Shining Force II (Genesis) review
"Iíve played a lot of games over the years. There arenít many that I remember, and an even smaller number goes to the games that are so great I can talk about them strictly by memory. Shining Force 2 is one of those games. Matter of fact itís the game as far as I'm concerned. I held onto it for almost ten years, played it over twenty times from start to finish and still jones for it more than any other game Iíve lost. "
Iíve played a lot of games over the years. There arenít many that I remember, and an even smaller number goes to the games that are so great I can talk about them strictly by memory. Shining Force 2 is one of those games. Matter of fact itís the game as far as I'm concerned. I held onto it for almost ten years, played it over twenty times from start to finish and still jones for it more than any other game Iíve lost.
Look, Iím getting all misty.
Enter the world of Granseal, a peaceful kingdom charged with the duty of protecting the ancient tower. Peaceful? In an RPG? Hardly. Enjoy the first five minutes of it at least because itís not going to last. The day starts out following a seemingly normal young man on his way to school. Things turn sour when your teacheróand also the town smarty-pantsóis hauled off almost violently to the kingdom barring some unmentionable tragedy. And what do inquisitive youths do when trouble is awry? They follow of course, sneaking into the royal chamber and overhearing the king discuss his sudden anxiety over the tower and last nightís storm.
As if on cue, Astral (Mr. Smarty pants) turns to find your character ducking out in the corner and beckons you to join him. It seems he is just as worried about the tower and with one phrase your lazy, sunny days are over.
Perhaps it is time you learn how to properly serve your king.
Great, so Astral makes it pretty clear that you are going to be the one investigating. What he fails to mention is this little field trip is going to evolve into a colossal quest that will span two continents, have you meet Gods and Goddess, battle demons, slay sea monsters and if youíre lucky you may even kiss a gorgeous princess.
Okay, the story is slightly formulaic but for some reason it never got dull. Perhaps itís the ability to backtrack instead of just moving from chapter to chapter with no hope of ever seeing your hometown again like the original Shining Force. Every bit of land youíve ever set foot on remains through the games entirety.
That little detail comes in quite handy, considering Sega almost doubles the amount of hidden items for part two. Mythril is perhaps the most abundant, but not the most important. The class system has returned except you canít promote your characters at ten, but twenty. However, if you manage to find one of those secret items you can give some warriors an extra boost. For example, a mage turns into a wizard when promoted but if you manage to find ďthe book of wisdomĒ you can turn him into a sorcerer, who can now summon gods like Atlas to crush enemies with his huge foot, or Appolo, who floats down wearing a toga, then proceeds to throw huge fire from his palms.
Apparently items werenít enough for Sega and theyíve hidden a few characters as well. Thirty are available, but there are about ten you actually have to look for. I mean really look. Sometimes you need to trigger a cut scene by finding a specific spot to stand in, other times you must search entire villages, making your way around small trails without exiting the town completely to find a tiny alcove where the character is hiding.
The abundance of characters provide a lot of variety on the battlefield. You can opt to create a Shining Force filled only with Knights, perhaps one made up of only magicians and healers. Go long-range with archers and birdmen. The choice is up to you, and Sega gives you many. Which is crucial; you have a lot of battles ahead.
But the battle system was the one thing that made Shining Force an instant legend and Iím happy to say itís returned for a second round, looking as flawless as ever.
For those of you who missed out on the original SF (shame on you), up to twelve members of your party each take up a designated square. Across the massive battlefields your enemy waits in the same position. Based upon speed, each character will get the chance to move closer to the opposite team. Your range is highlighted and you can only move within your boundaries. Once youíve chosen the desired spot you can choose from one of four choicesóuse an item, attack an enemy if one is within range, use magic or simply stay put. After that, it's a synchronized melee of sorts. Close the gap, plan your attacks, last man-standing wins.
Sega has also added a few things to the battle system to fine tune it. Shining Force II now allows for Random Encounters, rather than replaying the same battle over and over to build experience. As an added bonus, your characters no longer max out once they reach a certain level. You can continue building them up until stats reach a number so high, they only show up as question marks.
Critical hits are no longer defined by just a sound, each character has entirely different moves for them, like your swordsman leaping across the screen, spinning around, sticking the sword under his arm and stabbing the enemy with his back turned. Your Phoenix normally flaps his wings together to create a tornado hurling toward the enemy. When he lands a devastating hit, his wings come together, but this time fire will rain down from the sky.
The battles, as well as everything else in the game, has a brand new polished look. Environments are more realistic, colors are more vibrant and each character has their own unique look. Knights are no longer defined by different colored lances and during the cut-scenes, characters no longer have such a bland look to them. Their faces are detailed and this time show some emotion.
The original Shining Force was brilliant. With a brand new story that still manages to make reference to the original, the damn near flawless strategy system, slick animations and polished up graphics Shining Force II is epic. The role-playing world would be a sad, lonely place if this sequel had never been made. Shining Force 2 isnít a good game or even a great game. This is a must have, do whatever you can to get it, donít you dare give it up, donít scoff at having to pay ninety dollars for it on Ebay itís worth every penny, mark forever scarred on the face of RPGÖgame.
Community review by True (December 03, 2005)
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