Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nomination: Shining Force II

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 II
Developer: Sonic! Software Planning (Now Camelot)
Publisher: Sega of America
Release Date: October 19, 1994
System Released On: Sega Genesis
Genre: Tactical Role-Playing Game

Who Nominated The Game: ME! Bebito! Hi.

Why Was It Nominated: Two reasons. One is because it’s tied with Panzer Dragoon Saga as my end all be all favorite game of all-time. The second reason is… is… well, no. That’s the only reason. But it’s a REALLY GOOD REASON! Right?

I suppose the real question is why was I confident enough to believe MY favorite game would get past the jaded cynicism of Diehard GameFAN’s staff and sleek past our strict tight-as-anal approval process to become one of the few Hall of Famers in our short history. A second inquiry also begs why I nominated this BEFORE the original. To answer the latter, because it’s the better of the two and the series I feel really hit its stride with this release. To answer the former? Well there are so many reasons not only to love but also respect Shining Force II. It’s among the pioneers of the strategy role playing genre. It’s the reason why so many gamers stand awe the genius of Camelot Software (at the time named Sonic! Software Planning). It’s one of the greatest role playing games released during the 16-bit era. It’s still better than many of the tactical strategy games released even today over 15 years later. It’s just that damned awesome in general.

But please, don’t take my word for it. Take the word of my esteemed colleagues; those of whom I’m sure will back up my assertions and thrust Shining Force II into the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame. I hope.

All in Favour:

Christopher Bowen: I really had to sit and think about this one. On the one hand, Shining Force II is arguably the greatest strategy game to see American shores. On the other hand, it’s also the sequel to the almost-as-good Shining Force 1, and didn’t change much. Was Shining Force II really more notable than Shining Force 1?

I eventually realized that I was wasting time and energy contemplating a silly question, one that was much like asking if a Bugati or a Jaguar was a better car. They’re both amazing, and unlike the cars, I can – and do – own both Shining Force games.

To argue one or the other is pointless because they’re so intertwined, and yet, they’re so amazing, and so timeless, that it’s hard to justify keeping them out of the Hall. Therefore, instead of arguing each individual game’s merits, I’m going to say that they BOTH should be in the Hall of Fame. However, since we’re only talking about SFII here, that’s where my vote goes.

Alex Lucard: Shining Force II is, in my opinion, the greatest of all SRPGs. It has a wonderful story, branching paths, amazing graphics (for its time), characters you can’t help but grow to love, and some amazingly simply but addicting gameplay. I’ve yet to meet anyone that didn’t love this game. I knew gamers that HATED RPGs but if you mentioned Shining Force, their faces lit up and could talk about it like most Square-Enix fanboys talk about FF7. Case in point, my sophmore year of College had me paired with a football player who was pretty dim and thought fun was peeing in the VCR of someone else who lived in our dorm. One day however I had my Genesis hooked up and was playing through Shining Force II for the fun of it. He came into the room and was like, “HOLY SHIT IS THAT SHINING FORCE II? THAT’S THE BEST VIDEO GAME EVER!” and that was coming from a person who had only mentioned liking Tomb Raider and Resident Evil 2 before this. The next thing I knew a huge chunk of the U of MN football players were in our room debating over where Kazim was better as a Mage or a Sorcerer and if Kiwi was worth spending all that time getting to level 20, or if Skreech or Luke was the better Birdman. It was pretty surreal, especially to see all these guys who didn’t understand how I could be a wrestler and still like “that dungeons and dragons crap” actively arguing over a fantasy RPG. That my friends is the power of Shining Force II.

As I said earlier, Shining Force II is the greatest SRPG I have ever played. Nothing has even come close to it and this is coming from a guy who purchases (or at least gets reviews copies) of damn near everything that comes out. I willing bought both versions of Hoshigami for crying out loud, a game I knew that was god awful the first time around. Shining Force II, quite simply, is the standardbearer for all SRPGs since and I’ve yet to see anything live up to it. Although I can certainly understand the room for debate over say…Shining Force: Final Conflict for the Game Gear.

Bebito Jackson: What’s most appealing to me about this game? After all of these years, after all of this time, I would still play Shining Force II from start to finish. I will retrogame and retrogame again until the day I die. It’s almost infinitely replayable. For one there are 30, count em’ 30 playable characters. Many of them hidden. Even with 12 party deep battles it’s virtually impossible to evenly level up and evenly play as all of them (Although I did; but I’m insane).

