Genre: Strategy/RPG Developer: Sonic Software Planning Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1994
It’s pretty obvious to everyone that the Genesis wasn’t known for its RPGs. It’s not to say that it didn’t have them, it did, just not as many as the SNES, and of those, only a handful (around 10) were really worth playing. You had the obvious games like the Phantasy Star series, the Shining series, and games like Beyond Oasis and Crusader of Centy. These games represent most of the worthwhile RPG’s for the system. High among them stands Shining Force II.
This is less of a sequel and more of a new game with the Shining Force label. It starts off with a whole new plot, albeit not very original. A lowly thief has opened up a seal while searching for riches. This seal held the greatest evil power known to man.
The hero Bowie along with his friends, were just trying to get to school one day, when their teacher Sir Astral was taken away to help the possessed king. The class, with Bowie in the lead, goes to help Sir Astral. Soon, they get caught up in this whole adventure and eventually save the world (obviously). And to think that all they wanted to do was go to school!
What you have here is a strategy game/RPG hybrid. This (and its predecessor) basically started the whole strategy based genre that soon became a gaming norm. Blocks are your battleground as you progress throughout the game. When you go up against an enemy in an opposing square, you get four options, attack, magic, item, and pass. All four seem pretty basic. Here’s one of the games strong points. When you choose any option other than pass, a cinematic cut scene will start up. This could be you attacking and enemy, using an item, using magic, or being attacked. Very cool to look at!
Strategy is applied nicely here. You first have to make sure you place your army in the right position, and attack at the right times to win the battle. You also have to decide who makes it into your main party. If you want power guys running amok, you mostly have to sacrifice speed, which means that they’ll miss most of the action while you’re somewhat weaker, yet faster guys get all the work (and precious experience). You’ll also have to decide if you want a lot of long range guys, which sacrifice power, but are harder to hit, or if you want the straight up fighters which can hopefully take enough damage not to be killed too early to be useful. Some degree of brain power is needed here and rushing in blind only guarantees a quick death.
The graphics are great all around. The best part comes during the cut scenes in battle. This is a sharp contrast to the character heads which appear in the dialogue boxes (they look like they could easily come from an 8-bit game). The landscape looks nice but can get boring and somewhat monotonous after a while. The character design is well done and detailed, and they didn’t skimp on the effects either, although they could have been better. I can think of other games released at the same time that have better graphic effects. Still, it’s an improvement from the first two games (including the Sega CD compilation).
The music is where the game REALLY shines. Almost every song is worth really listening too, and it really helps set the mood. The sound track is actually available somewhere, but it’s a hard find. A few of the best ones are the final battle theme against the last boss and the little song quips from the priest. The Elven town song should have you tapping your toes as well. The sound effects are all either original or from the last Shining Force game and while nothing really new, they all fit in with the game nicely.
The game should take you awhile if you have a more outdoor-orientated life. I’d say the game is around 50-60 full hours, depending on skill, and if your cheating or if you were able to get enough critical hits at the right times.
One of the few flaws of the game is the fact that the story seems to have been done before. Although the game does a nice job of telling it, you can get bored at certain parts after playing it a few times. Also, fact that the developers used the same battle sprites for actions other than walking and talking seems a bit uninspired and not very creative.
Still, the replay value is definitely there, and you WILL have fun with this great game.
SCORE: 9 out of 10