Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame Nomination: Shining Force Neo

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Shining Force Neo
Developer: Neverland
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 10/21/2005
System Released On: Playstation 2
Genre: Action RPG

Who Nominated The Game: Bebito Jackson…who then didn’t actually put together this piece, or even vote on it. BOO!

Why Was It Nominated:

There were a lot of reasons why this game was nominated. The first is that it marked the point of no return for the now Sammy owned Sega from high quality publisher to a company that put out substandard products bearing the likeness of some of gaming’s most beloved franchises, only for gamers to discover these newly minted titles were little more than crap on a dvd. The horrible fall of Sonic the Hedgehog is the most documented Sega character to once be synonymous with quality and now is instead linked with mediocrity on a good day. The same holds true for the Shining Force series.

Sammy Sega decided to reinvent the series with Shining Force Neo. Gone was the grid based SRPG combat and in was the new Diablo-clone action hack and slash game play. Gone was the reverence for what was, at the time, the most popular SRPG franchise in North America. Instead the ad campaign and public comments from Sega trashed the old series in order to put over Neo which comments that instantly alienated gamers, even if they hadn’t played the original Shining Force games. Worst of all, the Shining series was taken from Camelot, its creators, and given to Neverland, who is considered one of the worst developers in the world. Take a look at their track record of games , most of which have been “Worst Game of the Year” nominees, if not outright winners. CIMA: The Enemy, the Spectral Force series (including the DS game Bowen had to review earlier this year), and many other stinkers were created by Neverland. Of course, the title proved to be more than lackluster and was panned by nearly every gaming site that reviewed it…except one.

The second reason this was nominated as Shining Force Neo marked the final nail in the coffin for 1UP.com’s credibility as a journalistic publication and caused the site to be revealed as one that openly took money from publishers in exchange for high scoring reviews. Shining Force Neo received a week’s worth of features and articles, ending with the review of the game. Each piece was a verbal blowjob to Sega, Camelot and Neverland, only to end with a 9/10 score for Shining Force Neo claiming it to be one of the best games of the year. Commentary that was shared by no one. Even worse it would be discovered that much of the features on the history of Shining Force was actually directly lifted/plagiarized from Insidepulse.com (Our sister site) and “The History of Shining Force” piece I had written in early 2003 for it. No credit, no token link to the original piece. No, it was blatantly stolen and passed off as something by 1UP.com. People actually wrote to the site and complained about this, but somehow over a hundred people emailed me that their comments and links to the source material were deleted. Bad 1UP. Bad, bad, bad.

For myself, this is the game that after three straight years of reviewing and playing watchdog for the industry and the prime “swag and/or cash for scores” crap that was going on, that made me SNAP. You can see it in my review. That doesn’t even sound like me but couple a bad game with the complete trashing of one of Sega’s most beloved series by Sammy Sega to try and sell a few more copies of their newest game and then add on Sammy and 1UP’s attempt to screw over numerous consumers into a buying a subpar game? Well, that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

So with the knowledge that Sega paid for a review score on another website and the fact that the game was Sammy’s attempt to start changing all of Sega’s classic series by removing everything that was loved from them and replacing those things with new horrible content, Shining Force Neo earned this nomination. But being nominated is a far cry from actually being inducted into the Hall of Shame. How did it fare?

All in Favour:

Ashe Collins – Terrible voice acting, bad English translation and a raking of the coals for fans of the original by actually basing this game on the original story line. Yeah thanks, I’ll pass. There’s a reason I pulled out Shining Force on the Genesis again right after playing this (The Genesis did finally quit working – BOO!) – to make me remember that the original Shining Force was actually decent. Again this one was saved from an actual purchase, but if I had bought it, I think I’d have banged my head against the wall. It really feels like Sega doesn’t care about this franchise at all with this game and almost like they took another title and slapped the name on to sell it to us.

Alex Lucard – Oh man. This was the review that finally broke me. Back in 2005, I had played a string of truly awful games and Shining Force Neo was the light at the end of the tunnel. I mean it was Neverland, and although everything else they had made was truly terribly, they gave the awesome Diablo clone Record of Lodoss War for the Sega Dreamcast, which was basically the engine used for SFNeo. Combine that with the fact this was Sega finally resurrecting the Shining Force series (instead of games with the word Shining in it, like Shining Soul or Shining Tears) and long time fans of Camelot’s SRPG classics were optimistic…even if this was a hack and slash game.

Well, the game came out and it was anything but good. The translation was awful, containing Engrish that hadn’t been seen since the 8-bit era. The dialogue was so cheesy and poorly written that it went straight past, “so bad it is good” to, “so bad it should be a federal crime that someone got paid to write this script and that we then had to pay for it.” The voice acting is now legendary for how bad it is. There was no replay value, and some severe gameplay flaws made it almost impossible to die unless you were really actively going for suicide on your character’s part. Even then, you had trouble.

