From Sega Retro
Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention, known as Shining Force: Kamigami no Isan (シャイニング・フォース 神々の遺産) in Japan, or more commonly just as Shining Force, is a turn-based tactical role-playing game released in 1992 published by Sega for the Sega Mega Drive. It was the second release in the Shining series following the 1991 RPG Shining in the Darkness, however Shining Force is the first tactical RPG in the franchise.
Shining in the Darkness was developed by Sonic Co. (previously Consumer Development Studio #4 (Sega CD4)) - a small four-man team of developers headded by Hiroyuki and Shugo Takahashi, with help from Climax Entertainment. Despite its minimal funding the game was successful, and a sequel was subsequently requested by the corporation. Though hopes were put in place for more funding, Sega again kept production costs down, and so Climax Entertainment were brought in to help out once more.
Takahashi believed that most RPGs of the time only focused on telling an interesting story, treating battles and the coupled system as a tacked on extra rather than a core part of the experience. He wanted to challenge that notion, making a game with an engaging battle system. Shining Force was inspired primarily by Kure Software Koubou's Silver Ghost, a RPG for the PC-88 line of computers released in 1988. Silver Ghost's battle system consists in real-time actions and a multi-character system, in which the player controlled the leader of a "force" and attacked enemies by running into them, with the rest of the force following and engaging in combat with anything that comes close to them.
Takahashi had worked on Dragon Quest previously, and had wondered how the battle system could be improved. Silver Ghost and the tiled chess-like movement of units typical of tactical RPGs provided the answer, as it introduced the concepts of distance and range.
The game's English translation is controversial, due to the omission of vital plot points and character backstories (including that of the game's main protagonist, Max). It is also inconsistent, with the names of characters occasionally changing between scenes (one such example is Lord Kane, sometimes referred to as "Cain").
Chapter 1 - Runefaust Invasion
Max is a young swordsman who trains under the wing of Lord Varios, in the Kingdom of Guardiana. One day, the King informs them that the Gate of the Ancients, a place Guardiana has watched over for centuries, might have been reached by the forces of Runefaust. Max accepts the King’s plea to leave with a small force assembled by the adviser Nova to stop their antics and they are successful, but as the commander of Runefaust’ troops dies, he laughs at them, as Lord Kane from Runefaust should be invading Guardiana by now. Max quickly returns to Guardiana, just in time watch Varios being killed by Kane and then leaving. The King, also heavily wounded, reveals that the Gate can only be opened with a key, and instructs Max to find it before Runefaust and to discover the motivations behind their actions. The King also dies and Mae, distraught by her father Varios’ death, joins the force.
Max heads to the Kingdom of Alterone, which is an ally of Guardiana and lies close to the northwest. There, he finds that the King was threatened about his Kingdom’s safeness by Kane and is thrown to prison. Max is saved by Khris and the force heads back to the castle to talk with the King, which begs forgiveness and excuses himself about being under Kane’s power. He gives Max a last advice, a hint to a secret passage and to head to Rindo and then Manarina as there’s someone there that can help him.
Chapter 2 - Spirit of the Holy Spring
The Force reaches Rindo, only to find that Kane has bought all the ships and has sailed away. There is only one ship left, which belongs to the Mayor, who doesn't allow them to have it.
Defeated, the Force takes the advice of Alterone’s King and heads off to Manarina, which has an Arcane College where the best mages are trained, and where Anri, the Guardiana King’s daughter, is studying magic. There, Max finds Anri and tells her about her father and Guardiana. After a brief period of denial, followed by despair, Anri joins the Force. Max then speaks to Otrant, which informs the Force that to get the key to the Gate of the Ancients before Runefaust, they need to retrieve the Orb of Light from the Cavern of Darkness. The Force does so and when they return with the object, Otrant tells them they should use it on the Pool of the Ancients, which is tied with the Gate somehow. Max uses the Orb, and the Spirit of the Holy Spring tells Max that the Legacy of the Ancients is an evil being that has been sealed away for 1,000 years and someone called Darksol is searching for the key to unlock that seal.
