Shining Force III: Scenario 2
Sega/Shin Force
Shining Force III

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Shin Force ~ Shining Force ~
Shining Force III: Scenario 2 :: Reviews
Geoffrey Duke
Sonic / Camelot
1x CD
Apr. 29, 1998
Multi 3rd Person
Strategy / RPG
3D Pad
Backup 281
     >  It's an unfortunate fact that many of the Saturn's greatest games never left the shores of Japan. Shining Force III was meant to span three separate CDs containing three separate stories that unfolded alongside one another, but only one was ever translated to English. In Shining Force III Scenario 1 players assumed the role of Synbios as he strives to save the Republic from the machinations of the Destonian Empire. In Shining Force III Scenario 2 players assume the role of the third prince of that very same empire who has uncovered the existence of a mysterious cult calling itself the Bulzome Sect whose scheming threatens to destroy both sides. Shining Force III Scenario 2 starts in the floating city of Saraband during the doomed peace talks between the two nations like in Shining Force III Scenario 1, only now events unfold from prince Medion's point of view. Medion's story begins in the docks of Saraband where he and his allies interrupt a bizarrely dressed Bulzome monk preparing to plant some of the same explosives that would ultimately shatter any hopes of peace. Remember when Synbios and his party stumbled upon prince Medion in the Imperial District of Saraband? Now we are given the opportunity to experience things from Medion's perspective. Of course, the two heroes cross paths on more than one occasion with profound consequences for both. Because each scenario coincides with each other, your actions in an earlier scenario have a direct impact on the next. If you saved Garosh in the Saraband bridge battle in Shining Force III Scenario 1, he later joins Medion. If you freed Bernard from the inn in Balsamo, Medion can find him waiting to join his group of warriors in Dusty Village (the home of all the bandits who plague Synbios). I was quite surprised by the number of choices you can make in Shining Force III Scenario 1 that have ripple effects on Scenarios 2 and 3.

     > Anyone familiar with the Shining Force games will know what to expect from the gameplay: turn-based battles fought across grids with an array of personable characters who must unite against a common foe, only now in truly 3D environments. Individual characters gain experience through combat and thereby gain levels that raise their statistics. As you travel, more characters will join your force until you amass a balanced team of the different classes typical to these games. The tactical gameplay is easy to learn, yet difficult to master, and is fun in and of itself. However, the gameplay is nothing without the story -- if you don't understand Japanese, the story behind the battles will be lost on you. Without an underlying story pushing you forwards, what motivates you to fight? The chances of Sega translating the complete Shining Force III now so many years after its initial release are still slim to none even as Sega is beginning to resurrect the series, so fans are left with no choice except to buy an import copy. The story of the Shining Force III trilogy itself is inextricably tied to Shining The Holy Ark, but because Sega didn't translate Shining Force III Scenarios 2 and 3, you can't bring the story of the game to a conclusion. You can't finish the story Shining The Holy Ark started unless you can overcome the huge language barrier. The combat is menu-driven and easy to understand, but if it wasn't for the fact English scripts are now available online, I wouldn't recommend buying this game in particular at the ludicrously high prices it is being sold for these days. I suspect die hard Shining fans will buy this game regardless of the cost, but playing a game without understanding a single word of it is more frustrating than not playing it at all IMHO. If only Sega had translated the complete Shining Force III and the sequel to Riglord Saga, then Strategy/RPG fans would've felt right at home with the Saturn. I personally recommend that Saturn RPG fans buy Dragon Force and Panzer Dragoon Saga for the Saturn instead of, or before, Shining Force III Scenarios 2 and 3, because however expensive they may prove to be, at least copies are available in English.

     > Again, our eyes are greeted by some superbly solid settings, brimming with vibrant colors and painstaking attention to detail. In the midst of a battle when one character confronts another the view switches from an overhead view to a third person view without delay. The camera angle (if you can call it that) will now zoom in from many different angles including one that sweeps in from above and positions itself behind the character who's either attacking or receiving an attack. Camelot seems to have overhauled the graphics engine used in Shining Force III Scenario 1 for this outing because the 3D character models are clearly superior in every way imaginable. They are more solid and detailed than before with improved texture mapping that speaks for itself. Even the 2D character icons no longer pixelate when viewed from a close distance. If the small character icons seem familiar to you, that's because you've seen them before in Shining Wisdom (you have to admit there is a resemblance). Of course, enemies have also undergone similar changes with refined textures and a more solid outward appearance. To add to the long list of graphically breathtaking spells seen in the first scenario (which blended together a dazzling display of reflections, light-source shading and transparency effects as if with a little effort programming 3D games for the Saturn wasn't an impossible task after all), there are some new equally impressive summoning spells (called summons). One of the Bulzome high priests bends a towering black dragon to her will, summoning it against anyone who dares to stand in her way. Overall, I was very impressed with the improvements made in this area of the game.
     > The controls inside and outside each battle revolve around menus comprehensible to anyone, which is why importing this game poses no problem when it comes to the actual gameplay. The battles themselves are turn-based where all the characters on screen, allies and enemies alike, are granted their turn in an order determined by their agility. You have to move your characters into a certain range depending on what weapons/magic they use in order to attack. Tactical decisions are easy to implement and entertaining to watch. While controlling your character icons, you can rotate the camera within a 360 degree sphere right and left by holding down the right and left shoulder buttons. The game also allows you to zoom out in order to gain a wider field of vision in any given location.

