Hive, written in 2021
Oh my, a new Shining Force game was being announced. And this time, it seems to be a real Shining Force game, not some strange knockoff series that just has the name of the original games. The game should be designed around the classic formula that we love so much - roleplaying in towns, tactical RPG battles and some very likeable characters.
Recently, an announcement trailer was revelead (in Korean) that shows more details of the game, which is said to receive a mobile release in 2022.
Since we don't particularly have anything against mobile games, we treat this announcement just as if the game would have been a planned release on any of the "real" game consoles.
The game, as presented in the trailer, plays the nostalgia card heavily. It starts with Simone from the original Shining Force game talking, and then a roster of players from the first game is presented. All with remixed music from Shining Force 1 and 2 playing masterfully in the background. I talked with my old Shining Force friend Bowie and we discussed this trailer a lot.
The first thing that is noticable in this trailer is how strangely the characters are animated in these cinematics. They look like those cheap animations in some low value mobile games, where just certain elements of a character are moved and it looks like a jumping jack figurine. Yet, the spirit of the original artworks is preserved and the different styles of Shining Force 1 and 2 mix together pretty well.
Moving around town looks generic as well, with this style of hand drawn backgrounds and characters that look like extra cute stickers on top of a painting. But hey, moving around cities is here, one of the tropes that made Shining Force famous.
As soon as battles are commenced, the encounter is shown in a cinematic way similar to the old Shining Force. Here, the animations don't look as strange and more naturally animated, not unlike an anime or cartoon - a look the original Shining Force tried to achieve in the limited space provided by a Mega Drive cartridge.
Let's skip the good and the bad, and go straight to the ugly. The game presumably is a free to play game, and the information about the story is completely inconsistent. The heroes shown in the trailer are story wise not connected at all, although there are some theories regarding the games' timeline. Various sources say that the game is meant to play 1000 years after the original game, which is strange as of how the characters from the first two games might appear here.
Shining Force also was never a series of hit points and other values going into the thousands. Seeing the values shown in the trailer suggests that these easy to calculate values are also a thing of the past.
Honestly, for me the game looks a lot like Final Fantasy Brave Exvius in terms of its business model, a free to play mobile game that plays in the Final Fantasy universe with gacha mechanics where players can play famous characters from past games without having a all too intense or consistent story. The concept of something a thousand years in the past seems to be just a sugarcoat for a nonexistant own story.
I fear that the same like with Brave Exvius will be valid for this Shining Force game, which is all too sad since it seems to have the right ingredients to make for a pleasent experience. The developing company seems to know what they do, as they aimed their trailer precisely towards fans of the old games while creating a very generic cute free to play RPG which could attract any new players.
The trailer filled my heart with nostalgia, but I doubt this game will be the one in the series that eventually revives it the way it deserves to be revived. It's not that I despise the free to play principle per se, as games like Genshin Impact show that there are pretty interesting concepts and likeable games in that part of the video game industry as well. Shining Force: Heroes of Light and Darkness just doesn't look like such a game, given the informaiton we have now.