Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Shining Force

Shining Force
GENRE: Tactical Roleplaying Game
PC (Steam or via, originally on Sega Megadrive/Genesis
1992 Climax Entertainment, Sega

Manufacturer Product Description:
The land of Rune, in the kingdom of Guardiana, has been at peace for centuries, until the hordes of Runefaust attack.

Now, the evil forces of Runefaust are spotted near the Gate of the Ancients. As a young swordsman of Guardiana, find out what Runefaust is after, stop their ambition, and bring back peace to the land of Rune. The fate of the world depends on the Shining Force and you.

Minimum Specifications:
OS: Win 7, Vista and XP
Processor: 1.6 HGz Intel Pentium 4
Hard Drive: 50 MB
Video Card: 32 MB or greater
Additional Info: Unknown

Shining Force I
All other Shining Force titles

Old school gooooooodness!! >>> by skysenshi
I had been busy retrogaming on Steam lately and was so happy to have found some classic Sega tactical RPGs like Shining Force. Of course, it's a very old game. If Shining Force were a boy, he'd probably be in college now. Back in the 90s, I was more of a fighting (and sidescroller) gamer, so I did not expect to be addicted to this 21 years after its release. Call it a pleasant surprise, if you will.

Story and Characters
One of the things I found absolutely charming are the characters' -- both playable and non-playable -- interactions. This is actually difficult to explain, so you really have to experience the game for yourself. Maybe if you had played this when you were younger and re-played it again now, the overly innocent remarks seem suggestive. As for the rest of the dialogues, I can't pinpoint why exactly I find them entertaining. Considering that the graphics and portraits don't even have expressions, I'd have to say that this is one well-written game. Shining Force is just simply funny in many unexpected ways.

Hilarious dialogues that made complete sense to me. Um. I could actually relate to Dr. Crock.

Unlike many newer tactical RPGs, which are essentially story-driven, the characters don't really affect your gameplay. They don't make heavy plot points either. In fact, the entire story of Shining Force revolves around the epic battle between good and evil. This could be considered common now, but I think the way the dialogues are written more than made up for the linear story.

Gameplay and Battle System
Because this is a 21-year-old game, do not expect exceptional user experience. I had a difficult time navigating the menu, especially since you have to activate the menu first if you wanted to search an object. The inventory system can also get frustrating because you don't have a shared inventory. Each character can hold a total of 4 items, so whenever your hero picks up something and his hands are full, you'd have to manually transfer all his existing items onto another character's inventory before you can actually pick anything up. Apparently, many gamers during those days complained so they fixed this in Shining Force II.

As for the battle system, I must say this is the first time that I've actually relied heavily on mages.

Initial battle setup.

I suppose the reason why I rarely used mages is that it usually takes too long for them to cast their spells and I'm not a very patient person. In Shining Force, however, EVERYONE takes a long time to execute an attack because they have to show the attack animations. You can't skip these. Unfortunately.

Screenshot of the attack scene of my favorite mage.
Yes, I'm talking about the jellyfish.

Thing is, that small inconvenience forced me to rethink my usual strategies and I really invested in my magic users. Of course, I would have preferred to have monks (my favorite class) for healers because they have offensive skills but I learned to develop my physically weak priests in this game. Truth be told, I found this a refreshing change from my usual brawl-your-way-to-the-ending style of battling. The only disappointment I felt was that Gong, my monk, was still too slow and too weak by the end of it. I kept him in my party, though, because I like monks.

Seriously, I could cry out of sheer nostalgia. I don't care how primitive the graphics looked. To me, they're perfect! Wait. Hm. Maybe except for the attack animations, which I wish I could skip. I have nothing against it, visually. I just don't want to have to see them always.

As for the music, let me just say, this has one of the most LSS (last song syndrome) inducing soundtracks I've ever encountered. The music is nothing special, really. It's not even Nobuo Uematsu level. But for some reason, it stuck. In fact, I finished Shining Force II and all but I still sing Shining Force I's background music in my head while barely remembering its sequel's BGMs.

One of the ironies I find amusing, a nun complaining about lack of progress.
They remind me of the cool nuns in my high school.

Replay Value
Definitely high replay value because you can try other party members and experiment with different strategies. It would be nice to revisit this in a few years when I encounter my next game drought.

Sigh. I miss games like this. Game developers now just don't make 'em like they used to.

COMPLETION TIME: 24:41:30 (last saved, middle of final boss dialogue)
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: Hero 16 Domingo 31 Tao 19 Anri 18 Luke 20 Mae 20 Kokichi 19 Torasu 6 Gong 14 Musashi 21 Zylo 26 Bleu 14
RATINGS: Gameplay 7; Battle 10; Story 9; Visuals 10; Characters 8; Sounds 7; Replay Value 9

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