     > It's worth noting the relative lack of characters to join your Force in this game and the following scenario, when compared to Shining Force 1 or Shining Force 2. This disappointed me because I loved customizing my team in the first two Genesis Shining Force games from the huge selection of characters available in each game. Each scenario of Shining Force III compensates for this by allowing individual characters to wield and master more than one particular weapon. By mastering a type of weapon, the wielder learns how to focus its wrath on an enemy whereby more powerful and spectacular critical strikes are unleashed the more often they use that type of weapon. The friendship system is another innovative idea woven into the fabric of the Shining Force series. If one character aids another by attacking the same foe, or by healing the other character, then they climb a friendship ladder, which showers an adjacent ally with extra bonuses, including attack/damage bonuses and an improved chance range to carry out critical strikes.

     > The musical score from the previous scenario returns along with a number of additional tracks that engulf the player in similar types of prevailing atmosphere. The music attempts to capture the appropriate moods generated by the in-game drama, settings and plot twists. All I know is the music is so good it's almost distracting. The Shining Force III OST contains some of what is easily the most beautiful music I have ever heard, having an unmistakable epic theme, and certainly good enough to earn a place in the collective memory of gamers.

     > Shining Force III may be more story-driven than its predecessors with an abundance of dialogue, but the only voice acting to speak of belongs to attacking ally and enemy characters. How would I describe the Japanese voice acting in Shining Force III Scenario 2? Convincing is the right word. Even though they are Japanese, the voices sound as if they're acting their parts with real emotion unlike the atrocious voice acting in the translated version of Shining Force III Scenario 1. Sega should've spent its money translating all three scenarios instead of wasting it on unconvincing voice actors. The sound effects are clear and robust, which is what we've come to expect from games of this quality.

     > Each type of enemy (whether they are Imperials or Republicans or something far more sinister) have their own attack music helping to distinguish them from one another. In fact, whenever Medion's force members attack you'll hear a music track that you'll recognize from the first scenario as the track used for the Imperials. When a character is promoted to their second class their attack music changes along with them to reflect their ascension.

     > The fact that Medion's story coincides with Shining Force III Scenario 1 wasn't just an excuse to re-use old locations, as there are many new weird and wonderful sights to behold. Shining Force III Scenario 2 retraces some of the steps of Synbios (only some) to reveal areas that were previously inaccessible. I bet you wondered what awaited you in the Government and Imperial Districts of Saraband or what lay on the other side of Storich. You also learn the fate of a number of Republican generals (I must say, the mad General Varlant is without any doubt the biggest centaur I have ever seen). The game contains more of the same awesome tactical gameplay but nonetheless keeps players on their toes with a few innovations, new enemies and surprise boss encounters. There's even a ship-to-ship cannon battle where the cannon balls zoom towards their target from a first person perspective, which is not only dramatic, but demonstrates how much potential this leap from 2D graphics to the 3D realm has for the Shining Force games. 

     > I found the return of the chapter system from the first Shining Force in Shining Force III inhibiting; it felt like an excuse to keep the game linear. Each chapter begins and ends after a few battles in new areas where the areas of any previous chapters remain in the wake of your passing. Shining Force 2 gave players the freedom to roam the game world, which meant they could revisit old locations to discover new things, but Shining Force III forces players in one direction from the moment you begin all the way to the end. However, the depth of the gameplay combined with the ability to change the outcome of key events in all three scenarios more than made up for this shortcoming. Fans should settle for nothing less than the complete Shining Force III (all three scenarios). The truth is Shining Force III Scenario 1 only scratched the surface of the complete story.

Bottom Line
     > If you're a fan of Strategy/RPGs or the Shining series itself, don't hesitate to buy this game at a reasonable price (of course, the definition of reasonable will vary from person to person). I won't let the language barrier stand between me and my enjoyment; don't let the Japanese text stop you from loving this game either now that fan translations are available. Shining Force III, as a whole, is more than deserving of an RPG fan's attention. In SF3's entirety, it is one of those landmark Strategy/RPG's mainstream gamers will never even know exists unless some all-powerful mind-controlling force, otherwise known as the mass media, shoves it in their face. I only wish this trilogy wasn't so expensive now and didn't risk becoming more so in the future by virtue of its increasing rarity. Shining Force III Scenario 2 itself is perhaps the best of this three part game, owing to some intense battles not found in the other parts, but Shining Force III Scenario 3 is longer...
Overall: 9.5 | Graphics: 9.4 | Control: 9.5 | Sound: 9.6 | Fun: 9.6
~ Geoffrey Duke ~


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