Ever since I bought Advance Wars for the GBA, I’ve been facinated by strategy games. It’s a shame I didn’t get into the genre earlier. But over the last few years I’ve tried to make up for lost time and dive into some of the older titles that built up to the titles such as Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, and Final Fantasy Tactics.
One of the first groundbreaking title to make lay a foundation for the strategy world was Shining Force for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive. The developers, which would be later known as Camelot Software Planning, departed from the dungeon-crawling focus of Shining the Darkness, and took many of the conventions that were made popular in traditional Japanese RPGs, blended in deep strategy, and produced a game that felt like enhanced Chess with a fantasy-based story.
While additional chapters in the Shining Force series were produced over the next decade, the original was a high-quality production for an original title.
Graphics – 8
While the graphics weren’t anything to write home about compared to some of the later titles in the Genesis library, they were above average for such an early Genny title. However, I felt that they character art was fun and very defined — it felt fitting to the characters without being overly cliche.
Sound – 6
Nothing terribly exciting in the sound department. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing, but the battle music sticks in your head quite a bit. Once you play it for a few hours, you’ll be humming it for the next few days.
Control – 8
The controls are very complex — mostly moving you characters into place in order to perform the most cunning attacks on your opponents. It’s pretty standard fare — very similar to Advance Wars or FF Tactics.
Gameplay – 10
The gameplay and strategy is top-notch. It holds up against just about every newer title in the genre. It is challenging, but not frustrating. You will not breeze through the game unless you are a strategy uber-geek, but it won’t frustrate a newbie. The chanllenge seems to increase appropriately as you progress.
Affordability – 7
An original Genesis cartridge can be found on eBay for around $25, depending on what condition/completeness you would want. If you would like the GBA re-release, that can be found for about the same price.
If you are interested in Shining Force and the rest of the series, you may want to take a look at Shining Force Central. I think you’ll find them to have a comprehensive collection of Shining info.