Shining Force GBA - Reader Retroview  

Resurrection in 3…2…1
by JuMeSyn

~20 -25 hours


Rating definitions 

   11 years in the video game business is a very long time indeed. The first Shining Force title ever released came out on the Sega Genesis in 1993. The most recent title exhibiting classic Shining Force-style play, though not developed by Camelot, is a remake of the original Shining Force that was released in 2004 on the Game Boy Advance. Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon was an in-house project by Sega that was probably designed to test the waters of the modern Tactical RPG gaming climate to determine what stratagems to employ in its revival of the Shining series. Thanks to underwhelming sales of the Shining Force remake, Sega appears to have decided that its rather mindless action Shining titles are what the public wants to buy. And that is a true shame, given that the improvements made upon the first Shining Force have transformed it from a simultaneously entertaining and frustrating experience into a much more enjoyable experience.

Dragon taming is much harder than it looks.  Here, Max attempts to make a Blue Dragon sit – WITHOUT a treat to induce cooperation! Dragon taming is much harder than it looks. Here, Max attempts to make a Blue Dragon sit – WITHOUT a treat to induce cooperation!

   Story is where some of the biggest changes have been made – 99% of which are for the better. The original Shining Force had a story straight out of the 80’s, and not in a good way. The story is not truly original in the remake, but has been beefed up considerably in a successful effort to give more character to the personalities populating the game. Max was almost completely mute in the original, but now actually speaks! Significant enemies such as Ramladu are given scenes to imprint themselves upon the player, whereas in the original most enemies with a personality showed up, said a line or two, and then died. Efforts at creating a history of the many protagonists joining up with Max’s team, and at giving the events unfolding some reason beyond ‘Darksol is really evil,’ are much appreciated. Where in the original every character said the same thing (except while on the ship in Chapter 5) when interviewed by Max at headquarters, now they each have a different ongoing story to tell – but only when used in battle. Two characters, Musashi and Hanzou, who joined very late in the story, have had their entire joining processes altered and join considerably earlier – which is good when they turn out to be two of the best fighters in the entire game. Three new characters are also present, and their story is quite interesting – especially as it takes place during three battles that were not present during the original Shining Force.

   The mechanics of the game have been altered somewhat, again in good ways. Where in the original an equipped weapon was part of the 4 item limit each character had, now there are four item slots and four equipment slots. A weapon and three rings can be equipped, and rings have beneficial effects such as increasing magic resistance (which did not exist in the original except for enemies) or increasing evasion. Item purchasing has also improved significantly, and when an item is located outside of battle it does not go to Max alone – when Max’s item allocation is complete, items go to other characters. Menus are easier to navigate now also, thanks to the improvements one would expect in adjusting menus to compensate for 11 years of game development.

   Battle proceeds in pretty much the same fashion as in the original. This is a good thing given how enjoyable Shining Force-style battles are. Up to 12 characters, 1 of whom will always be Max, are individually ordered around the battlefield against a generally larger number of enemies. The characters usable are quite varied, from Max’s fairly archetypal swordsman sprite to Anri’s magician to Domingo’s flying magic-using jellyfish. All actions save movement are accompanied by images of the actions being performed in quick scenes that show off the characters’ abilities. The major change here is the introduction of goals to be met in battle – if the player can achieve victory within a certain turn limit, a prize will be granted. Most of these prizes are easy to gain, with a few requiring much more complex planning. There is also the use of a system to detect exactly when each character and enemy will be able to perform their actions during a turn, which is very handy.

Ramladu fearlessly proclaims his fine eyesight, heedless of the cries throughout Runefaust of contact lens manufacturers hoping for his endorsement. Ramladu fearlessly proclaims his fine eyesight, heedless of the cries throughout Runefaust of contact lens manufacturers hoping for his endorsement.

   Visuals are pretty good for the GBA, though it can do better. They are more colorful than the original Sega Genesis, which is only fitting considering how many more colors the GBA can handle than the Genesis could manage. Otherwise not much here is dramatically beyond the capacity of the Genesis, which is just fine. Forcing more impressive graphics into the game would be a detriment. Musically the music has the benefit of a better sound capability than the Genesis could manage, along with an actual new theme for promoted characters (who looked different but did not have new promotion action music in the original). Certain compositions that were underexploited in the original have been given more opportunities to play in this one, also. Sound effects are functional, no voice acting is present.

   Challenge is not too bad, and represents a distinct improvement over its original iteration here (enemies actually MOVE when attacked!). Certain battles that posed a challenge in the original still do here, but overall the game is not too difficult thanks to even a defeat of Max not spelling Game Over but merely the loss of half the accumulated gold and return to town. Once the game is completed, however, the option to play it again on a higher difficulty is reached. Playing through repeatedly can unlock further difficulty levels, which do not improve AI but do vastly increase enemy statistics.

   Completion time will probably require in the neighborhood of 24 hours for achieving. Shining Force is quite linear, so getting lost is not a problem. Finding a few secret characters and/or powering up the Force will take more time, naturally. Replay, aside from the aforementioned increased difficulty levels, is not high. The playing style will need to be adjusted on higher difficulties however, making for a good incentive.

   The results of Sega’s revisit to the original Shining Force make one pine for the poor sales performance of the title. Had Sega garnered sufficient money from its Shining Force remake, it could have gone on to remake Shining Force II, which was already a very good Tactical RPG. Despite the lack of that subsequent addition to the venerable GBA software library, Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon manages to be a fine representation of Shining Force on a Nintendo system and a worthwhile purchase for any RPGamer with a hint of interest.

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