Shining Force is one of the first Tactical Role-Playing Games (RPG) on a console. As far as I can tell, there were a number of them on various computers. It is one of those games I looked for when collecting games.
I could have this wrong, but I feel like it was on a demo disk with the Sega Dreamcast. I think it was a Sega classics collection or something like that. I remember it being on the disk along with Virtua Cop.
Shining Force was one of the many Genesis/Mega Drive games that I went after when I started collecting games. At the time, I thought that this was the first Tactical RPG on a console, but that was because I didn’t know about Fire Emblem.
Let’s talk more about the game and why I think it is great.
TLDR: Shining Force is one of the early console Tactical RPGs. It is a little rough around the edges, but is a great game!
The game’s story is a simple one that has been in a bunch of other games, movies, and books. Probably in other forms of entertainment as well; I just don’t want to list them all here.
Your character is the hero! He doesn’t appear to be a chosen one, but he did have a mentor who dies, so that tracks with our checklist of cliches. The goal is to stop the main evil guy from bringing an eviler person or creature back to life.
Spoiler Alert: You don’t stop him. This works well for the game because the fine programmers and artists made a scary three-headed creature, and by god, they’re going to make you fight it! This is the most annoying fight I’ve encountered in a while.
Let me back up a bit. The main bad guy is able to mind-control one of the kings; there are only two kings, and starts a war. You end up fighting all of the generals from that kingdom until you make it to that three-headed dragon I mentioned earlier.
It isn’t an original story, but it is executed quite well. I do wish the game was longer. Shining Force only has eight chapters, each with 2-4 battles. It’s a fun story that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
This is an interesting entry in the Tactical RPG genre in terms of gameplay. It feels like a half-step between a Japanese RPG (JRPG) and a Tactical RPG.
At times you’re free to move around the map and talk to people instead of moving from location to location. In Fire Emblem, your party moves from battle to battle, and you don’t get to explore cities or locations.
While this is interesting, I prefer how Fire Emblem is set up. Exploring the cities is fun, but at times it seems unnecessary. You also run into the unhelpful citizens in the town, and the way you talk with people is annoying.
Shining Force uses the Dragon Quest and Phantasy Star menu systems. I really dislike this. Part of this has to do with me starting with Final Fantasy, where you just have to press a button to talk with people.
The inventory system is a mess. Each character has four slots. One is always filled with the weapon the character has equipped, key items are held here, and any healing items are also found here. It fills up very fast, and if you want to get an item from a chest, you will have to trade items around like a crappy game of musical chairs.
The healing items bring up something else that annoyed me about the game. Because of the inventory, you have to buy items one at a time and give them to a specific character. Each time you want to buy an item, this process is repeated.
The healing items worked quite well. However, the healing spells felt very underpowered. Even after promoting my healers to a more powerful class, the spells seemed only to heal 10 to 15 hit points. This would have been fine if the enemies seemed to hit much harder than your healers can make up for.
This also ties into the leveling system. At times it feels like the levels didn’t mean much. Sometimes they helped; other times, the character doesn’t get any stat boosts. It made me feel a lot differently about other games.
Shining Force felt closer to a tabletop RPG like Dungeons & Dragons. It was made at a time when some genres were still being fleshed out.
Shining Force does do a few things better than Fire Emblem. The weapons and spells don’t have a durability counter. In Fire Emblem, you can only use a weapon or spell a certain number of times before you have to buy a new one.
Shining Force doesn’t do this. It does have an option for you to repair weapons. I never used this. I’m sure it can come up at some point, but I didn’t have to deal with it during my playthrough.
Instead of a durability counter on spells, Shining Force uses magic points (MP). You can change the spell you’re using (i.e., Blaze lvl 1 instead of lvl 2 or Heal lvl 1 instead of Heal lvl 2). This helps to conserve MP since I didn’t find an item that replenishes it during battles.
The enemy AI is confusing at times. It seems like they’re programmed to attack the main character. However, they don’t all attack you at once. You can control the number of enemies you deal with by not moving the main character into harm’s way. This lets you only have to deal with 3 to 4 enemies at a time.
The last thing I want to mention is the battle system. It doesn’t seem to matter what direction you attack enemies from. It doesn’t seem to matter if you attack from the side or behind.
I like how the game looks and the cutscenes. I wish they had used the same style of visuals from the beginning when they needed cutscenes. I think that would have made the game better, even though I do like the use of in-game graphics.
The battle scenes look very good! When you attack an enemy, you shift to a battle scene where one character attacks another. It is very detailed, and I like the backgrounds that were added to these scenes.
The sprites mostly look unique. At first, I thought the centaurs were a little strange, but I guess it makes sense in this world. It’s mostly a fantasy setting, but like other Sega RPGs, it blends some science fiction into the game. There are a lot of robots and cyborgs the further you go into the game.
It feels like the Shining Force world could exist in the Phantasy Star universe. It’s probably not, but I like to think that it could.
8/10. Overall, Shining Force is great. However, it has issues that would be fixed in later Shining Force games and other Tactical RPGs.
Shining Force is a good game, even though it is a bit outdated. It does feel like a half-step between a Tactical RPG and a JRPG. I feel like it was well done.
You have a lot of characters to choose from, which makes the game more fun. It lets you try different teams. I probably didn’t use the best combination, but that is half the fun of a game like this. You can set your team up however you want. This was an interesting game to revisit. I enjoy the Tactical RPG genre, and this is one of the better ones from the early 90s. There are a few things that I didn’t remember about it, but overall I like enjoyed playing it.