Retrograding 04.01.03

I recieved some good responses to the Shining Article. But people, I want MORE emails! MORE MORE MORE!

When we last talked Shining Force, we (well just me, but hopefully your were interested…) had just finished babbling about the Japanese only Shining Force Gaiden for the Game Gear. Well, it was so successful it spawned a sequel! And Thankfully, that game came to US shores!

Shining Force Gaiden 2/The Sword of Hajya
Release Date: Winter 1994
System: Game Gear

This game is a direct sequel to the first Gaiden, which in itself was a sequel to the First Shining Force. A lot of characters are repeated in SFG2, which has the worst subtitle. At least the first Shining Force has something ultra-cool with: THE LEGACY OF GREAT INTENTION! Who couldn’t love that for a name?

SFG2 starts a few months or years after the first Game Gear game. The Servants of the Demonic Iom may have lost the battle, but are still planning on a war. Warderer, the new main baddie is sacrificing Kings left and right to ressurect his dark god. Personally I’d expect Guardiana and Cypress to be ultra paranoid because they would HAVE to notice rulers disappearing left and right. But no, the Cypress army heads into battle, and here’s the catch: Without the Sword of Hajya, the very thing needed to defeated Iom’s forces in the last game. Ah well, that’s video games for you.

While Nick and his forces are out, Young Mage Natasha (the only non main character who can use Egress magic BTW) brings in an injured androgenous boy named Deanna. Yep. Girl’s name.

Of course, the Iom soldiers steal the sword which is left under the watch of a plucky troop of 6 Level 1 Warriors. Again, not too bright. The sword is stolen as the convoluted plot had already prepared you for and most of the game is you trying to get the sword back.

What is really cool is that this is the first Shining Game where your team is broken into two groups: Natashas and Deanna’s, and you have to cope for parts of the game with a team only at half strength. In other shining games you could simply have stuck with your twelve favorite and ran them ragged until super high levels. Now you actually had to balance out your team. Sadly, there’s the same plot twist in this game as in the last Gaiden game, where your main character is revealed to originally be allied with the enemy, but has turned good, blah blah blah. But I guess for every bit of originality there has to be a tired and rehashed bit as well.

Eventually both teams reforms into one, you encounter and rekill the undead Woldol, fight Warderer, encounter Nick’s brother Hindel who has turned good as well, and then repeat what is too damn common in Shining Games: The main character’s brother dies, the main villain kills himself and a demon king/Vandal rises to take on your time in the final climactic battle. As improved as this game was in terms of play control and innovation, the plot was just rehashed bits from SF1 and SFG1. The game ends with Natasha and Deanna making sweet love and going off on some new unknown adventure.

Now, like the first Game gear game, there is no adventuring. It’s just battles with cut scenes in between them. You have no real control over the plot or the ability to explore anything, it’s just battle, watch the plot, battle watch the plot. Again, it would have been nice to explore towns, have puzzles to solve, or the like, but it’s a game gear game, and what you have is pretty good considering the system involved. As always it’s a turn based strategic RPG .

The only real difference I can see between the US and Japanese game is that mages are a lot more powerful in the US version. Spells do a lot of damage here, which offsets how hard the last battle against Iom is.

Thankfully, even though this is on the Game Gear, it continues with the Shining Force tradition of hidden items, characters and the like. It’s got all the things that make the other Shining Games appealing, but it’s more streamlines and with a slightly weak plot.

This is one of the most sought after US Game Gear games, and sells for quite a bit on Ebay. It’s worth picking up if you don’t have a Sega CD, but if you do, pass on this game as the Sega CD version (which we are about to cover) is better in every way. And cheaper. Go figure!

This wasn’t the last Shining Game for the late lamented Game Gear, as the best was yet to come with a direct tie to Shining Force 1, and the chance to learn what exactly happened to the original SF leader Max. Too bad that game, Shining Force Final Conflict, was again a Japanese only release, as it’s on par with SF2 in terms of plot and a little under in terms of gameplay. But like SFCD, we’ll get to that shortly.

