Shin Force | Sega Genesis Review

Shin Force > Systems > Sega Genesis > Reviews

Shin Force ~ Genesis ~
Geoffrey Duke
Climax Ent.
16 Megabit
Import / Domestic
1992 (Japan)
1993 (USA)
3/4 Top
Action / RPG
6 Button
Mega Key
     > Zelda notwithstanding, Landstalker is probably the best 16 bit action RPG available. It was Created by Climax (headed by Kan Naito), co producers of Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force, and creators of the indirect Saturn sequel Dark Savior and the Dreamcast RPG Climax Landers. That explains why certain characters from some of the former games make cameo appearances in latter game. Some say that Landstalker put Climax Entertainment on the proverbial map. And some even say we have yet to behold a true sequel. 

     > The hero of Landstalker is Nigel, a free spirited elf, skilled swordsman and seasoned treasure hunter who has a voracious appetite for adventure. His youthful appearance belies the fact that he's 78 years old and causes people to underestimate his abilities. How advantageous. Easily overcoming the perilous trap infested Jypta ruins, Nigel finally finds his prey, the statue of Jypta. After all, dodging huge boulders and making death defying leaps across mountainous ruins couldn't be easier for one such as Nigel. After selling the statue to a collector and becoming 2000 gold pieces richer, he meets -- well bumps into a fairy called Friday trying to escape her own hunters. She mentions knowing the location of King Nole's treasure, and with no other words necessary, Nigel swiftly hides her from her would be capturers. Nigel pays a huge bird to fly them to a distant island where this long forgotten treasure lies in wait. And although 2000 gold pieces poorer, together they begin an adventure beyond their wildest dreams.

     > The description action RPG entails jumping platforms, some moving, others falling, killing endless hordes of armored warriors with a single sword; prying open treasure chests and solving a myriad of puzzles that involve moving things around, some inanimate some animate. Well, Landstalker safely falls into that category but in isometric fashion. You assume the role of Nigel, visit villages, buy stuff, help locals; explore dungeons, and hunt for valuable items all towards the same end: finding the hidden treasures of King Nole. The setting is a stereotypical sword and sorcery fantasy world where evil comes in the form of monsters and man alike. Slashing hostile creatures to death yields gold pieces or items. You don't gain levels in order to sharpen your skills, but rather collect life stock -- golden hearts to increase your hit points, find superior swords and amour to improve your attacking and defensive capabilities, as well as mastering Nigel's agility. Amassing life stock not only  raises your health, but increases the power of your sword swipes as well. Don't think Friday is useless ether; she's always brimming with advice. Plus, whenever you die she brings you back to life, if you have EkeEke restorative herbs in your backpack which can be bought and found. The game can be saved at a church alter which are usually located in towns. Likewise, you can rest at inns to replenish your health, but not without paying first. Indeed, gold pieces are vital if you want the greater survival benefits of helpful items and services.

     > Landstalker is a 2D isometric game which means you move Nigel around in diagonal directions. The graphics are rendered in 2D but the isometric viewpoint adds depth to any given area. So much so that it creates the convincing illusion of 3D. Many dungeons are huge, intricate and multi-layered. The angles will become clear once you get used to the isometrical perspective. A moving platform might seem difficult to pinpoint but that's all part of the fun. Plus, such platforms, or any diagonal area can be lined up with another. The diagonal maps also conceal things behind scenery, redefining the term hidden. 

     > Now, I've read a number of negative reviews that compare Landstalker's graphics to modern games. No wonder they are so negative. Games should always be compared within the confines of their own time. So, even though the Genesis has a limited color pallet and can only display 64 colors at once, Landstalker is still impressive for its time. Everything is seen close up -- closer than typical top down RPGs. The graphics are colorful, neat and adequately paint detailed environments (that was a metaphor by the way). The generic sprites animate well considering how many frames of animation they have, especially particular enemies (like the huge, burly, bulky knights). The artwork is very imaginative given its Japanese anime origins, and every sprite is drawn to accommodate all isometric angles. Nigel is animated smoothly too, but we should expect nothing less from an RPG main character. I love his jumping posture, and the way his sword leaves a trail whenever he swings it.

