Inside Pulse 12

Retrograding 08.17.03

Sorry about a bit of lateness getting this out. Between dealing with a very unhappy ex, a very unhappy young lady who wanted to be my next, last night’s Smackdown house show, and with the fact it’s the big 26 today, life has taken a very weird turn.

Right. Last week we took a look at the Triad of games that was Shining Force 3. But in fact, there was a fourth part to Shining Force 3. A Premium disc that you could only get by sending away the proof of purchases from the 3 SF3 scenarios in to Camelot (Previously known as Sonic Software Planning).

SHINING FORCE 3: PREMIUM DISC

Needless to say, this game is pretty rare. Even though Camelot has reopened the offer on several occasions. This game, due to its rarity and the rabid fanaticism of the SF fanbase, has gone for up to 800$. Yes that’s right. The cost of FIVE Radiant Silverguns! Thankfully, due to the reopening of the offer, and the re-release of the SF trilogy allowed the cost of this game to drop to it’s current price of approximately 100$, which is how much I paid for it in 2000. Yes. I actually dropped a hundred bones for a Game that is little more than Nostalgia, a soundtrack, a video, and a few extra battles. Not advised for those of you saner than myself. Which is most of humanity.

Okay. Due to the “Premium’ nature of this disc, there’s a lot to cover here. First up is the fact that there is NO plot to this disc. First up is a 3-D gallery. Every character and villain is in this gallery, and you are able to view the models from any angle, close up, or in any of their attack poses. Again, it’s cute if you’re a big art freak or obsessed with SF characters, but it’s a temporary distraction at best.

Next up is the Art gallery, Character designs and manga-esque art of all the characters you could see in the 3D gallery. A lot of it is the type of art you could find in the Shining Force 3 artbook that is occasionally found on Ebay.

Then we have the Save Game Creator for Scenario 3. This is to flesh out Scenario 3 in case you are missing either S-1 or S-2, or even both. You can choose what events happened in Parts 1 & 2, from not killing certain characters to deciding whether those damn villagers in Scenario 1 actually lived or not, you have total control over all the variables that make up what will be your inevitable Scenario 3 game. Nifty idea and something I’m glad is included as SF3-3 seems to be the most common of the Japanese releases, and thus one of these Premium discs allows you and your friends access to the full SF3-3 experience.

There’s also a sound test and a Movie Selector. The Sound test allows you to listen to every song from all three games, along with sound effects and character voices. The Movie selector gives you all three opening videos and both endings. There are some commercials and a making of video as well, but those are all in Japanese only. Still, the footage is fun to watch. But again, it’s just cute filler that isn’t worth the triple digit price tag unless you’re a complete SF freak.

But the reason to buy the Premium disc off Ebay is for the special battles contained on the disc. Allowing you access to all of your team members of the past 3 games, your combined SF armies are able to take on the bosses of SF3, but also classics like Iom, Dark Dragon and Darksol himself. Intense! And an incredible bonus to SF fans who have waited to finally see the original bosses from the first Shining Force in beautiful 3-D rendering. And yes, Zeon is as evil and bitchy as when you face him in SF2. It is rather nice to have access to THREE heroes when you fight him though…

And that in a nutshell all you get on the Premium disc. Yes, as a freebie, it’s great and an example of why Camelot is one of the best companies out there. But as a 100$ collector’s item on Ebay, it’s not worth the cash. 9 battles and some music and Japanese commercials doth not a worthy purchase make.

And for the longest time, there were no new Shining Force games. SF3-3 came out in late September, 1998. And for a long time, people thought there wouldn’t be any new ones. After all Camelot and Sega’s friendly relationship deteriorated with the death of the Saturn, something that also occurred with Working Designs and a few other companies. But when Sega released the Sega Smash Pack for the Dreamcast, the original Shining Force was included as part of the package. And we all cheered. Sure it was a crappy port with some mistakes in the music, but it was SHINING FORCE! And Sega smelled money.

And of course this means they never did anything with SF on the DC. And it took Sega FOUR YEARS to release a new Shining game. One totally different from the originals. And it would still take another year before the game hit Europe. And it’s just now coming out in the states next month. This game is of course SHINING SOUL

As usual, Shining Soul was another boneheaded move by Sega’s marketing department. It did decently in Japan, and Sega knew that the US had a very rabid Shining fan base. So they decided NOT to release it in the US or Europe. Finally Infogrames decided to release the game in Europe and Atlus (your pagan god and mine) are about to release Shining Soul in the US.

Now, no one in the Development of Shining Soul actually appeared to have any connection to the old Shining games. Especially the Takahashi brothers.

Now, let me say this right out. Shining Soul is not what Shining fans were expecting. It’s an action role-playing game in the same vein as Diablo. There is little character development and a LOT of hack N slash. It’s meant to be a multiplayer beat “em up ala River City Ransom combined with a Ren Fest. And people were expecting a Strategy Tactics style RPG. And thus the Shining fanbase were pissed off because the game was different from what they wanted. Never mind it was a GOOD game that I really enjoy because I remember it’s as different from Shining Force as Shining Wisdom or Shining in the Darkness was. No. People wanted SHINING FORCE. And they aren’t gonna get it. At least not for a very long time.

