Shining Force II
Review by Stygian Ablyss
"A classic game, with a few minor flaws"
One of the greatest games Sega has ever released, one that will remain in your memory forever after you play it.
When I started playing this game, it got me hooked immediately. It was pretty unique at the time, and it was a huge step forward from the first game. One of the best Genesis games ever released, though it's not completely perfect (it is near perfect though).
Gameplay (10) :
The combat system is excellent. Shining force 2 is pretty rare in this regard, as it's combat system is rather different from most rpgs, with some exceptions (such as Final Fantasy tactics). Walking over certain areas will trigger combat, and here is where it stands out: Your party, called ''the force'', is placed on a battlefield, with you on one side (though it is not always the case) and the enemy on the other side. You take turns to move your characters, much like moving characters in a chess battle, but the similarities end here. You can cast spells to attack opponents, move to attack them, use an item, and attacking any opponent takes you to a screen where the battle is played out. Terrain affects your movement, though unfortunately, it doesn't go beyond that. Much of the battle requires strategic moves, attacks and retreats, hence it is very much like a strategy game. There is a character limit of 12 player characters, though there are 30 characters you can get in this game. While the limit may seem small, it just makes overcoming the odds (and there are always more enemies) more satisfying. Having all 30 characters in play can also prove to be a hassle, requiring too much micromanagement for each character, as each individual character have to be taken care of so that they will be ''fighting fit''. Combat with all 30 character may be too messy as well. Enemy AI is good, in that they stay defensive and go offensive at the right moments (a little too defensive maybe). Note that you may also stumble on some secrets during combat!
When out of combat, you walk around, and enter towns, talk to locales, much like standard RPGs. Characters can be promoted upon reaching level 20 to a higher class, and there are even secrets regarding the promotion. One great aspect of this game is it's secrets, which made it far superior to the prequel, whose secrets have little practical use (except secret characters, which shining force 2 has plenty). Out of combat you can roam around freely, visiting towns, exotic locations (including a town ''in'' a volcano, ruined temples, springs, etc). Secrets are found through careful exploration while out of combat, but some secrets can be found during combat. Much of this freedom of movement separates it from its predecessor and from later, similar games (Final fantasy tactics, for example)In my opinion, the battle system of shining force 2, plus the freedom of movement when you are out of combat, puts Final Fantasy tactics to shame (but tactics is a good game, nevertheless). The one thing less than satisfying about this game, though, is the inventory system. Each character can only hold 4 items, one of which is a weapon and a ring (if applicable or if equipped with one, as some characters don't need weapons). Also, there is a noticeable lack of any body armour or shields that can be equipped, though gameplay does not really suffer as a result.
Graphics (10) :
The graphics are excellent, and look good even by today's standards. Characters are well drawn (though portraits are a bit on the cartoony side), sprites are well animated, and the battle/combat scenes are well drawn, and spell effects are also well done.
Storyline (9) :
Excellent, with a good number of plot twists. The storyline setup is pretty standard though - Evil god wants to try take over the world. Good gods try to stop him. Good guy helps good gods. Evil god captures pretty princess. Good guy eventually defeats evil god, saves princess and marries her. The plot twists make it interesting though.
On the whole, the music is good (has a somewhat repetitive soundtrack though, since almost all towns sound the same, and there are not many variations of the battle music), sound effects are good, though there were not many variations for the sounds as well (most physical attacks have the same sound effect, considering that a sword slash should sound quite different from a staff striking the opponent). But it was created in the Genesis era, and such sound effects are already very good considering the hardware available then.
Due to the fact that you have the ''egress'' spell, the game can become rather simple as you can always teleport out of trouble, heal and level up. But with 4 different difficulty levels and a good enemy AI, you can get all the challenge you need. The last difficulty, in particular, is not for the faint-hearted!
Replay (10) :
As mentioned before, there are 4 different difficulty levels. Each difficulty represents a greater challenge, another milestone to cross. Plus with so many characters, you can always try to win with a different party combination. Secrets and multiple promotions allow for more exploration after your first completion, and due to the strategic nature of the battles, they can be played in different ways as well.
A rare gem, definitely a classic that you keep you coming back for more. If you like rpgs with strategic elements, this game is definitely for you. Even if you are just an rpg fan, this game is definitely one of the best you will ever play.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/01/01, Updated 04/01/01
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