Shining Force CD

Sega’s Shining Force for the Genesis was one of the first tactical RPGs released in North America, which they would follow up with a pair of gaiden titles for the Game Gear, although only the second of them would come to North America with the subtitle The Sword of Hajya. However, both games saw remakes on the Sega CD in the form of the collection Shining Force CD, with improved music and graphics. The collection generally retains the solid tactical gameplay of the Shining Force series, in spite of some flaws.

As in other games in the series and most tactical RPGs, battles are necessary to advance the story, with the player having up to twelve characters of different classes on a grid-based field to engage in combat with the enemy. The player’s characters and enemies take their turns depending upon agility, with the former having a number of commands to perform during their turns, including attacking the enemy, using magic (with spells having adjustable levels consuming different amounts of MP), using items, or simply staying put. Most commands earn characters experience, with a hundred points necessary to level, increasing a character’s stats.

To win a battle, the player must defeat either all enemies or simply the leader enemy on the map. If the hero dies, the player loses the battle and goes back to town with half the party’s money lost. When characters reach level ten, the player can promote them to an upper class (necessary to equip the best weapons), although doing so right away usually isn’t a good idea, since they can level up to twenty in their default class, and some stat losses occur upon promotion. The battle system is solid overall, with only a few flaws such as some difficulty in leveling weaker characters and no turn order meter.

The interface is okay, with a structure more linear than that in other Shining Forces, what with simpler town/camp exploration in between battles and the ability to tell how equipment affects characters’ stats before buying it, although the endless dialogue and confirmations while changing equipment, reviving characters, saving, and so forth, can get annoying.

While Shining Force CD is a collection of remakes, both almost completely reuse the tactical battle system of the original game, albeit with some minor changes such as simpler town exploration. The plot also reuses elements from the original game, and ultimately, the gaidens in many respects feel like a retread.

The story of both games is okay, linking decently to the original game, what with a few familiar faces and some of the new playable characters being relatives of those from the first installment. There are also some decent twists, even if some plot elements are reminiscent of those in the first game. Marring the plots, however, is the somewhat unprofessional translation, with plenty of name inconsistencies between the first game and the gaidens present. Even so, both games’ stories were okay for their time, if nothing more.

The soundtrack by Motoaki Takenouchi is perhaps the strongest aspect of the remakes, with plenty of orchestrated tracks including several remixes of a solid central theme. There is also a minimal amount of voiced narration, which is decent, although the orchestrated music clashes with some occasional primitive-sounding pieces, such as the themes that play when reviving or promoting characters. Still, a superb-sounding game.

The remakes mostly use the second Shining Force’s graphics, not that this is a bad thing, as they still look solid on the Sega CD, with vibrant colors, environments, and character sprites, even if the sprites are somewhat low in detail. The battle scenes are nice as well, even if the characters don’t always look like their portraits, and ultimately, the graphics very well serve their purpose.

Finally, each of the two “Books” of the collection takes a little over ten hours to complete, although a third Book becomes available after beating both remakes that can add a few more hours to playing time, along with a fourth Book accessible if the player finds a certain item. All in all, Shining Force CD is a solid collection, retaining the fun gameplay of the Shining Force series while also featuring nice music and graphics, but it’s not without its flaws, such as a clunky interface and rushed localization. Though over a decade old, the remakes are actually more enjoyable than even many contemporary tactical RPGs, and definitely rank among the strongest titles on the Sega CD.

The Good:
+Solid battle system.
+Good music and graphics.

The Bad:
-Interface is somewhat clunky.
-Translation is a bit unprofessional.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Sega CD
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 5/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 6/10
Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 7/10

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