Shining Force II @ Sega/Shin Force
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Shining Force II

Sega/Shin Force > Elite Series > Shining Force (Series) > Shining Force II

Shin Force ~ Shining Force ~
Shining Force II: Return Of The King :: Reviews
Geoffrey Duke
Sonic Software
12 Megabit
Import / Domestic
October 1, 1993
October 1994
Jult 2, 1994
Yes (until 2009)
Top / Interactive
Strategy / RPG
Battery Backup
     > Old games such as Shining Force II ~Return of the King (SF2) are not exempt from modern enjoyment. SF2 is the follow up game to Sega's classic Shining Force, an elite Strategy/RPG created under the Sonic/Climax banner. Climax is well known for the creation of Landstalker, a peerless isometric Action/RPG which was once going to be a part of the Shining series answering to the name of Shining Rogue before Climax and Sonic Co. parted ways. Landstalker and Shining Force even share some of the same sound effects, sound for sound. I find the name Shining Rogue rather fitting since the hero of Landstalker is a roguish elven treasure hunter. Climax receives an equal share of the credit for the part it played in creating the first two Shining games, but the sequel to Shining Force (and third title in the Shining series) was developed by Sonic Co. alone this time (the Sega in-house developer that would later break away from Sega and become what we now know as Camelot). Not only does Shining Force 2 remain true to everything that made its predecessor great, but the gameplay has been tweaked to perfection. In the Shining Force games, players take control of a group of warriors who band together to purge the land of evil and fight through colorful locales on grids, like chess only with individual characters instead of pieces lacking in identity. SF2 improves upon the old gameplay by adding new character classes, enemies, spells, and best of all, freeing players from the shackling chapter system and linear gameplay inherent to the original game. You are no longer herded in any direction while exploring a map and can go back to previously visited locations, which is a welcome improvement.

     > Like Shining Force, you can explore towns in between battles where you can buy/sell weapons/healing items and converse with the inhabitants (usually about the various evils plaguing the land). The character classes, with a few exceptions, are no different from those we've come to know and love from Shining Force, such as the native centaur knights and birdmen. Of course, the game wouldn't be a sequel without a few new character classes. The game introduces a few new unique classes such as Peter the Phoenix, a huge fiery golden bird who like the self-same bird of legend is reborn if killed, and best of all, pegasus knights. Obviously, characters with weaker defenses are more vulnerable to attack by the enemy, and need to be protected by ones made of sterner stuff. Guarding characters not meant for the frontlines whom can attack from a long range (archers and mages fall into this category) rewards you with the continued advantage of long range attacks. Shining Force 2 isn't called a Strategy/RPG for nothing. More and more individual characters, varying in class, join your force along your path to the end, so you can choose a team that best suits you. Vanquishing enemies will grant the victor gold to pay for expenses as well as experience points that in turn eventually boost levels, hit points (which determine how much punishment a character can receive before surrendering to death) and other and statistics, causing your characters to become more powerful each and every time.

     > Shining Force 2 sets a stage not completely unrelated to the original game: a thief named Slade has stolen two ancient jewels, the jewel of light and jewel of darkness, from their singular tomb and thus set loose an unimaginable evil. An ancient tower protected by the city of Granseal has opened up its centuries old locked doors, and nothing can stop this evil from spreading. You take control of Bowie, a young swordsman, and his friends Chester the knight and Sarah the priest, all inexperienced students of Sir Astral, the most powerful wizard in Granseal. Nonetheless, you are soon swept away by unfolding events when it is discovered that the king is possessed by an evil spirit. Chaos ensues; you are forced to deal with the calamitous consequences of a mere thief's reckless actions. Not long after, you learn that your home Granseal was formerly known as Ground Seal...

     > There's some debate among Shining community as to which game is better: Shining Force or Shining Force 2. I honestly cannot understand why many fans prefer the old chapter system; SF2 gives players more freedom. The characters gain more HP every level they gain than they do in SF1, which means they can become truly powerful. They are promoted at level 20 instead of level 10, conveying the fact that SF2 is a longer gaming experience. Still, both games have their own charms.

     > The distinct character art present in Shining in the Darkness and Shining Force has been replaced with more stylish anime artwork. Although I loved the artwork in the first game (because it's a lot darker and moodier than what we see in the sequel), the quality of the new artwork is no less impressive. The loss of style is a step up in my mind; the older games seem swarthy and rough in comparison. The 2D character animation is much more colorful now, and the edges are noticeably sharper. The new artwork, some have ill-defined as "cutesy", does not warrant any flippancy at all. If that was the case, then all 2D RPG graphics would detract from a said game's seriousness. The 2D backdrops seem composed of the same color pallet, meaning everything blends well. In fact, everything is neatly drawn and brightly colored to a point where, in my opinion, this game can stand the test of time. Some areas have parallel backdrops, which create a good illusion of height when traversing high landscapes. The 2D graphics aren't much to behold by today's standards (according to some people any 2D game is “dated”), but by 16 bit standards they are easily some of the best of their era and more than adequate for the task of visually representing the gameplay. To cut a long story short, SF2 can stand next to any last generation Genesis title with pride.

