SRPG Game 9 – Shining Force (Mega Drive) (Chapters 1-3)

Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention (シャイニング・フォース 神々の遺産)
Release Date: 3/20/1992
System: Mega Drive
Developer: Climax and Sonic
Publisher: Sega

This is the first strategy RPG I played. A friend of mine had a Genesis with a cart copier, and so he was able to give me the floppy disk with this game that I played on Genecyst. I didn’t beat it, and I’m not sure I even got halfway through. But I definitely remembered it. 

Shining Force is technically in the same series as Shining & The Darkness, but the previous game was a first-person dungeon crawler. This game takes strong inspiration from both Dragon Quest and Fire Emblem — the creator claims he was not inspired by Fire Emblem but I find this hard to believe. The “100 xp = level”, promotion at level 10, per-character base stats and growth rates, and other aspects seem clearly to have been taken from Fire Emblem despite the creator’s claims.

However, I would also not call this a simple Fire Emblem ripoff. Of course it’s in the same genre, but this game takes a large stride towards a true “Simulation RPG”, that is, a game where both the simulation/tactics and JRPG elements are fully developed. In many ways, this is like a standard RPG but with tile-based strategy RPG maps replacing the dungeon exploration. There have been games before (stemming from Ultima III) where the random encounters took place on a grid. But they tended not to have terrain as a feature, or set enemy formations.

I believe this is the first game I’ve played on the blog that does not have an automatic counter attack by the defender. It also has a speed-based turn system rather than player/enemy, but unlike Lady Phantom each character gets one turn per phase.

The opening narration is also covered in the instruction manual and is pretty typical. 1000 years ago, the peaceful Rune continent was nearly destroyed by the Black Dragon, but the dragon was sealed away. But this is mostly forgotten now, remembered only as the legend of the “God’s Bequest.” The Guardiana Kingdom has protected the seal on the Bequest. Our main character has washed up on the shore of the Guardiana Kingdom, severely injured and with no memory (apparently this part of the story was omitted in the English translation). The priest Lowe found him and nursed him back to health. He shows an unusual aptitude for swordsmanship. But now the kingdom of Runefaust, led by the general Darksol, is invading Guardiana, hoping to use the God’s Bequest for themselves.

Chapter 1 – Runefaust’s Invasion

The game starts in Guardiana. The town music is very similar to Dragon Quest and the little beep sounds that play when people talk (at different pitches depending on the character) is also taken from Dragon Quest — the designer apparently said his primary inspiration for this game was Dragon Quest, so that makes sense.

Anyway, our team has to investigate the Gate of the Ancients.

Battle 1

This is an easy battle. The enemies don’t rush you the way they do in Fire Emblem or other games — sometimes the AI is shockingly bad and they’ll refuse to move in and attack you even when you’re sniping them or using spells. But then other enemies show more intelligence.

I wish you could turn off these battle sequences

One other aspect that makes this game relatively easy is that defeated characters can be revived at a church, and the revive price is extremely cheap.

Battle 2

The second battle has us fighting our way back to the initial castle. This stage showcases one of the more annoying aspects of the game — the limited mobility of many of your units makes it easy to get stuck in passes where nobody can move. Later in the game when you get more flying units this isn’t quite as bad, but at this point it’s frustrating. In the screenshot above, you can see another rather poor aspect of the game — those units will not move no matter what. So if you want, you can sit on the other side of the river and throw spears/arrows or cast spells until they’re dead. Otherwise you can only move one guy into their area, who then gets attacked by all three units.

Battle 3

Back in Guardiana, the King is dying, but tells us that we need to stop the key of the Gate of the Ancients from getting into the hands of Runefaust. We head up to Alterone to begin the quest to find the key, but of course enemies appear. Apparently I didn’t get a screenshot of this battle, so here’s this girl that appears whenever you start the game — there’s an odd frame story where you’re waiting for her grandfather to get home, and she asks you to read the book while you wait. So the whole game is what you’re reading in that book.

