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Why Ruin a Good Thing?

The Fall of Three Great Series

Tom Hrabchak

Today's editorial is near and dear to my heart. In the 90s, I was a diehard follower of Sega. It started with Sonic the Hedgehog, but many titles on the Genesis platform and beyond really hooked me into thinking Sega was the best in the console wars. And what really cemented it for me were three tremendous RPG series originally released for Sega platforms. Lunar, Phantasy Star, and Shining Force.

Lunar many will remember as being the flagship RPG for the Sega CD, and one of the best games ever to grace what was essentially an undersold and overhyped system. Featuring an original story, fantastic characters, and hilarious writing, it will stand out as a classic among RPGs for ages.

Phantasy Star of course started out on the lowly Master System (Sega's answer to the NES), but really hit its stride with Phantasy Star II for the Genesis. Not only was this series one of the few to eschew tradtional medieval fantasy for a semi-sci-fi premise complete with psychic aliens, robots, and spaceships; the games were also known for intricate plots with many surprising turns. Say what you will about Aeris in FFVII, but to this day the fate of PS4's Alys affects me much deeper. I really felt for her and the other characters as though they were real people.

And then there's Shining Force. OK, so the series progenitor, Shining in the Darkness, really wasn't all that. But the "Force" line of Shining games really made a splash. For one thing, it was one of the few tactical RPGs in its day. For another, it managed to introduce a huge cast of playable characters and still develop them fully. And who can forget Jogurt?

You might be wondering what all this has to do with anything. Aside from being on Sega platforms originally, these three titles all have one thing in common. They've all been butchered in recent endeavours.

Lunar and Lunar II did well on Sega platforms, but really shone on the PlayStation One. But recently, the series has fallen apart. Lunar Legend was a passable if watered-down remake of the original classic. And then there's Lunar: Dragon Song. For its horribly broken gameplay and mashed up story, it's been rated by fans and major media alike as one of the worst RPGs ever made. That takes some work.

Phantasy Star...oh what happened? After PSIV: The End of the Millenium, fans eagerly awaited new material. And it came, long after, in the form of Phantasy Star Online. One of the first MMORPGs (and the first played on a console), it had a strong following that flittered out as the Dreamcast met an early demise. A later incarnation, Blue Burst, turned the beloved franchise into a online collectible card game. Phantasy Star Universe has some fans hopes up, but so far all I've seen is PSO all over again, and nothing to really hook me in.

And then there's Shining Force. Following the success of the first two games on the Genesis and Sega CD, Sega produced a number of valiant attempts to keep the series alive, none of which really got anywhere. The closest it came was probably just about a year ago, with Shining Tears (a non-strategy snoozefest of an RPG) and Shining Force Neo (an lukewarm attempt at an action RPG), and now, Shining Force EXA. Which, from all I've seen, appears to be Neo all over again.

It just boggles my mind. All three had perfect formulae. Lunar had lovable characters and challenging gameplay. Phantasy Star has a sweeping epic that could put any Square tale to shame. And Shining Force could well have been the perfect tactical game. Why, in each case, did the developers fix what wasn't broken? I think I can speak for a lot of fans when I say I'd slaver at the prospect of another Lunar, PS, or Shining Force in the vein of the old classic series. Why can't someone just bring them back? Is making a game players would like that hard to do? I'm all for innovation guys; but bring back the games I love!

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