What’s really nice is that like in SF3 Premium, a lot of old villains reappear. Xeon, Iom, Dark Dragon, Darksol and more. The game is an action based nostalgia ride through the Shining Universe. It’s not really connected to the same chronology that Shining was previously known more. More likely it is an alternate universe, or more appropriately, who the f*ck cares. It’s cute to see Jogurt and Claude and Max and everyone back in a different type of game. It’s just a bloody video game. People need to stop taking it so seriously.

In Shining Soul you have a choice of 4 characters: A Swordsman (Complete and total crap compared to the others), a Dragonute (Hardcore close range attacks), A Mage/Cleric (Heal spells are your friend) and my personal favorite, the Elven Archer. The latter can actually attack from a distance and when you get him to his max skill level in arrows can even take down Dark Dragon pretty quickly.

Each character has a set of skills to choose from. A few overlap between characters but nearly al of them are individual to the characters. Your Dragon can counter attack with fire breath when it is hit. The Archer can do extra damage against flying monsters like Dragons and Harpies. The Mage can cast any spell you remember from old Shining games. The Swordsman sucks a little bit less. You can get up to four levels in each skill. You can also assign points to your Magic level, your strength, and your defense, making you stronger in those areas as well. Certain weapons cannot be used without a pre-req of strength level. Some armour needs the same. You can also find rare and unusual items throughout the game in stores and from enemies.

The really bizarre change is finding “Souls.’ When you actually get one of these, you can charge it up by killing monsters. Then when the charge meter is full, you can release the “soul’ (which is a classing Shining Character) and make them do heavy damage to all opponents on the screen, including a boss.

But in truth, it’s just a beat “em game with some new gameplay and hints of Nostalgia. I enjoy it, but as a time waster, not a great video game. Once it is officially released in the US, I’ll be doing a PERFECT guide to munchkin’ing your characters as I did with Eye of the Beholder. However, once you have beaten the game you DO unlock an Advanced mode, with more powerful enemies so your now super powerful character can still enjoy a challenge.

Multiplayer mode does increase the life of the game, but like multiplayer in Hunter: The Reckoning, you may end up finding the game much easier on your own than with partners.

The game managed to alienate Shining fans, but also attract some new people. Shining Soul sold decently in Japan and pretty well in England and most of Europe. And thus Sega issued a sequel. But this time, the sequel was going to be geared to get those long time Shining Fans back.

SHINING SOUL 2 came out in July of 2003. It’s a pretty common game, but as it’s been out for less than a month I can’t give you any real sales figures.

The graphics have improved. The classes have doubled, adding werewolf, ninja, vampire, and witch. There are now ten dungeons instead of 8, and each dungeon has a quest instead of being straight hack N slash.

http://www.sega.co.jp/shining2/ is the official site for the new game and although it is in all Japanese, the pictures and artwork allow you to gleam a lot of information. You can view the new arena style combat (think Pokemon), the different characters and monsters you will encounter, and even an FAQ!

Niftiest of all they’ve got some downloadable backgrounds, screen savers and desktop themes for your computer. And if you’re wondering, I use Thousand Arms on my computer. :-P

Shining Soul 2 is rumoured to be coming to the US thanks to Atlus as well. Atlus had a comment for a while that Shining Soul 2 would be coming to US shores in December of this year, 3 months after SS1 arrived. That has since been taken down, but it hasn’t kept the Shining fans from being curious.

Shining Soul 2 feels a lot more like a Shining game, from the characters and the fact they’ve actually been given personalities and backgrounds to the way combat plays. Yes, it is still hack N slash, but you’re fighting actual monsters that appeared in Shining games.

Me? I’ve been playing as the Archer. I figure why not go with the old favorite, but Dark Wizard/Vampire is next on my list.

And that my friends, is a short (well, if you count 5 articles as short…) history of the Shining Force series. If you’re looking for a far more in-depth history of Shining Force, you need to check out Moogie’s shiningforcecentral.com. Moogie’s probably the best Brit I encountered while over there to boot.

Before I head out for this week and give you guys another mailbag and the FFTA review, Here’s an email I received from DamonD about Shining Force 3. Consider this erratum.

Galm doesn’t die in SF3:3. He sneakily teleports away.

There’s a final cut scene you might not have watched, which I think is available waaaay after the credits have finished. You just need to leave it on the end screen, and wait for a while I think.

Galm has a conversation with Eliza (from Holy Ark), both of them appearing as 2D illustrations. It’s all in Japanese, but apparently the gist of it is Eliza being very suspicious that Galm’s been up to something, and Galm not doing such a hot job of covering up that he only killed Julian’s dad in the first place because of the the path that would set Julian on.

Galm admits that the next time he meets up with Julian, that will be for the last time. But he’s not certain that he would be the survivor, as the boy has grown powerful.

I think that’s about it. Check after the credits, and try some more fansites. I bought SF3 Scenarios 2 and 3 on import in ’98, and finished them, but that was about 4 years back now so it’s a big vague…

Oh well, hope that helps.

DamonD

And he’s right. I booted up the game and let it sit and sit and sit and sit, and I got the final cut scene. Shame on me for missing that considering nearly every SF game has a hidden epilogue like that. Bad Alex! Bad Alex!

Now I’ve had a request to combine all of these into one giant column. And we’ll see if Chris, Widro and Ashish like that idea. I’ve also had requests for me to do Vampire Saviour, King of Fighters, The history of Treasure and also the Megaten series. As this as been a pretty big and in depth project, I want some major reader feedback before I embark on a multi-month project like this again.

See you all during the work week.