And their classes spanned all over the board. In addition to the standard fair of mages, swordsman, knights, archers, priests, and warriors Shining Force II had awesome stuff like a Werewolf, a Golem, a Phoenix, a Robot, a giant Tortoise fire breathing monster, a giant NINJA RAT, and an immortal Baron vampire! Yes!

These guys weren’t just throwaway pieces of cannon fodder either. Many of the characters had story arcs with nearly 50% of the team contributing to the overall story in some meaningful way. Without even going into all the subtle romance allusions, some characters that would eventually join the Shining Force were initially out to destroy the team. Then you’d have a character turn on you and you’d have no choice but to kill them. One of your party members is even responsible for accidentally releasing the very demon you have to fight thus dooming the entire planet! Awesome.

To sum up the rest? The graphics? Beautiful. The music? Even as I write this I’m remembering the entire soundtrack from SF2 and how great it all was. Taken as a whole it’s a classic that will forever reverberate in my mind’s ear. The gameplay and plot? Trendsetting. I’ve heard some say that the story and play mechanics are unoriginal and basic. These people are idiots. Shining Force was the first tactical rpg in English! Shining Force CREATED the genre conventions that future strategy rpgs were to relentlessly steal! Fire Emblem developers, Intelligent Design, during the infancy of the franchises openly admitted (literally under oath in a court of law) that Shining Force had superior gameplay, graphics, etc. and they wanted to follow suit. By Nintendo and Intelligent Design’s own admission they copied the later produced Shining Force games because the series was the standard bearer for the genre. That’s not me bashing one franchise to praise another, because I love both, but rather it’s to convey how influential this game is to every strategy rpg you’ve ever played from Tactics Ogre to Disgaea to Final Fantasy Tactics. Back in 1994 this stuff was incredible. And it remains just as fun today. Some strategy tactical rpgs still don’t stand up to it and those that do only do so because of the groundwork this game laid.

William Kaye IV: I was very much on the fence about this one, not because I don’t think this game isn’t worthy, but because I’m not sure this should go in before the original Shining Force. After much debate, I have to end up voting yes for this. Shining Force may have had better characters, but Shining Force II has a larger plot, a larger world, and a more diverse assortment of character classes to play around with. The Shining Force games, by and large, are my ideal turn-based strategy games, and there is no way I could vote down this one.

Sean Madson: I’ll admit that I’ve played the original game far more than this one, but the two complement each other so well, they both might as well get in. This game took all the good things about the original (which was pretty much everything) and expanded on it, such as being able to revisit towns you had been to earlier in the game.

The Shining Force series introduced me to strategy RPG’s, and to this day, it is one of my favorite franchises in the genre. The story is excellent, the gameplay is superb, and without permanent death for your characters, it is the perfect low stress experience. I can’t think of any other Sega franchise that I would like to see in the Hall of Fame more than this one.

All Opposed:

Mark B.: So, yes, I’m a fan of Shining Force II. I am. I’m not even going to get into the specifics here because most of you are probably aware of what Shining Force is as a series and have a passing enough familiarity with Shining Force II that you’d be able to know why one would or would not like it.

Instead, I will say that I have two reasons for not wanting this particular game from the franchise in the Hall of Fame.

First, I liked Shining Force and Shining Force CD better. I never cared for Shining Force II‘s attempts to try and expand on the travel mechanics and the story didn’t do it for me on the same level as the original, and while I’d be fine with either of the two games I mentioned from the series making an appearance in the Hall of Fame, this particular game I’m not super thrilled about all around.

Second, I liked Warsong better than any of the above mentioned games. Warsong would better be known as the first Langrisser title, as well as the only one to make a stateside appearance, and the game was equally as story driven, but offered massive battles between armies of troops on both side, which was a revelation back when the Genesis was shiny and new, and even though the pacing of the game is fairly… onerous at this point, I still have fond, fond memories of that game that don’t match up to the same degree when I remember Shining Force II.

Result: 5 In Favour, 1 Opposed, 83% Approval = ACCEPTED!

Conclusion: Shining Force II slides easily into the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame with little opposition. It’s generally recognized as the best in the series and is quite possibly the greatest strategy role playing game of all-time. The staff here has good taste. ;)

Next Week: We go old school. Well, yes even more old school than we did this week. We’re taking it all the way back to the days of Donkey Kong and Pac Man… errr, without the nominee being either of those games. Get ready to kill some aliens. See you next week.

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