Shining the Holy Ark - Reader Retroview  

But Not the Highest Tower
by JuMeSyn

25-35 hours


Rating definitions 

   The first-person perspective is not something one tends to associate with RPGs often. And when it does appear in the RPG context, it generally resides within discussion of PC RPGs. The ranks of Japan-developed first-person RPGs are quite small. One of this very small sub-category is Shining the Holy Ark, which fortunately is possessed of no small quality in addition to being special thanks to its unconventional play style.

   Shining the Holy Ark begins with the mercenary main character, rendered mute in the usual Camelot style, being assigned to hunt down a rogue ninja by the name of Rodi along with two magician mercenaries. Things go a mite awry during this expedition, whereupon Arthur (the default name for the main character Ė call him something different if it is devoutly wished), Rodi, and one of the magicians named Melody being tied together inextricably. From here RPG convention is followed frequently as certain items must be obtained in order to attain the power to best the forces bent upon bending the power Rodi is perceived to possess toward their own ends. The translation is reasonable if not particularly beautiful. Nothing in the story is all that remarkable however.

To anyone who has not fought a Coin Beast Ė this level of force is absolutely justified. To anyone who has not fought a Coin Beast Ė this level of force is absolutely justified.

   Aesthetic aspects of Shining the Holy Ark hold up well. The graphics of StHA were rather good for the Saturn and havenít lost any luster, with the highlights being in combat with interesting spell effects and nice-looking special moves as characters acquire more impressive weapons. Enemies get pallet-swapped but are still well animated with different attacks receiving different looks, and some new enemies being introduced all the way through to the end. Many dungeons suffer from looking roughly the same throughout, but there is an automatically generated map to help cope with any lost moments. Music is consistently good, with the battle theme staying interesting throughout the game despite being heard hundreds of times. Motoi Sakuraba is the composer, and he does a typically fine job here. Sound effects are nothing exceptional but get the job done.

   Battles hew to convention for the most part. Once the first-person perspective is adjusted to, the random battles will be unremarkable. In battle agility-based turns are taken and spells are gained through leveling-up. Convention is eschewed at the beginning of battle however. As the player explores the dungeons of StHA five varieties of fairies may be located, and each variety can be used as an initial strike against random encounters. This requires timing however, as there is only the briefest of windows to adjust oneís fairy collection to the proper type necessary to strike whatever enemy is encountered. If used properly fairies also net additional gold and experience from the enemy after battle.

   This is not the first Shining game to be in a first-person perspective. Shining in the Darkness on the Genesis was the first title with this viewpoint, although I regard StHA to be far superior to its predecessor. Absent the perspective nothing really stands out as being amazingly innovative in StHA. Once completed the game offers nothing save bettering oneís collection of hidden items as an incentive for replay.

If you start me up, if you start me up Iíll never stop! If you start me up, if you start me up Iíll never stop!

   The challenge in battle of Shining the Holy Ark is actually respectable. Multiple trips into dungeons may be required thanks to the sheer length of them, and certain enemies are very nasty customers when first encountered. In-battle healing is required frequently. Several boss battles pack a punch also, particularly the first encounter with Rilix. These battle challenges are augmented with some insidious puzzles. Only the final dungeon possesses nothing the player will have to think about much except for its battles, with every other area requiring mental energy expenditure. Another challenge results from saving only being possible inside of a town; with the size of some dungeons hours can pass between save opportunities.

   Shining the Holy Ark represents another piece of quality Saturn software that has been denied the acclaim it deserves. While not groundbreaking and hardly the greatest RPG ever created, it is entertaining through its entire length and sports some superior (for the time) aesthetic qualities. It is also an entry in the classic Shining series, which by and large signifies a superior level of craftsmanship. It is well worth the time of any curious RPGamer.

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