"Shining Force II doesn't stand out, rather it shines with greatness"

I must admit, for a game of its time, Shining Force II has held up well. A great storyline, customizable battle party, and promotion system all add to its uniqueness. This uniqueness is still as good, if not better than most new RPGs released today. Shining Force II can be played at any of four difficulties. The lowest three just increase AI of the monsters, while the highest difficulty has a large AI increase and boosts enemy attack power way up. Your team of heroes consists of any twelve of the thirty characters in the game (Bowie must be one of them).

I sometimes have to remind myself this game was released on Genesis. This wouldn't be necessary if the graphics weren't so good. At the time they were top of the line and still rank highly in terms of older games. Characters on the world map of the same general quality as Final Fantasy VI's characters were. In battle though, they are significantly better. Rather than a half inch tall character coming out and moving a joint to swing a sword; the characters entire body, occupying a good portion of the screen swings at an enemy. This detail is great, a pleasant change from other RPGs of the time. Spells look like, well I'll be... real spells, not just a ball expanding from the center of the screen to the edges. Everything from small brush fires to Greek gods to the Grim Reaper is included in the spells.

The music is great. The main theme which is played for most of the world map is fast, strong and harmonic. As you will be spending a lot of time on the world map, you will be pleased to know the song doesn't get old. There are two different attack themes for the heroes and two for enemies. While the soundtrack is limited in size compared to Final Fantasy games of the time, the quality is just as good if not a hair better on some songs.

Oww, what is that horrible sound? Oh, those are the effects. They're just so, similar. There's a sound something makes when it gets hit physically, when it dodges physically and when it dies on the world map. That is pretty much it for that aspect of the game. Spells have different sounds though, which is a good thing too, if they didn't this might go down as the only game in history with more music files than sound effects.

One weak point of the game is limited amount of commands included in it. In battle, characters can do one of four basic commands: attack, spell, item, stay. The maximum amount of spells for a character to learn is four, of which they can have a maximum of four levels of knowing the spell. These limited commands are a downfall to control. This is only the case in the U.S. Version of the game though. The lack of commands is partially due to the size of the game, which did not fit onto the cartridge when translated into English so some commands were cut out of the game.

Items! Items! Items! Shining Force II has a good deal of items involved. There is one glaring problem with the items though. Characters can only hold four of them, including what they are wearing. I don't want to claim to be an expert on inventory management here but, a ring would seem like you could wear it and still hold something in that hand, but apparently the designers thought differently. This is a real pain at times, especially early in the game. If you're someone who likes to save items, such as myself, you'll find yourself loading up your characters with items that have no function in battle. Another thing missing from Shining Force II are armors. Weapons and herbal accessories are the only things capable of being bought from shops.

The most unique feature is the promotion system. When a character in its low class reaches level twenty, that character is capable of being promoted to a higher class. Many characters have two classes they can be promoted too; however, the higher class often requires a magical item to do so. Each character can only be promoted once, while some can not be promoted at all.

The story is good though rather limited. There are a few sections of plot development which last for maybe ten minutes each. The game doesn't pick up much storyline until the second half, building up to a huge finish and an ending which has more story in it than most of the game had. The bulk of the thirty characters are totally irrelevant to the story, most saying no lines other than when you get them and during the ending. This is a sign there are too many characters for the story to support.

Regardless of having too many characters and not enough commands, Shining Force II pulls away from the pack of RPGs as one of the greatest ever created. Sadly, the game is rarely played as it was released on the Genesis console and was unable to pick up a large fan base. Once you pick this cartridge up, it may never leave your Sega Genesis.

Scores: For those who prefer numeric data.

Music: 10/10
Sound: 5/10
Graphics: 10/10
Control: 9/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Story: 8/10
Replay Value: 10/10

Challenge: Above average. With four difficulties to choose from, you can really make the game as easy as you wish. At the harder difficulties, this game can be a challenge for even the best RPG players.

Numerical Overall Average: 9/10
Personal Average: 10/10

This game isn't very easy to find anymore. If you find a copy, expect to still be paying thirty dollars for it. It is well worth it though. The game is thoroughly enjoyable and you will get your money worth.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/10/02, Updated 05/02/03

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