionally obscuring the proper path to follow or certain objectives, items or objects which otherwise should not be a challenge to find. It’s hardly a huge issue though, and more of an occasional inconvenience than a glaring problem.
Graphically, Brutish Mine is a very good-looking game on the whole, especially considering its time and the standards of most adult titles. However, if there is one flaw I could point out with Brutish Mine graphically, it’s that the animations, both in-game and in some of the prerendered cutscenes, do have a bit of a stilted, slow or robotic look about them. This is not to imply that they are jarringly bad or strange, but simply that they can look a bit stilted or slow at times; a problem that, honestly, wouldn’t even be very noticeable if the character models themselves weren’t so smooth and well-done, making the less-than-perfect animation a bit more obvious. One other, minor, graphical issue is in a few lower-detail environments, especially environments during battle, which can have some odd looking, repeated textures or general lack of detail; but this is a very minor nitpick, as, more often than not, environments are detailed, lively and attractive.
One of the few graphical lowlights to speak of is some low-detail battle environments. By and large, however, Brutish Mine is a very good-looking game.
The character progression is a bit slow, as well, which is something that can make character growth feel less rewarding than in a standard leveling system. Using a system similar to Chrono Cross’s character growth system, in which there are no actual “levels” but instead simply the slow building and progression of character’s stats, which does involve player choice, but can also feel slow and unrewarding at times. Likewise, all aspects of character building could have used a bit more work to feel truly engaging; characters do not gain spells through leveling, for example, but rather learn them from various books found throughout the adventure. This isn’t terrible, and it is fun to find various magic and spells and apply them to your characters, however, they are few and far between, and left me feeling as if finding these spell books would have been better as an addition for acquiring rare spells, than as the only way to gain magic in the game. On a similar note, as well, you’ll find yourself in the same armor with the same weapons for a long time; while there are different weapons and armor available for purchase at shops in the game, they are rather expensive and your purchases of them will be few and far-between. In one sense, this is a good thing, as it can make for less of the hassle of constantly swapping out armor and weapons, but in another sense, it once again factors into some generally unsatisfying character growth and a sense of linearity.
Story progression and development can be a bit slow at a few points, but it ultimately pays off and remains interesting.
The story progression can also, at times, feel a bit slow, and though I found the setting and story to be ultimately quite interesting, the story does hit a stand-still at certain points, sometimes with a few “dungeon” areas between any significant plot development. Still, the story and setting on the whole were interesting enough that I found myself interested, even through these slower parts.
The game bears resemblance to the Final Fantasy series in some stylistic and gameplay elements. However, it has more than enough personality of its own, as well.
Besides these issues, Brutish Mine doesn’t have a lot of problems working against it. One subjective issue I found some might have is that the game does, admittedly, borrow heavily from the Final Fantasy series in some aspects; however, this isn’t so much a flaw with the game, as it is something that might be pointed out as unoriginal. Still, the game has more than enough of its own personality and style to separate it from being anything within “knock-off” territory. On that note though, while it is not really a “flaw” in the game design, it should be emphasized that Brutish Mine is, in some aspects of its gameplay, battle system and design, a bit “typical” of the turn-based RPG genre, and doesn’t really bring a lot of new ideas to the table for the RPG genre. It should also be considered, however, that, as many of Illusion’s titles, it is VERY ambitious for a “hentai” game and takes strides in storytelling and game design that are usually not seen in titles of an “adult” nature; and that at the end of the day, the game is still polished and plays well regardless.
Of course, the other “subjective” matter which some might take issue with is the game’s sexual content. I don’t really want to cite the game’s adult content as a flaw, but it is something which some may object to and which may, indeed, turn some off to the game entirely. As it stands, however, it should be emphasized that, love it or hate it, the game’s erotic scenes are infrequent and usually are not entirely tasteless, either; if anything, on the opposite end of the spectrum, those who came to Brutish Mine looking for just such content may, in fact, be disappointed at the infrequency of such scenes in the game. Relegated mostly to infrequent shower scenes and occasional sex scenes (all of which are done in prerendered cutscenes), they feel almost more along the lines of occasional easter eggs or “bonuses” than a prevalent part of the game, aside from a few which do, genuinely, pertain to the plot. Either way, love ‘em or hate ‘em, these infrequent erotic scenes can be easily ignored by those uninterested in them and, although cinematics are unskippable, it’s easy enough to simply “wait them out” if they aren’t your cup of tea, and outside of them, there is only some rare nudity to speak of in a few non-sexual scenes.
