> Shining Wisdom is arguably the weakest of all the Shining
games seen so far, but nothing changes the fact that it's an entertaining
old-school Action/RPG nonetheless. That's right, it's an Action/RPG; you
wander the land as a lonesome warrior slashing and stabbing anything foolish
enough to cross your path with your trusty sword, as opposed to partaking
in the usual strategic turn-based battle Shining
Force games that have made this series so great. Still, it's refreshing
to see a single series of RPGs explore different avenues of gameplay. Shining
Wisdom is the very first Saturn Shining game, which in terms
of storyline, continues not long after Shining
Force 2 ended. It was developed by Sonic Software Planning
(the name Camelot used when making games for Sega), a developer
that needs no introduction.
> The American version was translated by Working Designs. As a result,
there are a few translation errors in the American script absent from the
U.K. one due to name ownership problems. Parmacia, a familiar setting to
any Shining fan and the context in which Shining Wisdom itself
is set, is mistranslated as Palacia, for example. Americans would also
recognize Kazin and Sarah, heroes from Shining Force 2, if they
weren't named Parn and Sala, respectively. Sega legally own the
authentic names so Working Designs needed to work around them. Thus,
fabricated names were born.
> You take control of Mars, the son of a heroic knight who saved your homeland
of Odegan from an evil black dragon long ago. Defeating the dragon cost
Sir Jiles his life, yet his death was not in vain. Can you live up to your
father's grand legacy and ensure that evil is purged from the kingdom once
again? Ever since the death of your parents you've been living with your
grandparents. Thanks to your father's reputation, an opportunity to prove
your own worth has arisen -- as a guard at Odegan castle. However, not
all is as it seems, nor is your homeland safe. Pazort, a whispered to be
ancient dark elf wizard, plans to wreak havoc upon the innocent by resurrecting
something even older and darker. And yet, few are willing or strong enough
to stand against him, let alone thwart his plans. So, the weight of the
world rests on the shoulders of an aspiring young knight...
> Shining Wisdom is a non-linear Action/RPG: your ability to explore
is only hindered by the items you possess. You'll need to find special
items, which grant the user specific skills, in one area in order to navigate
your way to/through the next, or a place you've already visited. Who minds
going back and forth if you're free to do so, right? The mole claw, for
example, allows your character to dig beneath sandy earth to dig underground
tunnels (when tunneling is possible) to wherever you need to go, and some
areas cannot be explored without it because the path forward will otherwise
be blocked. You basically fight your way through monster-ridden dungeons
filled with the standard Action/RPG obstacles inseparable from this RPG
sub-genre such as moving platforms, pitfalls, spikes rising up from the
ground and an occasional puzzle including fetch-quests and quests that
require pushing things (like statues) into their proper place all in the
name of righteousness. Life energy comes in the form of flaming life bubbles
instead of hit points. More can be found in your travels of course. Monsters
defeated at your hands drop money, life replenishing energy, or the occasional
handy item. There are towns filled with helpful inhabitants to point you
in the right direction (well just one large town actually, and another
that's empty for most of the game) where you can save your progress, talk
to people about your quest, and buy items you may or may not recognize
from previous games in this series to pull you back from the brink of death.
Healing herbs restore lost life, as they always have, and angel wings will
either teleport you back to the entrance of a dungeon area, or all the
way back home if used outside such areas in the main map. Both items have
the same picture icons as they did in the earlier games as if someone is
trying to remind us of their heritage.
> Should a 32 bit console be generating 2D graphics? I don't see why not.
Everything is rendered in colorful 2D magnificence similar to the Genesis
prequels, but the Saturn's larger color pallet generates a smoother,
vibrant, neatly outlined environment.
> The top down view is back but the character sprites are bigger. They
seem CGI rendered to me, with protruding features that are clearly delineated
from their surroundings thanks to the smooth edges. They pixelate when
viewed close up, though. They are colorful, shaded, short and rounded.
Cartoony yes, but polished and fluidly animated, especially the main character.
