Most of us remember the Sega Genesis. Aside from the popular titles released on that platform such as the ever-popular Sonic the Hedgehog series, there were several titles that did not receive nearly as much attention. One of these that stands out, even today, is Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention.
Wow. What isn’t great about Shining Force? The game was my first entrance into the turn-based RPG genre, and I couldn’t have had a better introduction. For its time and the technical limitations of the system, this game had it all.
First of all, as with any RPG, the game is heavily storyline-driven. The game opens in the kingdom of Guardiana, a peaceful castle town in the land of Rune. The evil Runefaust army is planning to open the mysterious Gate of the Ancients, located nearby. It is up to the protagonist, controlled by the player, and his ragtag team of volunteer soldiers to stop them. Over the course of the game and through multiple encounters the story unfolds further, revealing a deep past to the story and an epic quest to stop Runefaust’s evil plans.
Rather than battle occurring through random encounters, which is popular in many RPGs, the game is organized around a structure of actual large-scale battles that the player must engage in. These, obviously, increase in difficulty as the game continues and other team-members and abilities are discovered. The battles are predictable, to an extent, but this adds to the timelessness and potential to enjoy the game. A player can, for example, fight a battle until the last enemy is standing then leave the field. This allows the characters to retain their experience and perks earned during the battle, while affording the player the opportunity to continually replay and level-up.
Battles are conducted in a top-down format, very reminiscent of a D&D field. When a character engages the enemy or is attacked, however, animated cutscenes show the nature of each attack and the damage taken or experience awarded. A large part of the game also includes exploration, talking to NPCs, and discovering treasure. This adds even more fun to the game, and, while these sorts of activities can seem like chores in other games, they are surprisingly pleasant in Shining Force.
Though the individual backstories of the characters are not delved into in spectacular depth, the player does form something of an attachment to them. Each character has its own perks and shortcomings, and the lack of backstory allows the player the chance to think of them in any way that he or she wishes. Gort, for example, is an old man with an urge to relive his past glories. The player first encounters him in a bar, and after an attack on Guardiana he is ready and rearing to go. Zylo, another favorite character, is first introduced to the player as an insane werewolf-king. A battle must be fought to cure him of his insanity, and Zylo joins the group, which adds another valuable fighter to the ranks.
The villains of the game are also quite endearing in their own evil ways. For most of the action the player’s primary antagonist is the top general of the opposition, Kane of Runefaust. He is very much a Darth Vader type of figure, and his armor is even reminiscent of this stereotypical villain. Wielding the deadly Sword of Darkness, Kane is a figure that the player encounters repeatedly, all building up to a final showdown with him that reveals a surprising twist. Kane is just an underling to Lord Darksol, however, a bizarre evil wizard who the player only encounters once in battle. Nonetheless, this rather challenging fight is quite memorable.
Thankfully for all fans and potential fans of this timeless game, it has been released in a variety of media since its original U.S. release for the Genesis. It appears on a greatest hits compilation disc for the PS3, and is also an available download for gamers using a Nintendo platform. In 2004, Shining Force was also re-released for the GameBoy Advance under a different title with slightly different gameplay. It is available in other formats, as well. If you have never encountered this game then I strongly suggest you check it out; if you’ve played it before, then revisit the land of Rune with another playthrough!