Shining Force II

A storm is gathering over the Kingdom of Granseal, and a thief steals a pair of jewels from ancient ruins, unknowingly releasing an ancient evil, as well as several disasters, across the land of Rune that a young student and his companions must stop. Sega’s Shining Force II saw its North American release in 1994, proving to be a solid sequel that largely retains the gameplay of its predecessor, with some minor improvements.

The tactical battle system is more or less the same as it was in the original Shining Force, with characters and enemies taking turns depending on speed and moving across a grid-based field to engage one another. Characters gain experience from performing most actions, leveling up after gaining a hundred experience points. This time around, promotion to an upper class requires a character to be at level twenty, with certain items allowing for different advanced classes in some instances. There are also some other minor differences from the first installment, such as player and enemy counterattacks, and the ability to forge powerful weapons with mithril.

The battle system is enjoyable for the most part and at times requires some thinking, since rushing head-on into the enemy, especially late in the game, is in most instances a losing strategy, with the protagonist’s death ending a battle and costing the player half his or her money. The presence of leader enemies in many battles, whose death means victory for the player, also adds strategy. Leveling at times, though, can be a bit unbalanced, and it can be difficult to get weaker characters up to speed in terms of experience; area-affecting spells, furthermore, have to be centered on characters and enemies to work. Still, combat is easily one of the game’s high points.

Interaction is acceptable, with a decent menu system and some improvements over the original Shining Force such as being able to see how much new equipment increases or decreases a character’s stats before purchasing it, although there are some shortcomings, such as the difficulty of exchanging items among characters, with each only able to carry four items, weapons and accessories included. World exploration is also much more open-ended than in the original, although it can sometimes be difficult to figure out how to advance without using a guide. Still, the interface is by no means bad, although it could’ve easily been better.

Shining Force II wasn’t a terribly inventive game in its time, largely reusing its predecessor’s gameplay, aside from the minor tweaks to combat and more open-ended world exploration, although the story in a few respects shows some semblance of creativity.

The story was okay in the game’s time, being a little deeper than others then, but nothing outstanding. The course of events the main cast encounters throughout the game is rather interesting, and there are maybe one or two good twists, although character development is scant at best, despite a large cast of some interesting and occasionally unique combatants. All in all, the plot has some things going for it, although its execution could’ve been better.

The soundtrack, however, is probably one of the best on the Sega Genesis, with composer Motoaki Takenouchi providing many superb tracks, such as the central theme, “Warrior of the Reviving Light,” and its remixes throughout the game. Most of the minor tracks, such as the character promotion theme, also shine. The quality of the tracks does leave something to desire, though, but the game is mostly pleasant to the ears.
The visuals are a slightly touched-up version of those from the first installment, with sharper colors, decent character designs, reasonably-proportioned character and enemy sprites, and most of all, stunning battle visuals, with characters and enemies now having dodge animations. There are a few palette swaps on both sides of battle, but otherwise the graphics are superb.

Finally, Shining Force II is somewhat longer than its predecessor, taking somewhere from twenty-five to thirty-five hours to complete, and different difficulty levels add a little replay value. All in all, Shining Force II is a solid sequel that in its time didn’t take any major risks, inheriting its predecessor’s enjoyable tactical gameplay while featuring some minor touchups to aspects such as its graphics and music. Though released several console generations ago, the sequel nonetheless bests even later Shining games, with Sega today unfortunately forgetting its glory days.

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