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   Shining Force III Scenario 3 - Reader Retroview  

So Bright, Itís Gotta Wear Shades!
by JuMeSyn

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Gripping
COMPLETION TIME
35-50 hours
OVERALL

5.0/5

Rating definitions 

   Good things come in threes. Or is it that good things come in pairs and bad things come in threes? Or the opposite of that? Is one the loneliest number? How DO you kill two birds with one stone? Ugh, Iíve confused myself. But setting unreliable platitudes aside, Shining Force III is a double dose of threes, and a GREAT one. The title is a three, and the content consists of three discs telling one story from three viewpoints. Wait, is that 3 threes? Oh great, now Iím going to be in a muddle all dayÖ.

   Shining Force III Scenario 3 is told from the perspective of Julian. Unlike Synbios and Medion, Julian is not privileged and not known to anyone, really, at the gameís beginning, save as a fairly good mercenary. Julian first shows up to help Synbios out in getting onto a train near Railhead in Scenario 1, with the ulterior motive of wanting a good means of getting close to a Vandal. Vandals are the demons of legend, the rulers of the Thousand Year Kingdom that came apart 1000 years prior. And Julian wants one Vandal in particular, Galm. Julianís understanding is that Galm killed his father 10 years prior in the Enrich kingdom, and Julian has sworn to avenge that death. Synbiosís force successfully overcame the Vandal Julian had heard of, but it was not Galm. Galm came along the next day and tossed Julian into a river for having the temerity to challenge him. Julian somehow awoke later, when Medion was marching upon Barrand. Without many options, Julian decided to be hired by Medion and assisted him throughout the campaign against the Bulzome in the land of Elbesem.

Itís hard to get this group into a business meeting.  Even if they DID fit into the chairs. Itís hard to get this group into a business meeting. Even if they DID fit into the chairs.

   Julianís path diverged from Medionís when Medion had to head back to Saraband. Bresby, the advisor to Medionís older half-brother Mageron, had come seeking aid to protect the Destonian capital from a Bulzome invasion. Julian determined to come along, reasoning that because Bulzome is a Vandal, where his servants were using his tools, so might Galm reappear. Accompanying Julian to Destonia is Gracia, the boy Innovator and the only one with the power to truly destroy a Vandal (as Innovators are the ancient adversaries of the Vandals). Fighting the Bulzome in Destonia, Julian and his force learn of the ways in which Destonia rewards outsiders by having the blame pinned upon them for the invasion, forcing a rapid exit from Destonia and a return to the Republic of Aspinia, which is also loathe to grant them free passage. It is in the capital city of Aspia that big things involving Synbios and Medionís forces will be happening soon, and only once that crisis is resolved can the Great Wall be crossed in order to confront Bulzome.

   Visually Shining Force III Scenario 3 is Scenarios 1 and 2 with a bit of further sheen Ė but when the Saturn was already being pressed beyond what many thought it could do, that result is just fine. Outside of battle everything looks exactly the same, although there are plenty of new building designs and decorations for interiors (on top of the new designs and decorations present in Scenario 2). Inside of battle the graphical sheen of Scenario 2 isnít really surpassed, but it didnít need to be. There are a few new summons and magic attacks, along with numerous new special attacks. Aurally the increased score of Scenario 2 is increased quite a bit more, with plenty of great pieces courtesy of Motoi Sakuraba added to the roster. Give some of them a listen here: http://gh.ffshrine.org/soundtracks/1780 And the voice acting is again quite good during the battle cutscenes, with the additional feat of having all the voices from Scenarios 1 and 2 available near the end (although the English voices are gone, meaning the far superior Japanese voices for Synbiosís force must be heard. What a hardship for the player this isÖ.)

   The means via which the Scenarios are joined together is to have a save of the prior Scenario ready, which upon starting play of the next disc will be accessed. Intriguingly, when using an English Scenario 1 save with Scenarios 2 and 3, all of Synbiosís force along with Medion and Julian (not their forces) will have their English names displayed instead of Japanese text. Along with the equipment roster and experience level of every character being carried along to the final chapter this way, there are numerous Synchronicity moments in Scenarios 1 and 2 that affect later events. If Synbios untied Bernard in the town of Balsamo, he will join Medion: if not Medion will never see the fellow. If Medion killed Produnís wife Stella early in Scenario 2, Produn will vow vengeance on Medion and must be killed by Julian in Scenario 3. On the other hand, Edmund will not only stay alive but join Julian by this course of events. If Stella was spared, Edmund will eventually appear as a Boss for Julian to slay, but Produn can be recruited for Julianís Shining Force. Other events occur across the Scenarios also, and while the Scenarios CAN be played separately (due to their being sold separately in Japan) the idea isnít a good one.

