Shining Force is a tactical RPG developed by Sega released for the Sega Genesis in 1992. In it you control your nameable hero and a party of up to 12 characters into a series of turn based battles. You move across a variety of different environments battling the evil forces of Runefast which are led by the evil Kane and Darksol who wish to resurrect the Dark Dragon and take over the world! While hardly an original or even very complex plot when compared to your Chrono Triggers and Final Fantasies, the game more than makes up for it with two important things, rock solid game mechanics and pure charm.
The calcium infused bones of the game comes from the many well-crafted battles throughout. You and your collection of varied and unique characters will battle a massive number of monsters and villains over a 20-hour campaign. Being a tactical RPG you travel across the map while dealing with factors such as the agility of your party determining who goes next, terrain for added defense or evasion buffs, and praying that you don’t miscalculate and leave yourself open to a brutal enemy attack. But even then it’s worth it if only to see what this new enemy’s attack animation looks like.
Though most enemies aren’t too powerful, they make up for it with numbers, their own variety, and surprisingly smart tactics. They are fully equipped with their own mages, archers, knights as well as the occasional wild card to counter you own band of misfits. There will be points when a battle is just too much and you will have to start over. Luckily, this is a key game mechanic. If the battle is heading south your character can cast the spell egress to leave the battlefield to the safety of the town with any experience, gold or items in tow. When you return the battle has reset itself patiently waiting for you to try again.
This easy grinding may seem cheap, and I suppose it is, but it also greatly diminishes the frustration that can be all too common in most rpgs. Even if you die all you lose is half your gold and even companion death isn’t permanent. Just give some money to the priest (shouldn’t he do this sort of thing for free?”) and your companion is good as new. Outside of the battles, you have a variety of towns and villages to explore. There you can stock up on items, recruit new characters, and best of all discover amusing little side stories and events.
From enemy propaganda playing in a local theatre, to the shenanigans at a magic academy, there’s much merriment and treasure to be had for those who look. Fortunately you won’t have to look too hard to find all of the secrets if 10-year-old me’s success is anything to go by. This is an accessible RPG, which provides just the right amount of challenge to be engaging. But what of the aforementioned charm? Well there’s the memorable soundtrack that accompanies you in battle and throughout the towns, but that’s background stuff. What about the characters?
You will recruit over 30 characters throughout the game each one memorable in their own way. This is helped not only by the fact that each one has their own distinct design, but that as you progress you start to get characters outside your usual rpg flair. There are your knights but they are all centaurs. Some standard archers, oh except for the one with the shoulder mounted arrow machine gun. There’s a crazy old kook with a flying machine, bird people, even a ninja. Half the time I played just to see what cool new characters the game would throw at me next. And when you realize that promoting your characters gives you brand new designs to goggle at… Whooh boy.
Though all of the characters have impressive designs and even more impressive attacks, sadly many of the most interesting don’t become available until late in the game making them frustrating to level up while they’re surrounded by your strapping mainstays. When they’re not out fighting they can be found at your headquarters. There you’ll see your current party members valiantly marching on the nice carpeting as they boast how they’re ready and eager for battle! While in the back, are your unused party members just chilling around the pub bemoaning the fact you wont let them join in on the fun.
This is one of the few games to make me feel guilty about not using certain characters. I don’t know how to explain it since they’re hardly the most complexly written band of misfits to grace video games, so I guess I can only attribute it to that mysterious aforementioned charm. That same charm which has caused me to play this game several times in the past, and will most assuredly make me play it game even more in the future.
Available on steam for just $2.99 and worth every penny. Give it a try!