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Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention

Genre: Strategy/RPG Developer: Climax Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1991

The Genesis was not mainly known for its RPGs; however, you can usually find Genesis fans ready to talk about that one great RPG they found or a series on the system. One of Sega’s more famous efforts is Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention. Although it was prompted by an earlier title, the gameplay is different and its deserved success was the start of an insanely popular series, commonly just known as Shining Force, which is commonly hailed as being the pioneer of strategy/RPGs (although Nintendo purists stand by the fact that Fire Emblem came out first). Sega, however, successfully localized Shining Force, something that Fire Emblem failed in doing, and therefore it was in a real sense the pioneer of tactical RPGs for many people.

You are Max, a young boy training with Various, the captain of the guard. Recently, your sister kingdom of Runefaust has been pillaging the lands for unknown reasons. The king wants to investigate, but doesn’t want the fact to become common knowledge. The Runefaust army has stopped at the Gate of the Ancients and it has long been the duty of this country to watch over the gate. Nobody knows what the Legacy of the Ancients is – whether it is of light or darkness – and their legends have been forgotten. Your simple assignment is to protect the gate, but a powerful Runefaust Lord, Kane, invades and destroys your homeland. You set off on your quest to avenge your home, discover the mystery, and protect the Legacy of the Ancients. Powerful Runefaust lords and generals stand in your way as well as the mysterious witch Mishalea and the Lord Darksol who seems to know what lies beyond the gate. As you can see, the plot appears fairly simplistic, and yet it holds a lot of hidden depth to it.

Graphically, the game is nice. It’s by no means the best that the Genesis has to offer, but the visuals give a dark, gritty feel that fit in with the storyline rather well. There are two main types of graphics in the game. The first is the one seen in the overworld where you walk in towns, out on the map and move your forces in battle. The second is used in the actual battle scenes, where one of your units or an enemy unit attacks another unit, and a screen depicting the attack in detail comes up. The in-battle sprites are beautifully rendered, and have gorgeous detail. The graphics are certainly pleasing to look at and fit the feel of the story.

Gameplay is what Shining Force is best known for. Although there were a few titles in the series that deviate from the well-loved formula set by this game, they did not have the word “Force” in the title (until the release of Shining Force Neo). In all of the Force games you control a party of soldiers with one main character that walks around different towns and any open ground if there’s no immediate battle. Your party will grow to a force of twelve characters, which follow the usual fantasy epic of humans, elves, dwarves, etc.- with a couple of anomalies. The twelve can be switched in and out of battle as you please in your headquarters, and when in battle you use them to destroy the opposing force. The soldier’s level up when they reach 100 experience points and gain stats in areas such as attack, defense, agility, etc. You buy weapons for them, and items, and once they reach level ten they can be promoted to a more powerful class, although they lose just a tiny bit in stats due to this. Not much is lost, just enough to make the game more interesting. Battles take place on a flashing grid that determines how far each character can move and attack.

The music and sound in Shining Force are somewhat memorable, but as with the graphics, they’re not the best. The themes are dark and morose at times, light at others, and climactic when they should be; they stimulate excitement at other times and in general fit the mood depending on what’s happened. If a good person dies, the music is tragic; if you’re facing a big storyline boss they’ll have their own special theme. The scores are relatively simple, but they do the job and don’t become tiresome. The sound effects are harder to comment on. To put it simply, they’re standard fair. Nothing horrible, and nothing mind-blowing, but merely adequate. The tones when a character is speaking are fine, but not very noticeable, and the sound of a weapon hitting a character is better, but still not particularly good. The best of the sound is when a character casts a spell. You can hear the thunder when a bolt spell has been let loose, the sizzling involved in blaze, and the sound of ice scraping together in freeze. Don’t misunderstand me, the sounds are well-done, but nothing more.

The control, on the other hand, isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. When outside of battle you can bring up a menu with simple pictures and options like talk, item, search and so on. Each menu is picture-based so it’s easy to get the hang of and simple to use if you’re playing in a foreign language. In battle, bringing up the picture-based menu will give you the options to battle, cast a spell, use an item, or to stay where you are; and if you’re standing in front of a chest or suspicious area you can search for items.

Unfortunately, some tasks aren’t so intuitive. when moving Max, your main character, he has a tendency to pause just before moving (this is outside of battle only). Also, you have to enter the menu and select the option to talk to someone rather than just pressing a button. Lastly, when searching chests outside of battle, only Max can put these things in his inventory, so you have to do a lot of tedious moving of items. Thankfully, these slight annoyances never reoccurred in the series.

In conclusion, Legacy of Great Intention is absolutely wonderful. It’s got great graphics, amazing gameplay, good music and sound, simple (if slightly tedious) control, and a great plot that’s easily enhanced with speculation. The fun factor alone should be reason enough to buy the game and if it wasn’t for the slight annoyances like the talk control, this would be a must for any RPG fan.

SCORE: 9 out of 10

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2 Comments

  1. Zebbe says:

    It’s a legendary classic. Addictive and fun, the fantasy atmosphere is superb. Can’t go wrong with it, be sure to play the sequel after this one as it improves upon everything.

  2. Daria says:

    Shining Force isn’t just a great Genesis RPG, it’s amongst the top tier of the 16-bit classics. Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Final Fantasy VI? Shining Force. A fun game that I enjoy picking up and continuing from any save point, a quality rare in other RPGs.

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