These things alone make SF Neo a bad game, but not a shameful game. No, the part that earns them entry into the hall of shame is for reasons that go back to Daikatana‘s – the ad campaign and the publisher’s comments. Sega’s PR department was actively pissing on the old Camelot made games from the first announcement of Shining Force Neo in an attempt to get this over. That’s right. They went out and trashed the franchise this game was the new entry in, basically saying only an idiot would like the old games after playing this. Not only was that arrogant and a great way to totally piss off the core market that would play this game, it was followed up by providing gamers with a sub-par experience.

As much as people might hate the trend Phantasy Star games have gone since the Dreamcast Era, at least those games have been fun and definitely have a strong audience that loves them and Sega eventually made “Sega Ages” titles out of the originals (WHICH WE STILL HAVEN’T RECEIVED STATESIDE AND NEVER WILL). Shining Force however, has had nothing but awful games since the Saturn era and Sammy Sega refuses to say “Okay, you’re right. We keep fucking up one of our most beloved franchises ever. Here’s an actual SF game.” The closest they have come to that is Shining Force Feather and well…that wasn’t very good either.

SF Neo gets a Hall of Shame vote for me not just because it was a sub-par game but because of how awful Sega treated Shining Fans before and after it came out, and the fact Sega is still shitting on what was once one of their biggest franchises ever, ruining it even more so than they have poor Sonic the Hedgehog. And that’s shameful.

All Opposed:

Mark B. – So this is one of those games that was nominated for violating the memories of a franchise many members of the staff love, and as such, it’s a stinking piece of shit for raping our childhoods. You’d think that’d be an easy recommendation for historical record as a piece of shit, right? Take the story of Shining Force and violate it in an uncomfortable place (and I don’t mean the back of a Volkswagon), and BOOM, instant notoriety, yes?

Here’s the thing, though: I take my terrible gaming seriously, and while Shining Force Neo does its damnedest to completely shit all over the legacy of the franchise it’s based on, as a game, it’s… mediocre.

Shining Force Neo is basically 3D Diablo, warts and all, and while that isn’t specifically meant to be a compliment, that IS meant to say that the game is playable on a level such that there’s only so much I can hate it for being a bastardization of a classic before I say “… but you CAN play it, if you want to.” I mean, Phantasy Star Universe is essentially a giant neon sign broadcasting to the world “WE WILL NEVER MAKE ANOTHER PHANTASY STAR THAT ISN’T 3D DIABLO SO YOU HAD BEST BE GRATEFUL FOR THIS YOU FUCKS”, and I have a certain amount of resentment towards the game for that reason, but the fact is that it’s still a fun and playable game if you’re interested in that sort of thing, and while Shining Force Neo isn’t quite the product Phantasy Star Universe is, it’s not especially BAD either. The only reason it generates nearly as much hate as it does is because of what it’s associated with, and if the game were based on something completely different or was its own game entirely, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

So… nah.

Christoper BowenShining Force Neo is an awful Shining Force game because it’s not even really a Shining game. Sure, it has “Shining Force” on the box, but spies in Team Fortress 2 have the class that they’re doppelganging on their faces, too. Things aren’t always what they say they are.

I can’t support Shining Force Neo for the Hall of Shame, however, because I can’t really single it out. If I was going to vote for Shining Force Neo, I’d also have to vote for Shining Soul, Shining Tears, Shining Force EXA, hell, I might as well put in a vote FROM THE FUTURE for Shining Hearts. None of these games are truly horrible games in their own right – at worst, they’re not good, but they’re mostly mediocre – but the only reason they’re considered to be that bad is because they have Shining on the cover.

In reality, all of these pretenders are like your average Team Fortress 2 team you would find in a pub server: six spies, all pretending to be the same class, and all of them doing so poorly. They suck, and they make you lose, but no one spy sucks less than the others. Therefore, congratulations to Shining Force Neo, for not sucking enough to stand out from your own sucky pack.

Result: 2 In Favour, 2 Opposed, 50% Approval = SPARED

Conclusion:

Although all of the staff participating this week agrees that Shining Force Neo is a crappy, crappy game, it’s a split right down the middle as to whether or not the game is horrible enough to make the Hall of Shame. Because of that, Shining Force Neo is spared from a permanent induction into the Hall of Shame and will instead simply be remembered as an awful game rather than one of the worst of all time.

Next Week: We put a Bioware game through the motions. One that is more reviled for what Bioware did to ensure the game received positive reviews and high scores rather than the game itself. Is the shame of being caught redhanded forcing gaming journalists to give a game a high score enough to enter that game into the Hall of Shame? See you then.

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