With these quips and issues out of the way, I’m happy to say that Brutish Mine is a very cool game, and one with a lot of style and substance going for it, regardless of its “adult” status. This is an interesting, attractive and very fun RPG which holds up very well on its own, and is definitely worth looking into…..
Brutish Mine does have several scenes which contain nudity or sexual content, but they are infrequent and easy enough to ignore if they aren't your thing. Love 'em or hate 'em, there is plenty to love about Brutish Mine beyond them.
Why it’s Worth a Second Look….
Brutish Mine is more than worthy of a second look from gamers, especially Japanese RPG fans, for many good reasons. In fact, for fans of Japanese RPGs, Brutish Mine is a game worthy of recommendation for many of its merits as a great-looking and engaging RPG, adult content or no; one at least up to par with the flood of noteworthy RPG titles for the original Playstation from which it draws its inspiration.
The first thing that struck me about Brutish Mine, and contributed heavily to my initial interest in it before even purchasing and playing it, were the bright and beautiful 3D graphics. Coupled with highly attractive and detailed character models and bright, detailed environments, the game’s graphical presentation and visual design are sure to be one of the first and most striking aspects of the game right from the outset. Not only was I shocked and impressive to see such a graphically impressive presentation in a hentai title, Brutish Mine is just a very nice looking game regardless, and I really loved just about every aspect of is visual design, from the look of its world to the design of its characters. The graphics are, from a technical perspective, easily on par with a Dreamcast title, and from a creative perspective, lively and, although borrowing from some inspirations, very unique and appealing, filled with life, character and inspiration. I simply loved the look of the game, the design of its world and characters, and it’s exciting infusion of a cyberpunk city with anime inspirations, with motifs of modernism, scifi/fantasy, and even touches of gothic horror in its darker moments and places. All of the motifs and elements in its visual design add up to create something that draws from a variety of outside inspirations, but ultimately adds up to something very unique, appealing and attractive. And the technically impressive graphical quality of the title does an excellent job of conveying attractive and appealing visual design of the game.
Brutish Mine features some excellent in-game 3D graphics, with smooth, detailed character models, impressive spell effects, and colorful, detailed environments.
Likewise, just as impressive as the in-game graphics are the beautiful prerendered cinematics throughout the game. The prerendered scenes are easily on par with some of the higher-end ones found in numerous PS1 titles, and are highly detailed and well-implemented throughout. Used with relative frequency throughout the game, usually at key story moments or for the game’s occasional “erotic” scenes, they are very well-rendered and work very well for the game. Characters and environments all look great in the Brutish Mine’s prerendered cutscenes, and they are well-directed and convey the story and action very well when used. They also merge well with the rest of the game, and never feel like a jarring transition from the in-game graphics; due largely to the already high quality and detail of the in-game graphics to begin with.
Prerendered cinemas are great-looking, exciting and convey the story and action well.
Delving deeper into the game’s visual design, the character design is an element I really liked about Brutish Mine. Out of the main heroes and villains, the character design of each was interesting, unique and attractive; each character has personality in their look, and all the designs have a bright, appealing look to them, combining “realistic” elements with a certain “anime” flair; similar, in some ways, to the look of characters in Final Fantasy 8 or 10, for example. The look of each character befits their personality well, as well as the feel and look of the game’s world. Once again, varying by individual character, their looks implement inspirations of sci-fi, fantasy, modernism and gothic horror, and create a cast of characters with a bright and very appealing look to them. I found each character’s design to be unique and appealing in its own way, and befitting of the character’s personality.
Character designs are attractive, with plenty of style and personality.
Likewise, from a visual design standpoint, the other element which drew me so to Brutish Mine was its world, and both its attractive graphical presentation and the fascinating look of its various locales and creative fusion of genres. As a big fan of the “cyberpunk” style, the whole look of its neon-lighted, over-industrialized, utopian-turned-dystopian city was immediately appealing to me. But what made it even more exciting was the previously mentioned, and refreshingly unexpected ,fusion of numerous style and genres coming together to create a world and look that is at first bright, upbeat and neon, but as we delve deeper into the game and its world, reveals itself as one not only filled with the expected dingy urban decay that is a staple of cyberpunk, but also, more surprisingly, some even darker themes and locations, which delve more into the occult and the styling of gothic horror. This fusing of gothic horror themes into the game’s cyberpunk setting is, in fact, the key to what gives Brutish Mine a style and feel not quite like anything else. It is obvious in some ways that Brutish Mine clearly sees inspiration in some of its visual elements from the Final Fantasy games; however, it’s the strong cyberpunk and gothic horror stylings throughout the game which really are the key to making Brutish Mine’s look, style and mood something unique, fascinating and its own. Whatever the case, it all added up to a game with a visual style that was very appealing to me personally, and created a world I found atmospheric and absorbing.
