When I was a teen gamer, I thought I knew it all when it came to the genres of video games and what conventions went along with each. I know about jumping on bad guys in platformers. I knew about power ups in side scrolling shoot’em up. And I knew all about RPGs. I was well versed in Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, Dragon Warrior and all manner of console RPGs. I knew my HP from my MP from my XP. I knew all about levels, flaming swords and saving the world from an ancient evil. I thought I knew it all. The came a little game called Shining Force. I had played the previous incarnation of the Shining games, Shining in the Darkness which was a classic First person Dungeon crawler. I was expecting the same but with better graphics, more spells, etc. What I got was my first introduction to what would become one of my favorite genres of games: Tactical RPGs.
What is a Tactical RPG (TRPG) you may ask? Well if you need to ask, you need to stop reading this and do some homework. Seriously, time to nerd up buddy.
All kidding aside, Tactical RPGs are very similar to classic RPGs (Hit point, getting better weapons, gaining level, blah, blah blah) with one big twist. In TRPGs you control a small army of characters on a battlefield, where not only are attack values and defense values of the unit important but that positioning of the units on the field was just as vital. Can you slide in your heavy hitting knight to pound the enemy spell thrower before she can get her fireball off? Will you be able to defend your archer from being surrounded by a bunch of sword wielding skeletons? That’s the meat and potatoes of TRPGs and Shining Force had it in spades.
In Shining Force you command a band of characters, ranging from the stereotypical fantasy RPG fair such as elven archers, dragons and axe wielding dwarves to the more shall we say, fantastical. Bazooka wielding centaur? Good. Giant Armadillo-man wearing a suit of steam powered armor? Awesome. What do you do with this band of mighty fighters? Save to world from an ancient evil of course! Ok, not breaking new ground here but ehhhhhh, the plot is not the focus here.
One of my favorite things about the game was the on screen animation for the combat. When one unit would attack another the screen would change to a close up character versus character screen when you would get to watch the attacks unfold. For example, when you mage unleashed her Blaze spell, you would see the mage cast the spell and then watch as the screen would slide to the bad guys and you would see the fire rain down upon the hapless bad guys. Each character class had their own attack animation which would change when the character was promoted (aka, leveled up high enough). Sometimes though the “promoted” characters animation was not as cool as their old one. For example, Zylo, the werewolf looking creature would jump off the screen and come crashing down with a big claw slice across the bad guy. When promoted he would stand their and cause a wave of little energy wolf heads to attack their enemy. First one = Tip-Top Goodness. Second One = WTF?
Was this game perfect? No. It was a little too easy (for a challenge try playing the game with only the main character, look on the internets for how!) and many characters you would get in your party were useless. I always hate it in games when I get a cool awesome looking character and then find out due to stats and game mechanics they are ultra-lame. While I consider this a must play for any Genesis/Mega Drive gamer, I would recommend it only if you are fans of the RPG genre.
Now if you excuse me, I have to go hatch an egg in a special machine to give birth to my ice wielding jelly fish creature. Yeah, Shining Force is like that.
Trivia: Once you beat the game you could input a special code where you could name every character in your army, not just your main character.
Hint About Next Review: Baseball Bats, Psychic Powers and a boy named Poo.