Shining Force–Best replayable VGA game ever   6 comments

Because Wikipedia has such an excellent article about the nature and origins of the Japanese game Shining Force, which you can read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shining_Force, I can keep my blog short and just talk about what I like and dislike about the game.

Shining Force 1, the only game in the series that I have played, tells the story of a young hero who has to gather up a force of other heroes, fight his way across two continents, and finally defeat a god of evil known as Dark Dragon.  Originally named Max, you can rename the hero to make him your own–I call my version Arrth.

What makes Shining Force really interesting is that it is a kind of fantasy rpg tactical battling version of Groundhog Day.  No matter how many times you lose a battle, you can always go back to your last save and fight it again.  In fact, the game gives you a spell to invoke the Groundhog Day option–a spell called Egress. If you’re getting your butt whipped by the overwhelming forces of the Enemy, cast Egress and start the whole battle all over again.  And you get to keep all the experience points and treasures gained during the losing battle.  This means that your Shining Force group gets stronger and stronger until you can finally overwhelm the forces of Runefaust (Evil Bad Guys), and move on to the next setpiece battle.

Let me add that the forces of evil have a pretty good A.I. algorithm.  They take and hold strategic locations on the battle map, and they can gang up effectively to smash your Shining Force party members.  Sometimes, just the loss of one key member can spell doom for the entire party during a battle.  Lose Tao, the flame-haired enchantress who starts with your party, in your attempt to cross the desert to Anri’s queendom, and you may as well Egress right on the spot.  Without her casting Blaze spells at the zombies that bar your course, you’re not going to make it.

I really play and replay Shining Force for the battles.  I totally enjoy the turn-based tactical struggles where your little army of good guys is always outnumbered, and outclassed, at least until a few Groundhog Day iterations have gone by, and you understand the enemy strengths and weaknesses while getting stronger your own self.

Part of the charm of Shining Force, but not the part I like the most, is the exploration of the world that you have to do with your main character between each battle.  It is there that information is learned, new characters are met and recruited, and certain plot points are reached that advance the story.  It is also a time for buying and selling equipment, arming and equipping your characters with the best armor and weapons they can get.  For example, it is good practice to have each of your characters take one or two medical herbs in their inventory.  They are going to get hurt and need healing during the battles.  Although characters can be healed by magical spells, or by talking to the priest back at the last town you visited, sometimes you can’t wait.  You always want your main character to be as healthy as possible.  If he is killed, then you lose.  (Anyway, I play it as a loss.  Even the main character can be revived from the dead with some penalties associated.)

In Shining Force there is a large assortment of characters that you can recruit to increase the size and fighting ability of your troop.  Eventually, you get more characters thay you have slots for.  That means some of them have to just sit around doing nothing.  You usually lose your original starters.  Characters that join the party later are so much stronger than the original cast that you can’t help but take them.

One of the things that gives the game replayability is how you choose to use your recruits.  For example, there are a lot of centaur characters in the game–and you could choose to only use centaurs in your shining force.  Just leave the other characters behind–in the clubhouse of Shining Force HQ–and out of the battles.  This makes the game a lot more challenging.  I am right now trying to win the game by only using female characters.  Arrth, of course, is male, and somehow he just loves to lead an Amazonian force of warrior women.  My son, Corencio, is playing with a force where all the characters are wizards of one sort or another.  That is a very strong force the way he has it organized.

Graphics and dialog are primitive by modern standards, but they are bright, colorful, and have a bit of motion in them.  At least, the graphics are primitive in the Sega Smash Pack 2 version that I have.  However, a search of Shining Force images on the web shows that they have been upgraded considerably for more modern platforms.  So your experience of the game is very likely to be much glitzier than mine.  However, there is a wide variety of creatures, characters, structures, and combat maps.  The variety keeps you interested and playing.  There is probably music with the game, but I play it on a computer, not a gaming system, and I always keep the volume turned down.

In summary, Shining Force is extremely likeable as games go.  It is available on many different gaming ploatforms.  It has sequels and side adventures that you can play.  It will keep you interested for a long time.  If you never give up, you will reach the point where you win the game–that is always satisfying.  It is a fairly long story that makes good use of basic fantasy tropes–elves, dwarves, dragons, wizards, but it steps outside the standard fantasy genre with such things as a steam-powered armadillo creature and laser weapons.  After you have won the game, you will immediately see ways where you could have tried to do things differently.

You might even go on to try the ultimate challenge–winning the whole game with nothing but the one hero character you start out with.  That would be quite a feat.

This is what Shining Force looks like on a modern game system.

End

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Posted March 7, 2011 by atroll in Uncategorized

6 responses to “Shining Force–Best replayable VGA game ever

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  1. I must admit I have a deep sense of nostalgia for the classic tactical RPG games and have whiled away many an hour playing different variations of tactics and characters.

  2. wow Khenn i must say i’m shocked. Out of all the games i could have picked for you to like i’m sure tactical rpgs would have been at the bottom of the list. but Shining Force! my respect for you has sky rocketed lol.

    i might have to play this again. I’ve started a new guy on this game several times but never beat it.

    You should try part 2 if you like this one.

    If you like Shining Force check out FantasyAnime.com and look at the Shining force website he has. The guy has a real passion for the game

    Arrdhann Trrelish
    • I’ve never been able to get a working copy of part 2 or 3. I only have a desktop computer to play it on–no gaming systems at all in this house. Ken

  3. oh i forgot to mention. don’t buy the gameboy advanced version. they added some missions and story but made it to easy and took away the feel the original has. i would skip it.

    Arrdhann Trrelish
  4. You can get the 3 most popular games on Steam for less than a buck right now,

  5. Shining Force and the last Cordon is in development! Check em’ out on Facebook at FACEBOOK.COM/SHININGFORCEANDTHELASTCORDON. I’m excited to see what they’re gonna do! LOVE THIS GAME!

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