Now which Pokemon is this again?  So similar to so many of themÖ. Now which Pokemon is this again? So similar to so many of themÖ.

   Scenario 3 packs some nicely challenging battles into its mix, particularly in Chapter 6 (although the final chapter is something of a letdown unless the player can resist leveling up overly much in a ruin that exists for that purpose). As in the previous Scenarios there is also an optional Ruin at the end with a very powerful optional Boss in its depths. Again, obtaining all the characters and hidden items will be challenging. Keeping characters alive so that their Friendships do not drop is more challenging. Thanks to the (probable) need to bump Synbios and Medionís forces up a bit for the final part, more time will likely be required for Scenario 3 than 1 or 2, but a little over 40 hours should be sufficient. Combined with the prior Scenarios however, that adds up to easily 100 hours of playing time. Pumping characters up will add on considerably to that playing time. Plenty of inspirations for replay also exist, although undertaking a replay of the entire game is not a small thing. Finding characters previously missed, playing a battle another way, or just enjoying the entire mammoth adventure Ė Shining Force III rewards replay.

   One interesting note about Shining Force IIIís battles is that very few of them are simple brawls between the Shining Force and the enemy. The Ruins expeditions, and finding hidden items are common additions to this formula, but plenty of battles have something else going on. A number of characters must be recruited on the battlefield, and if they die before the player reaches them the character is dead forever. The Return spell allows for battles to be tried again, but recruiting a few people is very challenging. Variety is the name of the game in these battles, and Scenario 3 exemplifies that. One battle allows for actual stealth in a Tactical-RPG, by way of having lighthouses that illuminate the playerís team every other turn but on the off turns leave the enemy effectively blind.

   Also in Shining Force III Scenario 3, there are two vital people in every battle. Julian can take care of himself, and has been doing so for a number of battles under Synbios and Medion. But Gracia will frequently require a little help, because he is more of a mage than a front-line fighter and his defense reflects that. If either falls, the player loses half the current money and must start the battle over.

   Aside from those two, the variety of characters available to Julianís force is pretty darn big. Heíll get a Pegasus and Fairy on his team assuredly, with the potential for a Dragon too; together these make quite the airborne team, since Primula the Fairy is a flying mage. Edmund and Produn are Generals with unique arsenals of weapons and magic: if Synbios did not kill her, Spiriel is another General with no magic but use of the most powerful variants of the weapons triangle. Jubei is a Samurai with a summon only he can use; and more!

   Scenario 3 also has a couple of changes from the norm established by Scenarios 1 and 2. Because it begins midway through the narrative of both those parts, the characters on Julianís team are already promoted and the power of enemies is considerably greater at the beginning. Late in Scenario 3, however, Gracia will gain the power to promote characters a second time, into Apostles of Light. Also, comparatively early on in Julianís story mithril will be found. As in Scenarios 1 and 2, mithril is used to make stronger weapons. Once a character is an Apostle of Light, however, a new substance called Orihalcon can be used to make even stronger weapons specific to the highest promotion class.

   Shining Force III is not perfect, and Iíll compile a quick list of faults. Scenario 1 has an annoying bug that makes the music sometimes skip around, though this is easily circumvented. The game is quite linear; once a new city has been reached the old one is inaccessible. The choice of class changes present in Shining Force II has been discarded, which is unfortunate. The game is an expensive undertaking, because none of the Scenarios is terribly cheap. Playing it will require having a Saturn that can play imports, which may be too much for some. Camelot made the decision to have Synbios, Medion, and Julian say nothing but ďÖÖĒ when the player controls them while being fairly eloquent when that is not the case. Haters of Motoi Sakurabaís music had best stay away. And lovers of incredibly intricate tactical titles may feel a bit shortchanged by Shining Force IIIís relative simplicity. Surmounting all of this, however, is how incredibly fun the game is to play.

   This review may feel a bit incompleteÖ and that is because important parts have already been covered in the reviews for Scenarios 1 and 2, with no need to state them again. Shining Force III will always be known as the black mark on Sega of America that cannot be erased, for this game deserved to have a complete release in English. (Speaking of that, hereís a translation for this gameís script that should serve an average gaijin well: http://www.shiningforcecentral.com/scripts.php?m=0&g=12 ). The Saturn was horribly underrated in its lifetime, and Shining Force III came too late to save it in the English-speaking world. But a complete Shining Force III would have been a far better choice for Sega of America than the bastardization it put forth. I recommend the game for any RPGamer out there, regardless of particular likes and dislikes.

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