Retrograding 05.20.04

Shining Force 2
Developed by: Camelot
Published by: Sega
Release Date: 10/19/94
Systems Released on: Sega Genesis

And here it is the highest ranked Cart on the list. To spoil things a little bit more both #2 and #1 are PSX games. Of course if you really want things spoiled, a long time ago I hid the top five in an old RG column…

Shining Force 2. You’d think I would be sick of talking about Shining Force by now, right? Well this is my last time talking about the series for quite some time. Earlier this week you got to read my review of the GBA remake of Shining Force (BUY IT), but even with the graphical update and the neat little changes they made, the sequel still blows the original out of the water and tap dances on its bones. Quite possibly the largest 16 bit game (as it’s bigger than Chrono Trigger or FF6, and you can do more in it than PSIV), Shining Force 2 is the greatest straight fantasy game ever made.

You play Bowie, a character similar to Max, but with more of a personality. And Bowie actually talks. But most of the time it is still just “……”. The gist of the plot is Bowie and his new Shining Force must defeat the machinations of Evil King Galam who plans to release the King of all Devils, Xeon. Xeon is a rival of Dark Dragon and Darksol that together they trapped away long ago. As Shining Force 2 happens quite some time after the 4 games that comprise the story arc featured in Shining Force 1 (SF1, SF: Final Conflict, and the two games on SFCD) Darksol and Dark Dragon have long been vanquished and Xeon senses it is his time to reign again.

The game follows Bowie and his advisor Sir Astral around the entire world gathering an army to prevent Xeon and his villainous regime from taking over the planet and plunging it into eternal darkness and chaos.

Some of the things that make this game stand out from the original:

1. Improved characterization. Astral, Peter the Phoenix, Baron Lemon, and every other member of the force has a back story that goes far deeper than the characters in the original Shining Force. In fact, there’s a very odd love Pentagon going on. Tyrin the elf loves Sarah the Elf, but Sarah loves Bowie is chosen to be the husband of Princess Elis, who Jaha the dwarf loves. It’s Melrose Force baby!

2. 30 diverse characters. From a Rat Ninja to a Golem to an Undead Bi-Polar Vampire to Gamera. Yes, Gamera. Okay, they call him Kiwi, but damn, he’s a giant flying firebreathing Turtle! What else would you call him? Unlike Shining Force 1, where you have a buttload of Centaurs and a smattering of everything else, Shining Force 2 really lets you create an army limited only by your imagination.

3. Free-roaming. The original Shining Force was very linear and divided into 8 chapters. When a chapter was done, you could never go back to those places. Which means if you misses something, it was gone forever. In Shining Force 2, you can go wherever and do whatever you want within limits. In fact, the key is to visit several places multiple times so that you can find things that were not there the first time. It’s a great touch and it’s nice to know you can go back and find a member of the Force you missed earlier.

4. Hidden special classes. With certain items, specific characters can gain a previous hidden class that is far more powerful than the original promotional class they would have received. Priests can become monks, Knights can become Pegasus Knights, Warriors can become Barons, Mages can become Sorcerers, and Archers can become Brass Gunners. It’s a lot of fun to try these new classes and even more fun to find the items than decide who gets them!

5. You characters now change classes at level 20 instead of level 10. This is the only game in the series where promotion takes this long, but I far prefer it. After all, you can get to level ten so quickly in the other games, it feels rushed and no enough time is spent seeing your characters in their weaker, younger forms and graphics. When your characters are finally ready to evolve and drop back down to level 1 of their new class, it feels like a major accomplishment, where with Gong and Lowe in the original game, you could reach level 10 and change classes by the end of the first chapter.

6. Better Villans. Although Dark Sol and Dark Dragon will always be two of the best villains out of any video game ever, it’s the mid level bosses that are lacking in the original game. Mishaela, and Kane get more of a back story in Final Conflict. Ramladu and Elliott were good, but not great. But the devils in Shining Force 2 are works of pure villany. Odd Eye is a tragic but wonderful enemy, and probably the most revered villain in the series after the Dark Duo. Geshep. Oh Geshep. Trust me, when you finally get to see him die, you will mark out in ways I can not describe. You will learn to hate that little punk. He’s my personal favorite character out of the Devils because he’s just so damn annoying and vile. Cameela and Zalbard are also Devils that are well done in the scope of their evil. Heck, even Creed the retired Devil who now shirnks humans and uses them as toys is a wonderful character.

7. Collecting Mithril. A great little side diversion throughout the entire game. Mithril can be turned into a variety of items, depending on who you want the weapon to be fashioned for. These are the best weapons in the game and it’s worth scouring every nook and cranny of the game for the pieces.

8. The Fairy Woods Bonus stage. Hidden by the Elf village is this optional battle. Here there is a monster that makes more monster. The object is to kill the spawning monster. The game keeps track of your time and your goal is to beat your own record. It serves no other purpose but to have fun and improve your statistical RPG ability.

9. The ultimate hidden secret battle. After the game ends, let it sit. Just leave the system on, and let the game sit. After five minutes the words “And More” will appear and you will be whisked away to the true last battle. Your Shining Force team against Xeon, all the greater devils, aWillard, the Red Baron, The White King, and Galam. Oh, and if you look at the map, it’s in the shape of Sonic the Hedgehog flicking you off. Yes, Bebito’s favorite character is giving you the birdie in map form. Gotta love it.

10. There’s no Yogurt. WHOOO!

And that’s just the things that make Shining Force 2 so much better than Shining Force 1. I should also point out this is a much harder game. In SF1, Gong, Guntz, And Zylo were enough to take down Dark Dragon alone. The other 9 guys just made the battle even more of a Squash. With Xeon, your team is in for a fight. The characters are far better balanced now, which means a tougher fight for you. Of course, you still have Peter. He’s an ubermensch.

With a ton of hidden things in the game, and a world two-three times as large as the Original Shining Force, Shining Force 2 is superior in almost every way. I know for the first half of 1995, this was pretty much the only game I played. I’d beat the game, start a new one and go on. The only thing I’d interrupt my obsession with this game with was Shadowrun, Mutant League Football, and Street Fighter 2.

You’ve got 44 battles, 30 characters, a score of monsters and villains you will remember years after playing it, and so much more. Shining Force 2 is the best fantasy RPG, the best Tactical RPG, the best cart RPG, and the best RPG from the 16 bit wars. That’s a lotta titles to hold, but it’s worthy of them all.

I can’t impress upon you how great it would be to see a revival of this game. A GBA remake of this would be outstanding. Not only for long time Shining Force fans, but for the newer generation of gamers to see the best Tactical RPG game ever made. To play it, examine it, fall in love with the characters and stories, and to experience a game that’s about to hit it’s ten year anniversary in a few months. And thankfully it will be celebrated with Shining Force 4 on the PS2 and Shining Tears. Two games I can’t wait for!

Oh, and if you want to know more about Shining Force, there is always Moogie’s Shiningforcecental.com. It’s on hiatus for the next few weeks, but it is the best site on the net for anything Shining. Just tell her 411mania sent you, and she’ll be like, “Who did what now?” ;-)

And I’ll leave you with the Ultimate Shining Force 2 code: U, D, U, D, L, R, L, R, U, R, D, L, U, B, Start.

Trust me, just get the cart, turn on your genesis and do it.