The battle has flying bats, which can put you to sleep. Otherwise the pockets of enemies are rather small and this isn’t too bad.

Battle 4

The king at Alterone screws us over, springing a trap on us and then imprisoning us — he’s joined up with Darksol. But we escape, and fight through his measly troops. Another priest joins us. Her name is “Khris” in the English version so I was afraid this was going to be a second “kurisu” in addition to the main character, but her name is Chip in the Japanese version so it was fine.

The main problem in this battle is the mage, who can cast Blaze 2 (with a 5 area range). One way to deal with this is to surround him — the range spells can only be centered on a square with an enemy unit, so with four guys surrounding him he could only cast it on one enemy at a time. But even if you don’t do that, the revive cost is so cheap that as long as you can win the stage it’s not that important if a bunch of guys fall to the Blaze 2.

Afterwards the king apologizes for joining up with Darksol and shows us a secret passage on to the next area.

Chapter 2 – The Spirit of the Holy Spring

We have reached the land of Lindolindo (which was shortened to just Lindo for the English version). Unfortunately all the ships are gone except one, so we can’t get to the eastern continent. The mayor refuses to let us use his ship, so the only choice is to go outside and wander into another battle.

Battle 5

The flying units can always circumvent your defenses and get around to weakened characters, but the AI is definitely not laserlike; they will often tend to attack whoever they’re next to even if they could go kill a weaker guy. The previous town also had Power Staves which lets the mages and healers attack, making it a little easier to level them up.

Battle 6

This one is in the Cave of Darkness.

The undead enemies are weak against fire, but the mages are the usual danger and there are priests this time as well that heal. There are also a bunch of treasure chests that can be opened during or after the battle — after is more annoying because the main character has to open them all and can only hold 4 items, so you have to constantly exchange items (this is a problem in town too).

Now with the Orb of Light, Kurisu finds out that his destiny is to defeat Darksol (what a surprise). But the mayor still won’t let us have his ship unless we find his son, who is hiding in the circus building….along with enemies.

Battle 7

This stage has a bunch of dolls and undead, but the real danger is the boss, who has a lot of HP and Freeze 3. So make sure not to cluster people together, and try to trap her so she can’t move to target the spells better. I lost a bunch of guys but still won in the end.

Now we have the boat….but Mishaela, who was controlling the previous enemies, sinks the ship, leaving us to go north to find another ship in Ulan Bator. Step one along the way is Shade Abbey, which is quite suspicious.

Battle 8

Undead aplenty, but they’re all the same normal guys so it’s not too tough to take them down. Now I get two winged soldiers. I like the flying characters because they don’t get in the way of everyone else and can move freely around.

Now it’s off to the north, to continue our journey.

Chapter 3 – Runefaust’s Secret Weapon

In Bustoke, the men have been captured to work in the quarry on a new weapon, the Laser Eye. There’s some kind of technology in this game but at least up to now they haven’t explained where it came from.

Battle 9

That’s my party for now, although I didn’t give it much thought. I got caught in a pass again:

That’s a nasty setup because the priests can heal the mage. Fortunately the mage is not that strong and the winged knights, at least can get around the edge even though their weapons are weak.

After this battle we can get Zappa the werewolf (Zylo in the translation). He’s one of a number of characters that can’t equip anything but (in theory) have decent stat gains to go along with it.

Battle 10

Now it’s off to Pao Bridge to take out that laser eye. This is just a regular overworld battle; nothing too difficult. Zappa is useful since he’s not slowed down by forests.

Battle 11 

This is a tough battle if you’re not prepared….sort of. The Laser Eye takes 10 rounds to charge up and then fires a huge beam that hits everything, enemy or ally, along its path. I hadn’t checked a guide here so it took out 7 of my guys. But I still had enough left over to beat the few enemies beyond the laser eye. I’m pretty sure this is the farthest I got when I played the game in high school.

On to chapter 4! I’m having fun with this game so far — it’s probably the easiest game I’ve played so far (maybe along with Little Master) but the RPG elements are nice, and the variety of characters is fun.

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