Kannazawa City proves to be a lively and interesting setting.
On the subject of Brutish Mine’s characters, I not only found myself loving their visual designs, but also found that the game did a good job of developing its core cast, from a plot and character development standpoint, into an interesting, varied cast, with well fleshed-out personalities, motives and back stories. The members of SPAT are a well-rounded group of characters, and while a few of the more minor secondary characters don’t see quite as much development, the majority of the central villains and heroes are all interesting and well-developed as characters, too. In particular, I found Kento and Maki’s (the main male and female leads) back stories and the development of their relationship were particularly interesting, and the main villain and his two female cohorts were appropriately underhanded and mysterious in their intentions, while still revealing themselves, and Gaian Global, to have some interestingly dark motives and mysteries to unravel. And dispelling any potential worries of a misogynistic attitude toward its female cast (a stereotype haunting Illusion’s games from the RapeLay debacle which, in many of their title’s cases, proves largely false), Brutish Mine’s female cast members are just as strong, if not more so, than the majority of its male cast, and indeed consist of some of the game’s most interesting and strong-willed characters. And, in both visual design and personality, they come off as attractive and sexy, but in a restrained and reasonable way; and all are strong characters, equal to their male counterparts and handled and developed well.
Brutish Mine's characters prove to be more than just pretty faces; the cast is endearing and well-developed throughout the story.
And just as with its characters, Brutish Mine’s world (namely, Kannazawa City, where the game primarily takes place) is just as engaging and interesting as it is bright and attractive. Even though the city isn’t fully explorable in an open-world sense (you move about to different locations via a overhead map of the city), the city still feels alive and engaging, with varied and interesting locales that are all great to look at and exciting to explore. While the fact that an entire, epic RPG takes place within one city may seem like a strange choice for a game of its type, it actually turns out to be a huge strength for the game. Kannazawa City reveals that it, in and of itself, is a vast world of its own, and the focus on one city as the setting both creates a more intimate feeling of attachment and familiarity to the setting, and also complements the game’s unique cyberpunk-inspired style, allowing the game to emphasize its themes of over-urbanization, conglomerations and urban decay, while still showing different sides to the city through various locales including mansions and greens on the outskirts of town or dark and mysterious corners of the city. The unique scope of Brutish Mine’s “world,” allows it to focus in on the smaller details and locations of a city which, as many urban metropolises can be, is a world of its own. And in turn, it creates a city which feels more like a real, full-scale city, not just one scaled down to a selection of shops and locales; a choice which suits the game’s style, setting and futuristic motifs well, creates a unique appeal and feel for the game world, and makes for a setting which is unique, absorbing and engaging. Kannazawa City is a setting which proves itself to be heavily atmospheric, mysterious, intriguing, varied and very interesting to explore, and is a great, unique setting which proves to be one of the game’s most interesting aspects.
You'll navigate between areas of Kannazawa City via an overhead map.
Of course, what ties the setting and characters together is the story, and I found that Brutish Mine’s story was, while maybe just a bit slow at times, ultimately mysterious, unpredictable, intriguing and with a satisfying level of depth. The main conflict between the evil conglomerate, Gaian Global, and SPAT, the underground rebel faction, within the walls of an urban jungle, does indeed bear some resemblance to the premise of, you guessed it, Final Fantasy 7. However, the game quickly goes in a direction very much its own with the story, and while I admittedly first found myself somewhat expecting a Final Fantasy 7 knock-off based on this initial premise, the game and its story proved itself to be better than that. Brutish Mine quickly takes its sci-fi/cyberpunk-esque setting and story, and begins to heap on the mystery as it soon introduces hints of the supernatural and occult, and soon enough, the story and setting take on some strong themes of the horror genre; something I did not expect, and which effectively piles on mystery and dread to the story and setting. Where the story goes is far different than I would have expected, and the mystery behind Gaian Global and its connection to the mysterious “demons” that have been appearing makes for an engaging story, due to the heavy occult/horror themes which it mixes effectively and excitingly with its fantasy/sci-fi and cyberpunk elements, and creates a sinister and intriguing atmosphere because of it. Likewise, good character development and interesting and equally mysterious backstories for the central characters creates a cast that is linked well to the tale and are fascinating characters to learn about, too, as the story unfolds. The story, setting and characters are some of an RPG of this type’s most important elements, and Brutish Mine did a great job of keeping me interested and engaged in them.
