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Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict (Game Gear) artwork

Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict (Game Gear) review

"As the game progresses, the fights start getting pretty tough. By the time you've reached the final handful, virtually every foe will come at your guys with damaging long-range area-of-effect spells, making it impossible to avoid taking massive amounts of damage."

Shining Force: Final Conflict could best be described as an attempt to continue adding onto the Shining series' world without actually breaking any new ground. Since it came out in 1995, it apparently was too late in the Game Gear's lifespan for Sega to feel good about porting it over to America, as the company had for the two previous Shining Force games on Genesis, as well as the first-person RPG, Shining in the Darkness.

I can understand why Sega might have been hesitant. If you've played and enjoyed those Genesis games, this is a welcome addition to their story that deserves credit for essentially tying all three together in some fashion. On its own, however, it's little more than a solid strategy outing that shows a surprising degree of difficulty in its latter stretches. As far as telling an epic fantasy story, though, Final Conflict can be summed up like this: heroes chase villains across the world, occasionally killing one of them, before cornering the main villain and killing her and the final boss to win the day. Credits roll!

Or, for a bit more detail…

After the events of the first Shining Force game, Max had survived along with Adam the robot. As opposed to doing things like finding the party he traveled the world with in that game, those two picked up a handful of new allies to chase down another returnee, Mishaela. While you may have thought Max and company killed off the femme fatale lieutenant of the evil Darksol in the first game, it was actually just a clone. The real deal is still alive, commanding Darksol's army and attempting to resurrect him.

Things don't turn out so well for Max, though, as he and another warrior mysteriously vanish, leaving Adam to provide support for a bunch of untrained rookies led by a lad named Ian as they leave on a grand journey to find their missing leader. One of those rookies is Hawel, who had a cameo appearance in Shining Force II, and you'll also encounter or at least hear about King Galem, Odd Eye and Zeon from that same game. You also find, in a bit of dialogue tossed in for no real reason other than exposition, that Darksol and Mishaela had a son named Mephisto. Mephisto was the villain in the Japanese version of Shining in the Darkness before being renamed "Dark Sol" for the American port in order to make all this stuff more confusing.

Final Conflict combines its desire to tie all these games together with the same style of play gamers got from the first Shining Force. You gradually collect a number of supporters for Ian as you run through the roughly two dozen battles in the game. The main goal of each fight is to defeat all the enemies, while keeping Ian alive. As the leader of the force, he has control of the Egress spell, which can allow you to exit any battle and start it over again -- perfect for level-grinding. Death isn't permanent, as you can revive fallen comrades for a price after fights. And, of course, characters can be promoted to a superior rank after reaching level 10 (of 20), allowing them to then gain 20 more levels.

As the game progresses, the fights start getting pretty tough. By the time you've reached the final handful, virtually every foe will come at your guys with damaging long-range area-of-effect spells, making it impossible to avoid taking massive amounts of damage. After playing the first Game Boy Advance Fire Emblem game released in America, I started making it a goal to have everyone in my party survive fights in these strategy games. By the final fight of the third (of four) chapters in Final Conflict, I set my sights lower: to JUST WIN, BABY! As long as Ian survived and I won the fight, it was all good!

The only real problem I'd say this game has is that, other than its fun battle system, there isn't really anything noteworthy about it. The entire story has you chasing Mishaela and her troops around the world and occasionally battling one of her generals, while virtually every character is underwritten to the point of being a blank one-dimensional slate. Let's just look at Mishaela's most enigmatic henchman, the noble warrior Lynx.

Lynx believes in a fair fight and gets upset whenever people drop by with reinforcements for him or expect him to provide back-up for them. He refuses to kill a hostage on Mishaela's orders because killing an unarmed man isn't a fair fight. Upon his defeat, said hostage mourns his passing while praising his valor and honor. No one has a single negative thing to say about him or any of his actions. And, yet, he's working to resurrect a being who is about the closest thing to Satan in this game's world. No reason is given for this. No reason is given as to why Mishaela generally seems cool with him operating under his personal moral code even if it might be detrimental to her chances of success. He's The Greatest Man In The World… and also just happens to be working for the forces of evil. I mean, Shining Force wasn't a great success in storytelling, but in that game, you at least were explicitly told that the more noble adversaries were either brainwashed by Darksol or were fighting you because their brainwashed leader ordered them to -- and if they're able to do one thing, it's follow orders.

Final Conflict offers some fun battles and is a fun trek for fans of the Genesis Shining games, since it takes bits and pieces from all three of them and presents them in a sort of continuity where they're all connected. Other than that, though, it's basically little more than a solid strategy game, but on a handheld system instead of a console. The game doesn't tell much of a story or break any new ground as far as gaming elements go, but is a pretty entertaining (and occasionally challenging) diversion.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 01, 2013)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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EmP posted December 30, 2013:

I’m not sure what angle you were going with here. Yeah, Shining games are simple turn-based strategy titles, but your entire review seems to focus on the plot aside from maybe a couple of paragraphs. You talk about how the game is easy but spirals into more of a challenge – I think the review would have been much stronger with that as a focus. Instead, you start off by saying “The plot here is throwaway and weak”, and then talk about nothing but the plot you’d just hamstrung. I’ve not played Gaiden in a long, long time, but I was expecting to be reminded of my playthrough here. How were the last missions? What units did the game supply? Other games have things like magical squids, phoenix warriors that look more like bespectacled chickens or bloody dragoons making up their ranks – does this have similar?. Are there hidden allies? Are there still special items that give brand new character classes during promotions? Or is all this absent and the title is a truly stripped down, bare bones handheld offering?

I love Shining games; that’s never been a secret, but even I find it pretty hard to care about their plotlines. I honestly think you went with the wrong angle on this one.
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overdrive posted December 30, 2013:

Hmm, fair points. I guess, since this is only the second SF title I've played for any length of time, neither were played as remotely new games and since, as time's gone on, strategy RPGs tend to be the most story-dense of any game (believe me, there's nothing like playing Stella Deus, cruising through a battle in 10 minutes and then sitting through 20 minutes of exposition...), I do sometimes struggle to consider things like that.

I'd probably mostly say it's a somewhat stripped down SF game. You promote characters when you want after L10 (no items needed, which was started in 2, I think, but not used on this game on this system); there are a couple hidden ones in stages, but nothing too elaborate as you don't travel a world map like in the Genesis ones; characters are the typical SF types with centaurs, birdmen, dragon knights and so on; much of the game is easy, but the last few fights are brutal because about everyone has very damaging long-range attacks.

It was probably just tough to focus on the nuts-and-bolts because this game was so by-the-books. Basically a "create a fairly no-frills SF game with enough references to other games in the series to make fans happy" sort of thing where the old ground was covered competently and no new ground was even thought about approaching.
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overdrive posted December 30, 2013:

Or in short. It was a somewhat parallel and slightly trimmed take on SF1 and a lot lesser than SF2.

I guess one way to look at it is that it was a solidly-made, but still simplistic game on a portable system to cash in on the popularity of the SF 1 and 2 while tying their plots together. That probably is why I focused on plot so much, as I doubt there'd be any purpose to the game being made without the desire to play "connect the dots" between the first two numbered games.

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