Shining Force CD - Reader Retroview  

A Bright Light in Sega CD’s Dim Tower
by JuMeSyn

40-50 hours


Rating definitions 

   Owners of the Sega CD were hard-pressed to unearth much quality software for the system. Despite Sega’s insistence upon the superiority of the CD format, at this early date developers were more concerned with silly point-and-click games using grainy video a la Night Trap. Buried beneath the bounty of boring and bad titles lurked a few good ones, however. Shining Force CD rises above the mass of Sega CD titles to become a good game on any system.

   Shining Force CD finds its origins in the Shining Force titles released on the Game Gear in the early 1990’s. Two of these were released and their content, with some enhancements, was released for SFCD (a third Shining Force title was released later on the Game Gear and never left Japan). Together these two Shining Force titles encompass 8 chapters and 40 battles. To link the games together a bit more a ninth chapter extant only in SFCD was created with six additional battles. And a final bonus battle was added as a sop to players who considered the earlier parts too easy. Seekers of a challenge will find themselves quite happy with this new content, particularly the final bonus battle against every boss in the game. Otherwise the difficulty stays a little below that of Shining Force II for the most part.

Foul!  Overuse of ellipses penalty - you're sitting the rest of the game out, Ken! Foul! Overuse of ellipses penalty - you're sitting the rest of the game out, Ken!

   The aesthetics of Shining Force CD are quite acceptable considering the limitations of the format. The Game Gear origins of the graphics have been surmounted to reach about the graphical quality of Shining Force II on the Genesis. Load times are thankfully not an issue on a system that was known for them, and the Shining Force battle sequences load quickly and consistently. Audio, as usual on Sega CD, is the standout. High-quality music plays through battles without a hiccup unless the player spends too long dithering, in which case the tracks (which can be played on a regular CD player) must start over. Sound effects are standard-issue for the time.

   The Shining Force battle system is here in all its glory. For the uninitiated who for some reason have made this the inaugural title, Shining Force is an uncomplicated Tactical RPG which allows the player to command up to 12 fighters marching and fighting on a battlefield. Fighters are varied, though a few later acquisitions are more-or-less clones of early characters. Experience is gained through smashing enemies in the battles, and 100 experience nets a level-up for a character. Spells are gained as levels increase, weapons are purchased outside of battle. There is one major difference between SFCD and Shining Forces that were developed from the start for consoles, and it is found outside of battle. In any other Shining Force battles are not constant and the player can visit towns and explore a bit outside of battle. Here the only out-of-battle bits occur when a new shop is found and the player can cross the screen to buy weapons and items, with a return to the other side of the screen bringing a resumption of battle.

   The story occurs between and sometimes during battles. It occurs with many characters from Shining Force 1 playing roles, so playing SFCD prior to Shining Force 2 is recommended if the stories in these games matter to the player. Book 1, the first Game Gear title, finds the player taking control of Prince Nick who is with his initially small Shining Force takes the task of fighting the fiendish Woldol who has attacked Guardiana with the goal of awakening a demon. Book 2, the second Game Gear title, finds Prince Nick defeated in battle some time after Book 1’s events, and Deanna leading a new Shining Force to the rescue – which eventually turns out to require the defeat of the demon Iom. Book 3 is a corollary to Book 2 which finds a new enemy appearing to be defeated with both Shining Forces acting together. Book 3’s villain is not a demon, however! The stories of Shining Force games in this era were never particularly inspiring, and Shining Force CD is no different.

Note how very much like Wendy's portait this figure looks - if Wendy is an old hag (hint: she isn't). Note how very much like Wendy's portait this figure looks - if Wendy is an old hag (hint: she isn't).

   At least the presentation is fine. Sega of America managed a perfectly respectable translation which conveys everything to the player without confusion. Some quibbles exist only if one plays this directly after Shining Force 1: a fellow named Lug plays a part in the first Book of Shining Force CD. There is no Lug in SF1, but there is a fellow named Luke – coincidence??? In typical Shining Force style interaction is easy thanks to minimally complicated controls.

   Not much about Shining Force CD can be labeled innovative, given that it essentially mimics the playing style of Shining Force 1. Its challenge varies from battle to battle, and goes up somewhat in Book 3. The standards of Tactical RPGs in general are far more challenging than this game however. Unless the leader of the Shining Force falls in battle victory is still possible, and even when the leader falls the consequence is to have one’s money halved and promptly be presented with the option of restarting the failed battle. Seekers of a serious challenge in a Tactical RPG are forewarned.

   The number of battles presented ensures that Shining Force CD is not a quick title to play through. 46 battles of Shining Force-style, with most of the later ones in each Book requiring a fair amount of time to complete, will probably take in the vicinity of 48 Hours (stop picking poor scripts, Eddie Murphy!) to deal with. Once done there is no real reason to replay except for a great liking of Shining Force. As exploration is nonexistent outside of battle there are no additional areas. The manual insists that the player search constantly for hidden characters, but there are only 4 in the entirety of the game. 4 hidden characters in 46 battles: although most are worthwhile to acquire, missing one or two is hardly sufficient justification to play through the whole thing again.

   Shining Force CD is one of – perhaps - a dozen worthwhile Sega CD titles. Had the system been granted more quality software perhaps more people would have bought it, just in time to have Sega abandon its old systems for the Saturn. The tribulations of Sega’s unsuccessful systems should cast no aspersions upon SFCD however, for it is a fine example of the classic Shining games and worthwhile to anyone with a liking for such. If only that final Game Gear Shining Force title had been included….

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