The Force returns to Rindo, where they find that the Mayor’s grandson is missing. They head towards the place he was last seen in, the new Circus. The Force enters and is surprised by an horde of monsters. After defeating them and saving the child, the Mayor gives them his ship in gratitude. The Force is ready to set sail but then they are greeted by Mishaela, an evil witch, who burns the ship down. The Force returns to the Mayor, to ask for more advice. He tells them that the next town with ships is Uranbatol, which is to the northeast. Since it’s a long way, he tells them to stop at Shade Abbey first. There Force meets two bird warriors, Balbaroy and Amon, and they’re all caught up in a battle by Darksol. After being victorious, the two birdmen take them to Bustoke.
Chapter 3 - Secret Weapon of Runefaust
Chapter 4 - The Great Fortress of Balbazak
Chapter 5 - Gateway to the Hidden Shrine
Chapter 6 - Descendant of the Sacred Dragon
Chapter 7 - The Lost Civilization
Chapter 8 - Rise of the Ancient Castle
The force is made by various warriors, which will join at various locations of the game, some with specific tasks that need to be completed to access them. Every character has their own specific class which helps determine their stats, abilities, weapons that can be equipped, and magic that can be learnt. There are a grand total of 30 playable characters in Shining Force.
Shining Force features exploration fields like any standard RPG, with objectives such as picking up information or interacting with citizens. While strolling through the various towns and villages the force is represented by the force leader Max. The buttons and/or are used to access menus and to confirm actions and is to return on the menu or for cancelling options.
Exploration Field Menu
Shop Menu (Items and Weapons)
Talking to the seller will allow buying items and weapons for the force.
Talking to a priest will allow curing or reviving the force, upgrading a character's class or saving the game.
The Headquarters is where the force assembles. It has three rooms, a vestibule of some sort, where talking to Nova will access the Headquarters Menu, a red carpet room, where the active force waits ready to march, and a bar to the back, which serves as a common room for the reserves.
Shining Force also features battle fields, where the player moves the characters in turns across the scenario overlaid with a square grid, which can be seen as somewhat similar to chess. Battles are gained by either destroying every enemy, the Boss (which defeats all others) or move outside of the battle field map. As an extra, some bonus' items are given if specific goals are met. Battles are lost if the leader of the force dies and the game will switch back to the last accessible priest, losing half the Gold the Force was carrying.
Pressing or will access the battle menu. All of the options except Stay will enter a fight screen animation. Pressing START will hide the status windows, both while idle on the battle field or while in a fight screen animation.
Game Command Options Menu
Pressing the button will make a white highlighter box appear around the character. Moving it to any character and pressing or will access the character's stat windows. The latter has the extra of displaying their movement for the next turn. Pressing in an empty slot will access the Game Command Options.
The Music was composed by Masahiko Yoshimura while the Sound Effects were programmed by Dogen Shibuya and Enzan Shibuya.
Sequels and Re-releases
Shining Force was a success for Sega, being followed up by Shining Force II and Shining Force III in 1993 and 1997 respectively as well as a number of spin-offs. Moreso than Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force and Shining Force II helped guarantee a future for the series, which continues until this day.
The game was remade in 2004 by Amusement Vision as Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon, however this title is not considered to be canon to the series (from an English perspective), as despite its similar story and more accurate English translation, numerous story changes were made for undisclosed reasons. In its Mega Drive form, Shining Force has appeared in numerous compilations, including Sega Archives from USA Vol.3, Sega Smash Pack 2, Sega Mega Drive Classic Collection Volume 4 and Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection. It was also released for the Wii's Virtual Console service in 2008.
Other media associated with this game include an encyclopedia, several game guides, a soundtrack release, a manga series (3 volumes) and The Curse of Zeon, a six part story published in Sonic the Comic (issues #73-78).
Game Design: Hiroyuki Takahashi