Review by The Manx

Reviewed: 01/23/04

A sequel that's actually better

The Shining series is a bit of a paradox. Rather than starting off with a great game and producing a string of sequels each one more half-assed than the last, it started off lousy and got better with each game.

First there was Shining in the Darkness. The whole game was dungeon crawl. Not very much fun. Then there was Shining Force, a strategy game where you could put together a party of heroes that at full size had 30 guys in it! Still, not too special in the graphics, sound, or gameplay departments, and with flat villains you didn't learn to loathe so much as see them as someone else in your way who needed a good beating. But then there was Shining Force 2...

It, like the game before it, is the story of a group of young warriors who must overcome an army of evil, in this case the army of Zeon, King of the Devils, who was freed when magic jewels were removed from the seal containing him. Your character, Bowie (or whatever you want to name him), will have to put together a team of warriors to defeat him.

That's your ultimate goal, anyway. A good part of the game is actually you going around trying to make friends with neighboring towns and warriors who will join your army. You'll fight devil bosses, attain new and flashier promotions for your characters, prove yourself to the gods and gain magical weapons to smite your foes while chasing the demons to their lair and sealing them away once again. All the while trying to rescue yet another captive princess (blargh).

The problem with having thirty heroes, though, is that you don't have the space to properly flesh more than a few of them out. I suppose this is fine for a game like Shining Force, where what they can do to monsters is more important than their background, but I like to play RPGs where I get to know my characters and feel a little pain if one bites it, so that brought this game down a little bit. Still, it's an improvement over the original in nearly every way.

The first Shining Force looked more like a Master System game with its 16 colors and 8-bitty graphics. Shining Force 2 is colorful and animated and near the pinnacle of Genesis graphics power.

No significant changes from the first game. You move each of your little guys around until they're close enough to attack a monster, then attack them. In between battles you move around towns, talk to people, and buy new weapons for the guys in your forward team and herbs for when your priests can't get there fast enough. Nothing new.

The sound from the original Shining Force was also something that belonged on the Master System. The sound in the sequel flows out a little better, and there are some memorable tunes that are atmospheric of where you are and what you're doing. Like if you're looking around Mitula's temple, a slow, slightly melodic tune that suggests otherworldliness plays.

This is where the game kind of sags. The game is linear, so except for the possibilty of experimenting with different teams and characters you overlooked before, not much will change if you beat the game then play it again. There are also higher difficulty levels, but the battles with the greater devils are often pretty tough even on the lowest setting, so I wouldn't recommend that except to devout strategy gamers.

It's a fun game. There's lots of characters to experiment with, good graphics and sound, and an intriguing story that will drag you into it. It's not the best swords and sorcery game out there, but you'll have fun if you give it a chance.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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