     > The game is played from a top down view. Your characters are seemingly out of proportion when wandering outdoor maps (i.e. they are huge), for effect (this is a Shining tradition in fact). If Bowie seems the same size as a small town, don't be surprised.

     > Whenever a character attacks an enemy on the battlefield or vice versa, the screen switches to a quasi-third person perspective, just like the original game. The animations don't capture every nuance of movement; however, they seem fluid when they are in action.

     > The spell animations have been updated and there are new spells to unleash upon your enemies. Sorcerers can summon Greek gods to dispatch their enemies (e.g. Zeus the sun god floats down and attacks a hapless enemy with a rapid array of flaming open palm punches). Many Shining fans preferred the original spell animations because they felt they were more dramatic.

     > The game is menu driven when it comes to managing your team and equipment, which incidentally is another Shining tradition. The menu icons are similar throughout the entire series (even Shining Wisdom has the same nodding head icons when asked a yes or no question). The A button brings up the menu where you can access more menus like character statistics that include portraits. The C button initiates dialogue when facing people, and inspects areas. This is a more convenient way of searching and talking, something Shining Force lacked (you could only talk to people and search stuff via the menu). Your main character (the default name is Bowie but you can call him whatever you want) moves at a faster rate when you have control over him in non-battle areas, too.

     > Battles are turn based: you move your warriors across squares and attack enemies when at the appropriate distance (e.g. one square away for melee attacks). Statistics, bolstered by weapons and items, decide who fights in what order, how much damage your warriors inflict and take. You exhaust your turn once an order has been given to a combatant, and then if you have no more units to move, the enemy moves a hostile unit and so on. You can control up to twelve characters at once who if killed can be resurrected in churches. However, if your leader is killed (whose default name is Bowie, but can be changed to whatever you want) it's game over (you're not killed permanently, but you do lose money). If you quit the game in the middle of a battle, the game saves your progress for you, so you can continue from where you left off later. Bowie can also cast a spell called Egress which transports your party back to the nearest town if the outcome of a battle looks grim. You know the old saying: he who runs away lives to fight another day.

     > During battles you move your warriors around within the limits of their movement range (warriors with a poor movement rate will only be able to move a few squares each turn). Terrain affects movement as well: deserts or forests will often slow party members down, except flying warriors of course. You can attack close up or at range depending on your weaponry (knights for example can equip lances or spears). Mages can learn spells that can attack many enemies at once etc.

     > The midi music sounds as though it's trying to emulate an orchestra, especially the main theme. Not bad for the time. The music changes to suit different fields of battle, areas and situations. I like the soft beating flute-esque cheerful town music the most. Enemies have their own panic-inducing tunes, as do bosses. Collective force members have a different music track before being promoted and after being promoted. Both are cheerful, albeit the latter expresses transcending in class to a tougher level.

     > The actual sound effects are softer than their Shining Force counterparts. The weapon impact sounds aren't as loud when they perhaps should've been.

     > With over 30 characters and 40 battles, Shining Force 2 is guaranteed to be fun. You can customize your force in whatever way you want, and with so many possible combinations there's nearly endless replay value. Some of the more interesting characters are hidden away, just waiting to be found. I've lost track of the hours I've spent levelling up my force members. In the end, no single character can confront all your foes, but that would defeat the purpose of having a force.

     > Certain items found (sometimes hidden from plain sight) within the game world allow you to promote certain characters to classes other than what they would normally become in the absence of these items. For example, a knight can be promoted to a pegasus knight instead of a paladin (a more heavily amored knight) when a pegasus wing is thrown into the mix. The result is a centaur knight who can now fly. A mage can be promoted to a sorcerer who can summon Greek gods rather than a normal wizard who bends the usual rains of fire and storms of ice mage spells to their will, if you so desire. The ability to choose what you want your favorite characters to become -- the ability to select their class -- adds a whole new slant to what is already a great Strategy/RPG.

     > Scattered throughout the game are pieces of mithril, an indestructible material that can later be forged into powerful weapons. These weapons also add customization to the game because so many unique weapons can be made. My favorite paladin weapon is the Holy Lance; it's very powerful and boosts the wielder's defense. Even more powerful yet cursed weapons exist as well, but are you prepared to pay the price for their unmatched power? Such a weapon can turn a mediocre character into a force to be reckoned with. While fighting, characters sometimes attack twice, counter attack when attacked, or do critical damage. Some weapons will augment the chances of those occurring.

Bottom Line
     > I grew up on the Shining games, so I will always cherish them. Shining Force 2 is an enjoyable game destined to be remembered for a long time. I see no compelling reason not to track this game down today. If you liked Shining Force, then you'll love the sequel.
Overall: 9.2 | Graphics: 9.5 | Control: 9.0 | Sound: 8.5 | Fun: 9.6
~ Geoffrey Duke ~


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