     > Holding down up and right on the D-pad will walk Nigel in that direction. While he's facing that direction, pressing either up or right will also continue to move him that way. Holding down diagonal angles is the key to readjusting Nigel. Pressing A or C will swing Nigel's sword, talk to people or search things nearby, and B leaps Nigel into the air. Obviously, the D-pad gives a jump a much needed direction. Nigel is a dexterous rogue and so he can jump again as soon as he lands on a viable surface. Hopping platform to platform in quick succession is sometimes necessary. The time from hitting the jump button to jumping occurs without delay. Good for timing jumps off the very edge of something. All movement controls are just as responsive. The attack buttons will pick up crates and such so that you can stack them and reach higher places, or throw them on switches. Overall, excellent controls. 

     > Pressing the start button brings up the screen-sized item/weapon menu. You can use items via the menu or switch weapons/amour/boots/rings around. Very convenient.

     > Combat is constant but battles often require quick reflexes. If an enemy touches you, they harm you, so avoidance is a must. Hitting the attack button constantly won't necessarily win a fight. Plus, enemies attack from all angles, or throw projectiles at you. They lunge at you, strafe and even teleport. The controls are sensitive but flexible; practice makes perfect. The most effective fighting strategy is to move around enemies while stopping to attack, or timing attacks from one angle. The number of successful hits an enemy needs before being killed depends on how strong you are.

     > Apparently, the music was composed by Motoaki Takenouchi, the same composer who worked on Shining Force II. Perhaps someone else would be better suited to describe the music. I can only tell you that the music is some of the best I've heard on this console (it's easily in the top of its class), and covers a whole range of themes including dramatic boss encounters as well as changes of pace. I keep thinking of the music tracks as MIDI-orchestral music for some reason (an orchestra playing in MIDI format). Maybe because I know no other way of describing it. The dungeon tracks are the most memorable in my opinion. How are tombs haunted by undead guardians of the past and other unspeakable horrors meant to sound like? Certainly not lively that's for sure. The music matches the mood of each location very well. There's calm, happy almost relaxing town music, and a main chaotic dungeon tune you'll hear a lot in your travels as you're raiding all the trap-and-monster-infested dungeons in the area for treasure, which somehow manages to remind you that you're not in a safe place and should stay alert, lest you invite your own death. I can't criticize the music.

     > The game sounds mesh with the music and play at the right moments. They aren't muffled. Damaged and dying creatures make the appropriate screams and shrieks. Ringing sounds represent Friday's text dialogue, but lower pitched sounds play during general dialogue. Everything else from jumps to sword slashes are included.

     > You basically move from one town to the next, talk to people, solve a problem or two, acquire an essential item and then move onto the next area. But it's never quite that simple. The dungeons are as challenging as they are rewarding. The Greenmaze, for example, is indeed a maze. I spent hours trying to find my way out! Many dungeons have similar obstacles to bypass, like platforms held in mid-air over spiked floors, or bottomless pits, or boiling magma. Combine those with monsters, locked doors, button puzzles; crate puzzles, floating spiked balls and bosses, and you'll get the picture. However, no two dungeons are the same. Plus, the game world is huge and non-linear. You can always go back to places you've visited and discover new things, and there are even quests unrelated to the main plot.

     > The towns are large and bustling with people, especially Mercator which is host to many mini games. At Greenpea's Gaming Emporium you can gamble for wealth by throwing a small boulder on one of three small platforms moving in the air at different speeds. If your boulder lands on the fastest platform, you win the most money. Of course, like any gambling establishment, if you win too many times, you get kicked out! 

     > The game seems to revolve around item collection, but the innumerable NPCs instill character into the journey. The main plot is refreshing; there are no kingdoms to save from certain doom, just you scouring the land for treasure. However, you get swept up by problems that stand between you and that goal. There's some good character development in the game: Nigel's sole interest is wealth, yet he thrives on adventure. His friendship with Friday grows as the pair venture into the unknown. The two are always interacting with each other and with the people they meet. Their identities shine to the point where you feel they actually have personalities of their own. Even the main villain has his own indomitable ambitions, and is more like Nigel than he'll ever know. Great stuff.

Bottom Line
     > Landstalker is an undeniable all time classic. Need I write more?
Overall: 9.4 | Graphics: 9.5 | Control: 9.5 | Sound: 9.0 | Fun: 9.5
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

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