Release Date: October 19th, 1994
System: Sega Genesis

This is it. The best of all SF games. My Pagan fantasy RPG God and the game that completes my top five games of all time: This, Guardian heroes, Sakura Wars 1, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment and Valkyrie Profile. Although the other games are good, SF defies the logic of how a 16 bit game can still manage to be better than any next gen game. Forget any Final Fantasy, Xenosaga, Lunar, Grandia, Skies of Arcadia or Phantasy Star, this is it! The game any true blue blooded RPG fan has to own and play until they’ve beaten the hidden battles, found all 15 pieces of mithril, and can get through the game having collected all 30 playable characters. That’s right baby, THIRTY!

My Personal team: Bowie the main character, Peter the Phoenix, Lemon the Vampire, Kazin as a Summoner, Tyrin as a Mage, Karna as a Master Monk, Slade the Rat Ninja, Gamera (Names Kiwi in the US version), Gerhalt the Werewolf, Zynk the Robot, Gyan the berzerking Dwarf , and then either Shelia or Sarah as a second monk. But those are the ones I like best, and I’m sure everyone has their own favorites.

Let’s talk about what’s changed before we get to the plot. First of all, the game is no longer linear and broken into 8 distinct chapters. Now you can go anywhere in the game at any time (provided you can reach the spots) and can find things you otherwise might have missed. Second is the fact that in order to be promoted to a new class, you have to reach level 20 not 10. Before it was possible to be in the new class by the end of Chapter 1, especially with a monk and/or Priest. Now you have to work a bit to get the new classes. As well, there are special secret hidden classes! Items are hidden in the game that if you have a character hold while being promoted, he will turn into something different. Now there are Barons, Summoners, Bronze Gunners, and the like. Any Centaur can become a Pegasus Knight and so on. It’s quite excellent and adds to the replay value as you change classes again and again. You have access to a moving fortress where you can store items and characters, and there are several secret battles in the game. There are pieces of mithril you can have made into specific weapon, and so many variations in the game that I can honestly say there has NEVER and will NEVER be a game with such infinite replayability as Shining Force 2. After replaying it for this article, it has once again reclaimed my “Best game ever made” position from Enix’ Valyrie Profile. But it could be the nostalgia from SF2 talking. It’s better than the original in every way in terms of customization and replay. I swear, the only way a person can’t fall in love with this game is if they hate Strategy games.

I do find this game a little harder than SF1, but only in some battles, i.e., the very last one against Xeon and the two secret battles. Tough as heck, but that’s because I do refuse to battle, egress, redo battle, repeat until mega-high. I have a level cap max at 40 for my characters for the final battle and that can be a wee nip of a problem. But that makes it all the more fun, right?

There is one major flaw in the game, and that’s a little problem with the search ability. Some stuff got changed during translation and although all you have to do is press the C button to search, some times (and usually when it is something VERY important) you will have to go into the menu, and manually click on search in order to find things. As well, you can no longer search in battle, which is a real bitch as in the Japanese version, you can get some very nice hidden items in a few battles. But other than that, this game is as good as one gets.

The graphics are also the best the Genesis has ever produced. Bar none. And the music is excellent as well. So good that I recommend picking up the soundtrack, and I only do that for very select games such as SOTN, Thousand Arms, and the Sakura Taisen games. Oh, and Rhapsody. Because Cornet is my name and I’m a puppeteer too! (Okay, if anyone gets that, for the love of god EMAIL ME because I want to know how many 411’ers actually have played that game.)

Let’s talk plot. As usual, it’s a bit stereotypical, but only because it’s 10 years old. Ten years ago, it was fresh and hot and amazing. And it’s still better written than most of the crap out today. Oh Claude I never want to be wish out you.’ Didn’t the English translation of Star Ocean 2 almost make you want to put down the game? Well, SF2’s will NOT.