Kento and Maki's relationship is well-developed, and plays an important role as the story progresses.
Brutish Mine also provides a solid performance from an audio perspective, for the most part, as well. While sound effects can be minimal or basic, the music, though all digitized, is fitting and suits the mood well, with a few standout tracks. What I really enjoyed about Brutish Mine’s audio, however, was the frequent and well-done voice acting throughout the game. Most major story sequences, and all prerendered cutscenes, are fully voiced, and it really helps to bring the game to life. Few RPGs of the time featured extensive voice work, and Brutish Mine implements it well, with high-quality Japanese voice acting which isn’t just relegated to a handful of short scenes or exchanges.
From a gameplay standpoint, Brutish Mine is in some ways a rather traditional turn-based, Japanese RPG. However, this shouldn’t be taken as a bad thing, since it is also a very well-designed and polished one, which is fun and engaging to play, keeps things interesting, provides a decent challenge and has a few tricks and secrets of its own.
Outside of its story, setting and characters, it is often said that the other element which can make or break an RPG is its battle system; and Brutish Mine does quite well in that regard. Implementing a turn-based battle system working off an “Active Timer” system, the flow of Brutish Mine’s battles is very similar to that of the battles found in the Playstation Final Fantasy games. Though the active battle timer ultimately ends up working the same as in said Final Fantasy titles, the presentation of it is slightly different, with one single bar or “track” in the bottom right corner of the screen, with icons for all of the player characters and enemies moving along it (at different speeds based on their individual stats), ultimately moving from left to right, and when the character or enemy’s icon reaches the far right side of the track, it is their turn. You’ll have a party of three characters in battle, and during your character’s turns, you’ll work from a typical menu-based system where you can select options such as “attack,” “magic,” “item,” “defend,” and so forth, and then work through the sub-menus to select individual spells, items, options, etc. Battles move along at a satisfying pace and don’t get too long or drawn out in average battles, while simultaneously providing some satisfying and exciting boss confrontations. The game presents the battles well, too, in an exciting fashion with dynamic camera angles and exciting attack and magic animations that keep the action exciting and attractive. Overall, the pacing, set up and challenge of the battle system and battles themselves is well-done, satisfying, fun and well-balanced.
The turn-based battle system functions well, and provides a balanced level of challenge. Some of Brutish Mine's tougher boss battles (such as the one pictured) will test your skills sufficiently, as well.
Of relation to the battle system, I also quite liked Brutish Mine’s magic and, particularly, how it was not only functional, but also fit well into the setting and story of the game. Tying back to the game’s occult themes, you’ll acquire magic from mysterious tomes you’ll find in various places, and I liked the way that magic and the tomes fit well with the game’s story and made sense with the themes of occult magic the game’s story goes into. The game has a good variety of spells, including standard offensive, defensive and healing ones, and some more elaborate, “summon”-style magic which you’ll uncover as the game progresses. Spelling casting sequences during battle are well done, as well, especially for some of the more powerful offensive and summon spells.
Somewhat unconventional of the genre is Brutish Mine’s “leveling” or, more accurately, stat upgrade system. There are no actual “levels” in Brutish Mine; instead, characters gain points which give small boosts to their various stats (attack, defense, magic, etc) frequently from battle. What makes it interesting is that, at any point, the player is free to access their stats and redistribute any amount of points in one category towards another. So, for example, you may go into your menu and take points out of defense to add to attack, magic to add to agility, etc, etc. This makes for an interesting added layer of strategy to battle and character growth, as it makes it possible to basically rebuild your characters as you see fit to suit the battles or situations you are preparing to encounter. While some might say that it in some ways makes character growth less fulfilling due to the lack of permanence, I personally thought it was an interesting system which allowed for a variety of possibilities and strategies.
Character growth is a bit unconventional. There are no "levels;" instead, characters gain points to their stats, which can be redistributed at any time as the player sees fit.
The exploration and discovery of Kannazawa City was something I found constantly intriguing, and this over course carries over into a satisfying gameplay experience outside battle, as well. There is a lot of variety to the various locales found within Kannazawa City, and discovering and exploring a new one was always full of intrigue. You’ll return to certain areas somewhat frequently, particularly SPAT headquarters, where you’ll return at time to find your friends or party members or prepare for your upcoming adventures, and a few shopping or residential areas, where you’ll go to buy or sell items/weapons/armor or converse with residents. You’ll pick up and complete some side-quests along the way, as well, often from residents of the city, which adds a little extra depth, and there are also some corners of the city and secrets hidden within them waiting to be uncovered. While you return to certain areas somewhat often, this isn’t a weakness, and I thought that it contributed to the unique feel of the Brutish Mine’s setting; Kannazawa City felt like a massive place, but one which people actually inhabited and lived in, and the returns to familiar areas gave the adventure a unique feeling, even as you were constantly discovering and exploring new corners of the city.
