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Shining Force (Genesis) artwork

Shining Force (Genesis) review

"I bought Shining Force because of the cover. "

I bought Shining Force because of the cover.

Back then I was on an RPG surge with little knowledge about the actual genre, so I bought most games that had artwork featuring anyone with a sword. (Yes, there is someone on the cover with a sword.) Which is childish, I know but had I read the reviews--especially ours--and opted to make an educated decision I would have never touched the game.

Strategy? That sounds boring?

I would have said, and more than likely lived my whole life without ever playing one of the greatest series on that system or any. Yes, I would have picked up the sequels if they ever received any amount of hype but what truly amazes me--even to this day--is that Shining Force gets very little recognition. So again, itís up to me, perhaps the greatest Shining Fan in existence to bring this magnificent game into the light (Get it? Shining? Light?).

Someone has to do it justice.

Yes, I grow bored of amnesia. Ooooh, the hero is surrounded by mystery and heís struggling with a blank past, very little is known about him and he says even less. I think every main RPG character in the early nineties was mute. Yet even with that, Shining Force has one of the most endearing stories. Why? Because everyone else made it come to life. Your main character is surrounded by classic characters. For example the calm and gentle wolf Zylo, driven mad and locked in a cage, no longer able to protect the village of Bustoke--a place he once loved and called home. The entire town pleads with you to travel up the mountain and retrieve the Lunar Dew to restore his sanity. Once inside his cage, he growls and snarls, but the moment he ingests the potion you fought so hard for, his peaceful nature returns, emotional digitized music is played and he repays the debt he owes you by joining the team.

Iíll always remember the knight Earnest and his incredible inner struggle and his overwhelming, almost blinding bid at vengeance against one of the many bosses, Balbazaak. Coerce and plead him as much as you like, he refuses to be a team player, and you can only watch as he tramples off to try and penetrate Balbazaakís huge fortress by himself. You find him later, tired and beaten into a corner by a Cerberus, with a war cry and a charge, he uses his last ounce of strength to end the fight, but heís too weak to go on, or to argue you as you approach him. He finally agrees to fight the good fight with you.

My favorite, though, out of all of them was Bleu, a tiny, baby dragon whoís much better at spitting excuses than he is fire. And like with Earnest, you try to talk to him, try to convince him that you need his help, but he just wonít listen. You chase him around the village of Rudo, a young girl pleads with him but your efforts are in vain and she runs off, sobbing and heartbroken. Yet, when Bleu hears her scream, when he sees her being attacked, he finally becomes the heroic dragon he was meant to, and expels the fire now burning in his soul.

Look, Iím getting all misty again.

Yet as emotionally involved as the story made me, the game itself took my fascination to a whole other level. Shining Force--in case you havenít heard--is about strategy. Itís not a fast paced, blister your fingers, spectacular moves sort of game. Itís not even like most normal RPGís of that time, where you simply chose to attack or heal, fight or flee. Shining Force mentally envelops you, putting you on a huge battlefield, your army on one end, your opponents on the other. Each member of the Shining Force (a max of twelve) and the opposing army take turns, depending on their speed, to close the gap and do battle. Once an opponent is in range, you now have the option to attack , use magic, use an item or be defensive.

But you have to get there first.

Shining Force is all about being smart. The battlefield is broken up into tiles and any character can only move a certain length, so you canít charge across the screen and battle the boss to end the battle quickly. Some characters have a longer attack range than others, some can attack up to one tile, some three, but so can the enemies so you have to pay attention. You can walk right into enemy fire and not even know it until itís too late.

Terrain also plays a huge role. Knights can easily traipse over the plains and have the biggest advantage, but their movement will drop once they hit the forest, and the their tiles can go from seven or eight to one or two. Mountains make a mess for everyone, except for the winged characters whose movement never falters no matter what theyíre going over, but aside from Bleu most of them are weak, so itís best not to leave them alone, even though itís very easy to do such.

Speaking of alone, one more added catch to make your mind click a little harder is your main character. Heís the most well rounded, strongest soldier you have but if you leave him alone and he gets defeated, the game is over--no matter how many people you had left or how close to the end you were. All of these things make you think and they make you focus, which is exactly what makes Shining Force so magical.

When youíve finally strategized and worked your way to an attack, be it with a sword or magic, youíll find the wait to get there was well worth it. Shining Force doesnít just give you a blurb on the damage that was caused, it provides you with a cut-scene depicting only your character and the enemy. One of countless animations plays, anywhere from your hero leaping across the field and crashing his sword down on the enemy to your mage raising her staff and raining fire from the sky. Most characters have more than one, depending on whether itís a regular attack or a critical hit.

These wonderful little scenes come to life with lush graphics and seamless movement, even the background reflects the very terrain that your on. Itís a very cool little addition. On the world map, the earth looks just as wonderful, though the game is marred by the big-head tiny-body syndrome, the characters facial shot during dialogue is spectacular.

Shining Force actually has plenty of cool little additions. Thereís a mass of hidden characters to find, from a strange gopher-like creature named Yogurt to an even stranger--albeit incredibly powerful--wizard named Domingo, who resembles a dust ball with a hat. Shining Force has some fun side-quests like finding mythril to make better weapons or treasure hunting and hidden chests.

The only two complaints I have are that the game could use a few more tunes. Some of the boss battle songs, although digitized and lyric-less, are entertaining but even they can get redundant. The other complaint is the inability to back track. The game goes chapter by chapter, so once you leave a village or finish the ending battle, if you forgot something--like a character or a hidden chest--itís gone for good. If you want it, you need to play through again.

Not that it would ever be an issue.

If I still had Shining Force, Iíd be playing it. Itís not like most RPGís from the same decade, unlike Lunar or Phantasy Star, Shining Forceís magic never quite caught on or became a trend. Far too few games have this style, originality or heart, even though I donít think they could ever recreate it. The Shining Series is the be all, end all in my eyes. Always will be.


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Featured community review by True (June 24, 2007)

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