Shining Force II - Reader Retroview  

Visible in a Big City at Night
by JuMeSyn

40-45 hours


Rating definitions 

   1994 was a pivotal year in many ways. The Republicans swept the House of Representatives in the US with their Contract with America, Kim Il Sung died and was succeeded by Kim Jong Il, Rwanda exploded in a genocidal killing frenzy, Russia started its ongoing fighting with Chechnya… and a few very good RPGs were released. The Sega Genesis never had anything close to the RPG support granted the Super Nintendo but it had a few quality titles, and Shining Force 2 definitely qualifies as ‘quality’. The game represents a dramatic leap over its predecessor and is a superior Tactical RPG experience for any prospective player.

   Shining Force 2 finds the annoying aspects of Shining Force 1 by and large removed, leaving a most enjoyable battle system. The play style wisely does not tinker much with what was established in SF1 beyond granting a few additional options and toning down the most egregious faults. The battles still take place with up to 12 characters on the player’s side against usually about twice their number of enemies, with 100 experience being necessary to go up a level and the amount of experience gained from an enemy decreasing as a character gets stronger. Magic is still gained as levels go up, characters killed in battle can be revived afterwards for a small charge, only the fall of the leader means a battle’s loss, and variety among the units is the order of the day. In Shining Force 2 Bowie (the leader of the Shining Force) will have a bow knight, a robot, a cute little monster that could be a Pokemon precursor, birdmen, centaurs, mages, axe-wielding dwarves, and a rat who becomes a ninja under his command, with more in addition to the above-mentioned.

Big Bird finally loses control. Big Bird finally loses control.

   As a refinement of Shining Force 1 rather than presenting any dramatic departure, SF2 cannot be ascribed too original a merit. This is most obvious when one looks at its story, which is barely more complicated than SF1’s. In essence: someone stole two jewels keeping a great demon named Zeon sealed, and with his power loosed evil floods the land. There are departures along the way from this central tangent but the story is hardly great. It even incorporates everyone’s favorite RPG cliché of the kidnapped princess! Once again, unfortunately, after a character joins the force s/he shuts up through most of the game. Bowie (who very rarely says anything) and Peter the Phoenix are the only exceptions to this rule, along with Astral who becomes the Force’s advisor. Menus are clear and uncluttered, with the Shining Force 1 unfortunate necessity of constantly transferring items from the leader’s possession to others being eliminated. In typical Camelot fashion options are given an icon to give the player an idea of what will happen even if the player chooses not to read the text. Speaking of the text, Sega of America managed to make everything comprehensible but no more. The text has little flair and plenty of minor to moderate grammatical errors to make interpreting the precise meaning something of a job. Shop menus are mostly free of this, fortunately.

   Music is adequate, but dragged down by too many mediocre compositions to warrant extended listening. Sound effects are typical Genesis fare. Visuals are somewhat improved from 1, with the battle animations that are a Shining Force trademark being rather better. The Genesis is not quite pushed to its limits graphically, but considering the quantity of content featured in Shining Force 2 it is understandable.

   There are 47 battles in Shining Force 2. Early battles go by quickly, although it is recommended that one use Bowie’s egress spell to be more prepared for the quick rise in enemy power. Not much outside of battle will sap the player’s time, save perhaps for forging mythril weapons and wending through one annoying labyrinth near the end. The battles take up quite a bit of time however. Once completed there is no real reason to replay save for trying out additional characters however.

How will I get the sled into the air? How will I get the sled into the air?

   Challenge depends upon one’s experience with Tactical RPGs. Certain battles will be a challenge no matter what the player does, but with a certain ruthlessness regarding the loss of characters in the battle party victory can frequently be achieved without the utmost effort. The necessity of guarding Bowie from enemies that will seek him out is preeminent however.

   Shining Force 2 is the pinnacle of the Shining titles on the Genesis. This information is most likely insufficient for one with no experience in the Shining field, however. As a Tactical RPG it does a fine job of engrossing a player from beginning to end, provided one does not demand a complex story to go along with the delightful battles. To the RPGamer this would seem to describe, seek out Shining Force 2 for a superior experience.

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