- Turn type: Speed-based system, although each unit only acts once in a round.
- Maps: Medium. There is terrain that gives bonuses.
- Character Customization: Promotion of units at level 10.
- Character Development: Standard XP level system.
- Party Size: 12 on a map.
- Equipment: 4 items for each character, one equippable weapon, one equippable ring.
- Game Flow: 30 stages, all in order, no repeats (although you can leave a battle and try again, retaining all XP.)
- Saving: Only outside of battle.
- Death: Revive units at churches; very affordable.
I remember this being a widely liked game when I was a kid. Since most of the SRPGs were not localized, it wasn’t really until Final Fantasy Tactics that there was an SRPG that got as much recognition as this one (and its sequels and spinoffs).
One thing that may have contributed to its localization is that it’s not very hard, relatively speaking. Not only is death not permanent, it’s not even really that bad. The revive cost is incredibly cheap, and with easy retreats from any battle, as long as you keep your main character alive it’s easy to try stages, get some XP and levels, and then come back if you need to.
It seems that later on when Fire Emblem became more known among Western players, this came to be regarded as just an FE ripoff. I don’t really think this is fair to the game — while there’s clear influence from Fire Emblem, the strong RPG components are original to this game, and the speed-based turn system is a significant difference. The storyline also seems much more indebted to standard RPG storylines than the usual political/empire conflicts of the SRPGs.
But is it fun? More or less. There are some frustrating aspects to the game. The promotion system is one of the biggest for me. When I promoted Zappa (Zylo) and Bleu, they became so weak that they were essentially unusable. They did 1 damage to everything and died in one hit. Of course I could have fed them kills and replayed maps until they caught up, but promoting a character shouldn’t gimp them that hard. I really hope this is something they improve in future installments.
The other problem is that the speed-based system makes it easy for characters to get stuck behind groups of other characters, especially on maps where the movement is slow because of terrain.
That being said I still did find this a fun game. Sega really went all out with Shining Force because there are three more SF games soon after this one. I’ll be playing the GB game Little Master 2 next, but then it will be back to SF for the first Gaiden game.