Shining Force III (Saturn) review
"Shining Force has always been the pinnacle of Sega’s role playing games. It kept me loyal to the company long after I heard it was on its way out and forced me to buy every sequel made. I still have some of the games even though I don’t have the systems for them. Although Shining Force 3 is lacking one very crucial element it isn’t enough to dissuade this as the best one to date. "
Shining Force has always been the pinnacle of Sega’s role playing games. It kept me loyal to the company long after I heard it was on its way out and forced me to buy every sequel made. I still have some of the games even though I don’t have the systems for them. Although Shining Force 3 is lacking one very crucial element it isn’t enough to dissuade this as the best one to date.
The moment the game starts, your eyes are locked in a vice grip as you hypnotically move closer to the screen. The opening scene is mystifying—coma inducing graphics matched beautifully to an eloquent score. The game itself starts slow with a lot of dialogue to take in, but it’s quick and bounces back and forth between several people. It explains the outlook of events thoroughly and provides a decent back-story. After that, the intrigue sets in—actually, it slams you in the face and doesn’t let up until the credits roll. Mysterious masked monks have been spotted around town and as they are reported to be harmless, your companions seem to think differently.
While negotiations between the Empire and the Republic go on, you are asked to investigate these monks by speaking to the locals. More dialogue is exchanged all about the town of Saraband, and eventually you find yourself in a possible violent situation. However the qualm is stemmed rather quickly, oddly enough by the approach of the prince and general of the empire. They seem extremely cordial and polite, even though you are at war with them. Explosions rip apart this fragile conversation, and you both find yourselves retreating to your respective headquarters to investigate. Again you’re thrust into a fight, this time with the masked monks and no one is going to save you this go-around.
From this point--if you survive the battle—you don’t get to slow down or even take a break for a very long time. While all this has been going on the emperor has managed to get kidnapped by… the king of the republic? That’s right, the very man that was in your presence when this supposed crime happened. With no choice and no reasoning with Saraband officials your only chance of survival is to run, in hopes you can solve this crime with enough space between you and your pursuers. The depth behind this game develops from there and you’re soon to learn that a missing Emperor is the least of your worries.
While the story is the real moneymaker here, the new additions demand your attention as well. Although a lot of changes in this game aren’t available until later on, the first one registers the moment you have control. The scrolling and the battles all take place in 3-D. No more cliché bigheaded warriors moving about on a flat world map, you’re finally playing on a digital chessboard. The only downside is that it’s at times difficult to gauge the distance between you and your enemy, but it’s a only a minor draw back and a problem easily solved. The battles themselves have also taken on this dimensional aspect. The backgrounds—and sometimes the space between characters—are massive and in-depth.
This first battle introduces you to another new change: The weapon effects. An enemy with a ! above his head means he or she is weak to a certain type of weapon. For example, flying creatures are more susceptible to damage from a bow and arrow then they are to a lance. This pushes the strategy element Shining Force has always had to another level.
A few more battles in and will you find even more things to be excited about. The critical hits aren’t just “critical hits” anymore, they are actual techniques that can be learned depending on what weapon you use the most. The weapon gleams and your warrior displays his rage with a cool voice-over. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble on a rare weapon that allows you to call upon a beast with a special attack—like tiamat or phoenix. Battles are more demanding this time around, the days of planning out your battle strategy out with patience is over. There is no prize dependent on your stealthy advance, but someone’s very life. Some battles that take place require you to rush to the aid of a fallen comrade or to help defenseless civilians. For example the second or third battle in, Hayward and his brother stand wounded on the bridge. If you hustle and are in range, use the talk option to make Hayward become a member of your party. If the enemy gets to him first, the only job he’ll be able to do is feed the worms.
Being compassionate is not only important for the people in trouble, but those on your team already. Sonic Software Planning has added an element called “support effect”. Basically as the game progresses you develop bonds with your teammates—anywhere from allies to soul mates—and being in the square adjacent to them lends a boost to a certain stat like magic, defense etc. The allies are shown to you with a tiny icon above the head of anyone you’re in league with, but you can also find out who trusts you and just what their support does in the status menu.
Saturn went—for the most part—to extreme lengths to make sure this was their last great title… hell, last one at all. The graphics are a bit choppy at times and the characters come across as somewhat boxy, but they have taken a huge step up from any previous Shining force. The characters no longer flash when they’re attacked, they actually demonstrate being hit and the magic engulfs the receiver with a never before seen precision If an attack is blocked, a shield is put up or a creature ducks out of the way. Wipe out there hit points, though, and they finally drop to the ground. The battlegrounds and towns are gorgeous; landscapes make Bob Ross look like a finger painter. The actual score is compelling and perfectly fitted to the driving story. It pushes the intensity of a chase to flat-lining proportions and makes me want to down the Prozac during a time of loss. The only downside to the sound is the main characters voice. Who did they find for that? Bullwinkle? This game has a massive 27 characters if you find them all and at one point all of them become pivotal to your advancement. No more playing favorites.
Every aspect of this game puts its predecessors success in the wood chipper. The one downfall is that Shining Force III has three scenarios, but no matter how hard you try you only get to play the first one. It’s like Star Wars without The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. It just doesn’t work. It’s sad really, because this is a fantastic game. If all three scenarios were available this game could have ruled the world, maybe even saved the Saturn.
Graphics: Teeth rattling. Stretches every ounce of power the meek Saturn has.
Game play: Although it’s hard to know sometimes exactly where your characters are standing, the 3-D environment is a welcome change. It also allows you to turn the camera angle all the way around.
Fun factor: With all the new elements added and the abundance of things to find this game may make you want to quit your job.
Replay Value: Medium. There are a couple things you can unlock during completion, but the story is enough to make this a keeper.
Sound: Aside from the silly voice for the main character, the sound drives a nail in your ear.
Community review by True (May 07, 2005)
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