> Should 32 bit RPGs be text-based? Again, I fail to see why not; reading
isn't a thing of the past yet. The traditional portraits appearing in the
upper left corner when someone important speaks/starts a dialogue makes
a comeback from the Genesis games. Of course, it's just an excuse
to put well drawn pieces of artwork into the game! The blue text box that
appears at the bottom of the screen and text font is the same as the previous
games too, just in a sharper resolution and deeper colors.
> When you begin you are greeted by a fairy (she also appears in Shining
Force III). Options include start, continue, delete save file,
or copy. Notice that with the exception of Shining
the Holy Ark, every Shining game thus far has someone who
greets the player at the beginning, and says good-bye at the end. I don't
mind being inundated with similarities.
> Shining Wisdom may be a "Zelda-clone" technically speaking
(comparisons are inevitable), but it's by no means a bad one. Some people
wouldn't be so quick to complain about this being an (old-school) Action/RPG
had remained a part of the Shining series (as some of you may already
know, Landstalker was originally going to be called Shining Rogue
before Camelot/Sonic Co and Climax drifted apart). The gameplay
is similar in many respects.
> The controls are simple: A uses an item, B runs/activates magical orbs,
and C attacks/uses a special item. The Start button lets you select items
for use. You have to tap the B button in order to gain speed (as shown
by a speed monitor at the top of the
then hold it down to maintain that speed, and pick a direction with the
D pad. You can ram into enemies this way, but it's awkward if you want
to run and jump off an edge with the aid of the spring shoes, or make multiple
running jumps (presumably, your right thumb would be holding the B button
down so you'd need to reposition your fingers to adapt, or quickly slide
your thumb over to the C button). However, the X, Y,
Z run buttons alleviate this problem. Enemies are hardly sparse, especially
on the overworld map, so avoiding them while running isn't easy. The controls
are sensitive but perfect for quick reaction and movement.
> The music is synthesized by the Saturn sound chip, and builds
atmosphere wherever you are. It's reasonably varied and sets the appropriate
mood, mostly a sense
urgency, but mysterious slow silent music is in there, too. The outdoor
music is quite catchy.
> The sound effects are so good that there's little surprise they were
reused in all the later Saturn Shining games (like Kahn's orb attack
in SF3 Scenario 1). They are piercing, crisp, and audibly represent
what they are trying to with crystal clarity. These
are distinctly diverse -- ranging from stabbing sword sounds to elemental
magic being unleashed.
> There are more than enough dungeons to explore, puzzles to solve, enemies
to kill and bosses to fight to keep fans of this dying genre glued to their
screen. Some dungeons will require you to put all the skills you've learned
and items you've obtained to the test. I especially love making death defying
leaps. Who doesn't? The bosses, who are usually the guardians of some treasured
item and require strategic thinking and fast-acting responses to stop in
their tracks, don't disappoint either; wielding your full repertoire of
items as weapons is sometimes demanded of you when fighting against them.
Countless items are also hidden away and can only be found with the help
of the skills granted to you by special items. They open up more doors
for you, metaphorically speaking. The slide shoes grant you the ability
to slip through cracks in the sides of canyons or hillsides that would
normally be inaccessible without them, for instance. Also, many dungeons
have such extra areas on their many levels, so going back later when new
tools have found their way into your inventory is rewarding by itself.
> The most interesting items in Shining Wisdom are the elemental
orbs. These magical orbs can be used in conjunction with other special
items, producing spectacular results. Using the stone boots that normally
breaks weak flooring with the Fire Orb produces a rising nuke effect, burning
everything in the immediate vicinity. Sweet. Combining the Shining Sword
with the Freeze Orb releases icy spears in a chosen path hurting anything
in their wake. Who said it was just a sword?
> Bookshelves in Odegan castle contain books that refer to Bowie and his
Shining Force (army of light) defeating the devil king Zeon. However,
the American translation is off by miles calling them "Puck" and "Zhaion",
in the aforementioned order. I've only played the U.K. version (translated
by Sega of Europe), but American gamers didn't deserve to miss out
on those references. The Shining games often have books in shelves
that speak of events in previous games and that tie them all together.
Shining Wisdom is no different in that respect.
> Shining Wisdom reveals many layers of depth if you're willing
to delve into it.
Geoffrey Duke ~
8.9 | Graphics: 9.0 | Control: 8.5 | Sound: 9.0 | Fun: 9.0