The sinister Gaian Global has some dark secrets and motives to discover.....
...and you'll encounter some interesting villains during your fight against them.
The satisfaction of Brutish Mine’s exploration and general gameplay outside battle is most evident in its “dungeon” areas, which are mysterious, intriguing and often sinister places to explore. The layout of hostile areas such as these I always found to be well-balanced, and usually not too short or too long and drawn-out. Likewise, there’s a good, satisfying mixture of random battles, which aren’t too frequent, exploration that is truly intriguing, and puzzle-solving, which make dungeon areas a generally exciting affair, often topped off with an exciting boss battle. And as with the rest of Brutish Mine, these areas have plenty of variety; everything from hospitals to caverns to mansions.
There's plenty to explore in Kannazawa City, and no shortage of variety in its areas. Dungeon areas in particular are always fun to discover and explore, with interesting puzzles, secrets and bosses.
The overall progression of Brutish Mine is, on a related note, somewhat linear, with the occasional side quests or optional/secret areas, items, and extras to flesh things out a bit. The world isn’t quite as in-depth and packed with extras as some of the deepest J-RPGs of its time, but there is still enough freedom, exploration, magic and items to find and things to do and discover on the side to give the game and its world sufficient and satisfying depth. The main draw and bulk of the game, however, still comes from the path following the main story, and there is plenty of interesting material to keep you interested as you move forward. And, in the end, Brutish Mine adds up to a respectably hefty adventure, with plenty of content packed into the roughly 30 to 40 hours you’ll spend with it by the end. And on that note, without spoilers, I was happy and satisfied by the end of Brutish Mine; by its end, Brutish Mine is satisfying and complete, with its tale and main characters developed, and things coming satisfyingly full circle. I was happy with what felt like a story and game that felt complete by the end, and a climax and conclusion I felt worked well.
Brutish Mine's story develops slowly at a few points, but there is still no shortage of exciting moments, epic confrontations, or fascinating twists and turns to keep things interesting.
Brutish Mine is a beautiful, exciting and well-made RPG which was, by its very nature, doomed to never see mainstream attention, and ultimately exist in obscurity. But what’s a real shame is the negative stigma with which such “adult” or “hentai” game status left the title saddled with from its outset, too; and this, combined with the huge controversy surrounding its publisher/developer years later, has resulted in numerous ambitious and impressive titles from Illusion, including Brutish Mine, to be not only obscured, but worse, stuck with an unjust, generalized reputation which is not only unfair, but largely untrue. But, regardless of one’s feelings or preconceptions of Illusion’s more controversial titles, or hentai games in general, Brutish Mine is a game well worth a second look. By resisting the urge to shrug off Brutish Mine based on its label, one will be rewarded with what is a surprisingly fascinating and well-crafted entry in the RPG genre; one that is great-looking, stylish and absorbing, and which proves itself to be on-par with the mainstream hits of the genre in many regards. Brutish Mine is a great looking RPG that plays very well, has an attractive style to its characters and setting, and is fascinating to explore and unravel its intriguing and mysterious story and world. And regardless of its infrequent sexual content, Brutish Mine is a fine game all on its own, which stands tall as a very good RPG in its own right; not just one that’s “good for a hentai game.” No matter if your preconceived notions of what a so-called “hentai” game can be are good, bad or indifferent, it’s a good idea to put them aside, hunt down Brutish Mine, and judge it on its own merits as a game. It, like a number of Illusion’s titles, may actually surprise you, and, at the end of the day, Brutish Mine reveals itself to be a very fine RPG; one which deserves the much-needed attention it never had a chance at, and a good, honest second look.
Brutish Mine is a great-looking, thoroughly interesting RPG which, regardless of its 18-plus label, more than deserves the much-needed attention it has never gotten.
Who Should Play It?
Fans of RPGs; especially turn-based, Japanese RPGs of the Playstation or PS2 eras. Fan of futuristic, cyberpunk, or sci-fi/fantasy; even fans of horror may find some pleasant surprises in the game’s story and style. People who enjoyed the look, style and gameplay of the PS1 Final Fantasy entries. Those looking for an obscure and interesting Japanese RPG, who won’t object to the occasional sexual content.