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Shining Force III

Roll over, Grandia. Sega's 3D RPG astounds and excites players.

   Early in 1998, Sega was forced to make a difficult decision: should they port Game Arts' Grandia or Sega's Shining Force III as the Saturn's final RPG hurrah? The nod eventually went to Sega's game ("corporate politics," muttered Grandia fans). But "the game we got instead of Grandia" is certainly no slouch. It truly stands on its own as a quality (and, in its own way, revolutionary) RPG.

   Shining Force III continues the tradition of earlier games in the series, but bringing the environments into full 3D. Frame rate is excellent as towns rotate and pivot around your character. Battles take place on a traditional grid-type field. But when the actual attack occurs, the game switches to a polygonal engine that shows the two characters fighting "mano a mano." The attack or spell is executed in all its three dimensional glory, and then the game returns to the battle grid.

   The field engine is truly one of a kind (or of three, if you count the similar Grandia and Xenogears). The battle engine is far from stagnant (as are too many otherwise original RPGs). The Saturn may be dying, but with quality RPGs like this and Panzer Dragoon Saga, it's truly going out with a nuclear bang.

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