Monday, July 12, 2021

Deep Look - Shining Force Classics

 Shining Force Classics

Better than Emulation, but Not Flawless

During the sixteen-bit era of videogaming, the Super NES and Sega Genesis were the dominant consoles in North America, the latter aimed at older audiences and the former striving to be “family-friendly,” given Nintendo America’s draconian censorship policies. Both systems would receive their share of respective RPGs, chiefly the Final Fantasy franchise on the SNES, and the Shining and Phantasy Star series on the Genesis, most of which would see many ports during future console generations. Among the latest releases of the Shining titles is Shining Force Classics for the iOS, bringing along with the core games some contemporary enhancements.

The very first Shining game, Shining in the Darkness, is a first-person dungeon crawler with randomly-encountered turn-based combat in the main massive dungeon fought by three protagonists. A single town serves as a hub for performing functions such as resting to recover strength and purchasing new equipment, with navigation being a rather simple affair. While the inaugural Shining title does have some things going for it, such as a great soundtrack and good art direction, the chief game mechanics somewhat mar the experience, given the often-sluggish, generic combat and ease of losing oneself within the voluminous labyrinth.

The franchise would shift to the strategy RPG subgenre with Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention, divided into chapters with turn-based tactical battles necessary to advance the central storyline, a change that was certainly for the better, given the straightforwardness of the game mechanics, although there is a bit of character fatigue, some user-unfriendliness, a lackluster localization, and limited lasting appeal. However, story was decent for its time, and there are other positives such as a nice soundtrack and pretty visuals, and overall, the original Shining Force is a competent, if generic, strategy RPG.

The first numbered sequel, Shining Force II, is too a strategy RPG, although the developers didn’t divide it into chapters like the first game, given the less linear progression, which admittedly can lead to some instances where the player can lose themselves on the overworld figuring out what to do next, and there is again a deal of user-unfriendliness and spotty translation. However, it builds upon its precursor’s strategic gameplay for the better, has an original storyline, and has nice aural and visual presentation, although on the whole, it doesn’t quite achieve greatness.

Ultimately, Shining Force Classics is an okay collection of games that somewhat show their age, even with contemporary enhancements like save states. Shining in the Darkness is perhaps the low point of the anthology, given its genericness, although the shift from traditional roleplaying game to strategy RPG was for the better, both Shining Forces being more enjoyable, though they aren’t without their flaws. Those wishing to experience the original Shining Force would be better off playing the Gameboy Advance remake, and the collection needs not rank high in one’s gaming playlist.

This deep look is based on a playthrough to completion of all three games in the anthology.


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