It does follow that there is the saving of a princess, and resealing of a Devil king, Zeon who was actual rivals with Dark Dragon and Darksol A millennium ago. Evil attempts to revive itself, and the battle to prevent the destruction of the world occurs.

Sounds like your usual fair for an RPG right? Well, in fact it is not. Characters had strongly defined personalities, with Lemon the reluctant and bipolar vampire being the best of them. Characters fell in love, were jilted and turned to others (Which sets up future game Shining Wisdom). Some members of the evil army join your side, while one sadly betrays you and you must regrettably fight him to the death. In fact even after you beat the game, you get a melancholy ending with two important characters meeting a very sad fate. It’s a game that also manages to be incredibly funny while also being serious and darker than most games that were out before the ratings code created from the Night Trap fiasco. Over all, it’s a plot years beyond it’s time, and like Phantasy Star 2 before it, aspects of this game have been stolen by nearly ever company that’s put out an RPG after it. Square, I’m looking at you!
Again, try Shining Force Central For all sorts of screen shots, walkthroughs and the like on this incredible, wonderful game. Please Sega, start releasing Shining Games on the GBA. Please have some business sense for the first time since 1996 and put these games on compilations. If you can put a crapload of sonic games on a Gamecube mini dvd, do it with the Shining Force games!

After the incredible success of Shining Force 2, it wasn’t long before we had another Shining Game come out, and this time it was for the Sega CD drive. The only problem was it wasn’t really anything new…or was it?

Release Date: March 22nd 1995
System: Sega CD

Ah the Sega-CD. If you’re an RPG nut, this is your system. Vay, Lunar 1 and 2, Popful Mail, Dark Wizard, Heimdall, and most importantly….Shining Force CD. This system may have failed worse than a class of retards taking Quantum Physics, but for those of us that wanted 40 hour+ turn based games, we were in heaven.

Shining Force CD Is actually a release of the two Shining Force Gaiden games. So you get the first one in English FINALLY. As well, both games got a graphical and musical upgrade thanks to the CD system. I mean, would you want a CD game with Game Gear pixelation and midi’s? Hell no! Even better is the fact that like the Arc the lad games that would follow (Don’t believe Sony, SFCD was first!) where if you played the original saved data from game one would open up things in game 2. And to blow your mind completely, after you beat both games with the same data, you unlocked one OR two hidden extra games (the second depending on if you found the Museum ticket or not)! How incredible is that! This is probably the longest Sega CD ever made and also one of the best. Alone both Gaiden games were a bit too streamlined and convoluted for my tastes. Together with the hidden games and one low price (well, 40$ when I bought it), it proves that 1 + 1 sometimes equals 3 (or 4 if you have that museum ticket).

I’d go into more detail about the first tow games, but you can read my commentary on the GG versions for that. The third game allows you to play with (nearly) everyone from the first two games in a series of new battles. The fourth (again, you need THE MUSEUM TICKET FOR THIS) is the same type of battle as the hidden battle in SF2. A bit of hard work and a lotta fun. Again the problem is it’s a rare game for a system few people own, but if you like Shining Force, you need to buy this game.

That’s it for today SF fans. Next week we cover the last SF Game Gear game, and it’s the one that rivals SF2 for sheer coolness. Then we tackle Shining Wisdom and Shining the Holy Arc. After that it’s the three Shining Force 3’s and then the two Shining Souls. What? TWO Shining Souls? When the first just came out in Europe and the neither are in the US? Oooooooh! Too bad you have to wait a week and a half for that last one.

Again people, send me hordes of emails. Not spam, but emails. I want to hear what you think. As always, I respond to everything I get…it just make take me a few days. I’ll also be appearing in the Down-Lo Tuesday in a special segment from the depraved mind of Bebito himself. Here’s a hint: he begged me to staple cats to my pectorals and try seeing how fast I could swinging those poor tabbies around until their skulls collided, but after I informed him animal rights laws are even tougher in the UK than in the US, he came up with this wacky back up plan you’ll see Tuesday.



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