For those reading one of my Genesis review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed a bunch of SNES games, so its natural that I am going to review the games of its prime competition. Does the SEGA Genesis stand a chance against the legendary SNES library?
My review series is based on the top 100 list of Retro Sanctuary
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Without further ado, here is:
8: Shining Force II:
Developer: Sonic! Software Planning.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
The second Shining Force game, and the one that cemented the series's SRPG direction, is basically a bigger and better version of the first game. That's not to say that its not a different game with a different story, but it does make it seem like the first one was a test run to make the sequel.
Bigger in both size and scope, the game does suffer a little from length, but that's only a problem if you don't like what it gives you in the first place.
Shining Force 2 may be the best SRPG in the 4th generation.
"The Tower is the sacred seal that confines a terrible evil"
Taking cue from other early 90s RPGs, Shining Force II does not try to tell a complicated story. However, it does try hard to tell a story. The number of lines of dialogue in the game is probably more than the sum of 2 other Genesis RPGs or more.
It doesn't make for a compelling story, but it adds a narrative goalpost to your actions, and it introduces some fun and interesting parts to the game. Sure, its a cookie cutter story of good vs. Evil, but its funny how it all started with a robin hood style theft gone wrong. Its funny that a frustrated God (fed-up will his seals always getting broken) forsakes humanity in such a nonchalant way.
Come in and have your story told, always trust a witch stirring a culdron that its not yourself she is preparing to cook
Mostly though, the game does get credit for attempting to provide a grand story to tell. More than the first game, Shining Force II seriously propelled the medium's storytelling credentials forward. It even has a Gandalf figure to move the narration and story along.
Again though, character interaction is limited, and besides their awesome portraits and sprites, your many allies rarely have any characterization. For a game with such a big amount of dialogue, they should have come took some of the line of the Gandalf character.
Good Story and Setting: +3
A Move Forward: +2
Limited Character Story and Interaction: -2
"You battle strategy was wonderful! I praise you"
This game continues with style of progression introduced in the earlier game. Battles are the main event, but there is an RPG-like overworld to move within and go from one event to the other. The game actually overkills it with the overworld, because it asks you to move through vast aounts of land with vague direction and no map. Since actually reaching a Battle means you went to the correct place, and that there are no random battle in between, its not a big deal.
Like with the first game, the overworld exploration sets the game apart from other SRPGs, even if it adds little to the game. In it you start preparing your army's equipment and items, going through the cross menu system of the first game (which has some pros and cons).
Most of your time will be spent in the many battles of the game. Here, you control up to 12 characters in a grid Turn-Based combat system. Turns are decided based on the agility stat of all combatants.
The ever-familiar SRPG grid combat
Characters come in different classes, and based on that cover a variety of functions. Which I will detail later.
In all of the game's stages, the goal is to defeat all enemy characters while making sure the main character doesn't die. You characters level-up based on their performance, which means you need to make sure all of your characters are engaged in the battle.
This is not the game that attempts to revolutionize the SRPG genre, but one that covers all the basics while delivering a challenging and fun combat system, one with all the pros and cons of the genre.
Walking around like in an RPG: +2
Solid Gameplay: +3
Good Stages: +3
"I have no time to waste on these kids. Devils, I summon thee!"
One of the major differences between Shining Force II and its prequel is how the characters level up. In both games, characters gain experience based on attacking the enemy unit or healing a friendly one. However, once leveled up, the difference is apparent. In the first game, the stat increase is highly random and you could get anything from a godly boost to a useful 2 point increase.
In this game, the stat increase is more stable, and as such, is more predictable and the player is able to plan around that expectation.
Like in the first game, managing how characters are involved in the game is an important strategic consideration. Make sure that all characters are involved so that they level up. Of course, if you are worried about your level, you could still leave the battle and replay it again (you can't replay a battle you already won). If you fail to level-up some characters, its useless to continue with them, and the game offers a safety valve of introducing similar characters (to the role), that will be the level of your hero.
Battles can be very touch at harder difficulties and will probably require grinding for levels
Characters come in many interesting classes, and are then promoted once you go to level 20. Some classes have two different promotions (based on finding items), and leveling up beyond 20 is recommended for getting more stat boosts.
If you are playing the game on normal, don't worry about your stats too much, but make sure Slade goes up to level 30 before promoting him. On harder difficulties, promotion should be at least at level 30.
A lot of the fun found in this game is due to playing with your team's composition. The different classes are fun to play around with. Centaurs are your basic high mobility knights that can't run well on grass, and then you have your mages and your healers. However, there are cannon archers, ninjas and robots, and the ever present Bird Battlers who both look cool and fun to play around with.
Ability to Replay Battles: +3
Varied Character Classes: +3
Character Introduction Safety Valve: +1
"I won't let you pass. You shall not harm the king"
Compared to the rest of changes the sequel made, the presentation is yet another incremental improvement.
It sports the same colorful and detailed sprites of the original, but with a little more variety. Battles are still animated, but much of the effects carry over from the first game, which is not a big issue.
The biggest change in the graphics department is the big character portraits, which actually show more details even if I liked the character design of the first game's characters more. Also, the in-battle sprites are more detailed this time around.
This time around, the portraits take nearly quarter of the screen
The biggest change is in the game's music, which, while still limited in number is more complex in sound and better overall. When in battle for 30 minutes, the same track do get boring, but at least its a better soundtrack than the first game.
Good Graphics and Character Design: +3
Good animation: +2
While Shining Force II is only a marginally better game than the the first one, its improvements on the margins ensure that a very good Genesis game is even better. Mostly, it shows an ambition in game design that is lacking in many other Genesis games.
Since the Fire Emblem series never had their SNES game's localized, I cannot compare them to this game, but against everything else, Shining Force II is clearly the best SRPG game of the 4th Generation of videogames.
This is the map of the world, but there is now way to visualise it from the ground level
1- You should try and level up Slade to level 30 before promoting him. Give him an item that increases offense early on though or leveling him up would be a nightmare..
2- If you need to level your characters up, Egress during battle and continue to fight with your weaker characters.
3- You can do the same if you need money.
4- As with other SRPGs, promoting your characters early is not a good idea. Generally promote characters that reach level 20.
5- Main Character dies, and its gameover, make sure to protect him.
6- There are hidden items. Mythril is used later to make powerful weapons, and there are promotion items to access the second promotion.
7- There are hidden characters, search suspicious places in the environment.
8- Promote Sarah to a Monk.
9- Promote Kazin to a Sorcerer.
10- If you won't worry about finding items and leveling up characters, you will need to utilize the later characters and forget the rest.LY.
Shining Force II is an ambitious game, and one that would have been right at home on the SNES, In the Genesis, its clearly heads and shoulders above a lot of the rest, and is my favorite game so far. I am now looking forward to play ore of the series on the Sega Saturn, but I know there is little beyond that.
Next game in the series is Landstalker at #5. This is considered one of the best RPGs on the system, and utilizes a seldom used in consoles isometric view. I am in the top 5 games of Retro Sanctuary's list now, and all of these should be golden.
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