Written in 2020
At the time this report was written, the release of the original Shining Force was almost 28 years ago. The game, originally released on the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis console is a strategy RPG, a gaming genre that was always kind of niche but over the time consistently got some great games in various series and on various consoles.
The idea for this little article popped up in my head after I started playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest game of the popular Fire Emblem series on the Nintendo Switch game of late 2019.
There were some famous games in the tactical RPG genre, like Final Fantasy Tactics, Langrisser, or Disgaea, but there was no game that quite got the spirit of Shining Force, even if the combat is similar between those games.
Read on to find out why.
Please note that this report focuses on the Shining Force games that stay true to the original formula - these games are Shining Force, Shining Force II, Shining Force III and the GBA remake of Shining Force.
Many tactical rpgs have a "player phase" and an "enemy phase". During the first kind, players can select all of their units, move them around a certain grid and then commence various actions, such as attacking, magic and so on.
In Shining Force, there are no distinct "phases". Enemies and party members alike have an "agility" value in their stats, and the higher the agility value, the sooner a battle members' turn will take place.
So it's no big waiting for enemy phases to end, the battle just goes on seamlessly.
This was one of the features that convinced me to try out Shining Force - the great attack animations that are played whenever a party member or an enemy attacks.
There were later Fire Emblem games that did a similar thing, but even the famous Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea game only offer some on-map attack animations and not huge transitions where big spirtes battle each other.
Of course, the animations only have a limited set of animation frames, but they're still nice to look at even today!
Everything in Shining Force can be accessed by navigating through an easy to use menu. Just press the menu button, and there are four actions available. The actions are described in very easy to understand icons - Just press the directional button of that action and that's it.
Of course, there are lists some times that pop up in an extra window after a menu action was selected, but usually lists are only to choose the party member who has to do something.
The original team behind Shining Force that later happened to be Camelot Software used this menu structure in some more games like Shining The Holy Ark.
There was some kind of uproar when the latest Fire Emblem started to show an approximation of an attack result. Fans claimed that this would make the game too easy. Shining Force offered a similar concept back in 1992, but players had to do some simple math to find out what the possible outcome of a confrontation would be.
If a character has a certain attack, just deduct the opponent's defense, and you can find out what the possible resulting damage of an attack would be. The damage could be a tad bigger or less severe, but it's around that value. Of course, attacks could still miss.
The only exception of that rule is magic which alaways causess a relatively fixed amount of damage and cannot miss.
This is something that many tactical RPG series have come up with in recent installments, but Shining Force was the first one to offer a cast of very likeable characters that can be recruited during gameplay.
Every one of the party members has their own possibility and reasons for fighting. To get in touch with the party a little more, the games' heroes can always visit the Shining Force headquarters in every town.
In the GBA remake, characters tell different stories players talk to them often enough.
This is something I have seen only rarely outside of the first original Shining Force games - the ability to walk around towns or explore the environment.
Shining Force is not only a tactical RPG, but it also contains many elements from regular japanese RPGs, which means that players can walk around towns if there's no battle around, they can talk to NPCs, check out treasure chests and even walk outside of town to get to know the surroundings.
This is especially interesting in Shining Force II which offers a very extensive open and explorable world with tons of secrets!
So you see, there's lots of things unique about Shining Force that can still be loved today, and that you won't see in any other game series. The games are easy to come by and have been released as part of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis collection for almost any platform imaginable.