Forget Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, Shining Force is where it’s at. Shining Force II, one of the first strategy RPGs, was released in 1994 by SEGA. Mind you this was before SEGA went down the crapper. Way before. Shining Force was a good game, hell it was a great game, but somehow Shining Force II took all that, and doubled it. It’s superior in almost every way, thus the reason it’s one of my all time favourite games.
Shining Force II starts when a thief, Slade, steals two jewels in an ancient shrine, thus setting in motion bizarre events leading to the resurrection of Zeon, the Devil King. When the king of Granseal, protector of the Tower of the Ancients, suddenly falls sick, Sir Astral, who looks suspiciously like Gandalf, and the game’s leader, Bowie, investigate the opened tower with a small group called the Shining Force, a trio of warriors.
When an evil Gizmo escapes and possesses the king of a neighbouring kingdom, Galam, Granseal’s princess is kidnapped and the entrance to “Arc Valley” (home to Zeon the Devil King) is opened. Arc Valley and the evil that resides there begins consuming Grans Island, causing Bowie and friends to flee their home. Time to save the world!
The story lines between Shining Force and Shining Force II are not directly connected, although a Japan only SEGA GameGear game; Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict, draws the two games together. The game gives you the opportunity to control your own army, across vast terrains. Although most of the time you fight on land, battles can range from temples to caves.
The great thing about Shining Force II is that while you originally begin with 3 soldiers, by the end of the game you have a whopping 28 at your command. Each one having his/her/its own personality and strengths. You’ve got your main classes; Knights, Wizards, Warriors and Archers. However not all of these are human.
You’ve got centaurs, bird men, wolf men, robots, half-breeds, and other strange looking creatures as part of your arsenal. Plenty of choice. Not to mention over the course of the game your characters can be promoted; this allows them to attack in different ways, wield stronger weapons and it boosts their strength.
There are 2 main types of gameplay, exploration and battles. When you’re exploring you take on the role of the leader of the “Force”, you can change equipment and mess with the army, while walking around interacting with people and buying weapons or items. During battles each ally is represented by a character with a background and personality.
Some of these characters are hidden, requiring specific events to occur before they will join the Force. Not all the characters can be used during a single battle though, so the player must mix and match the army to suit the battle, or personal preference. The main character, Bowie [default name] must be in every battle, if he dies though, its Game Over.
Once a soldier reaches Lv20, that character has the ability to advance to more powerful version of their class through a promotion. You can promote them at any time between Lv20 and Lv40, but the longer you wait to promote the stronger they will be once you do. Some characters have the ability to have two promotion options, although one of them is only accessible through a special item.
You may have noticed that for the most part I’ve talked about gameplay. That’s because Shining Force II is so deep that I haven’t even covered half of it. It would take way too long to explain so I’m going to leave it up to you guys to find out the rest. Graphically, SF II hasn’t dated too well, so the flat textures, and simple sprites may annoy you if you’re a graphics whore. But if you enjoy… gameplay, then you probably won’t give a damn.
As far as tactical games go, Shining Force II is the cream of the crop. If you’ve ever played a Fire Emblem/Advance Wars/FF Tactics game, get ahold of a copy of this, as you’re sure to love it. SF and SF II are both now being sold on the Wii’s Virtual Console, buy a copy, seriously. The VC is your best bet anyway because the game is so highly desired, a copy of this game in its original box with instructions can sell for as much as $60-$70 on eBay.
Shining Force II is one of the best of it’s kind. Check it out.
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