RPG fans like nothing more than to take control of a character or group of characters, and immerse themselves fully in a fantasy world where they can increase their character’s stats, find magical and rare weapons, and rescue a kingdom or two. It’s pure hero fantasy…and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention is a fantasy turn-based tactical RPG. It was developed by Climax Entertainment and Camelot Co. Ltd., and published by Sega in 1992 in Japan, and 1993 in North America and Europe. Released on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, it would later be released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 (under the title of Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon), Wii Virtual Console in 2007, iOS in 2010 (discontinued in 2015), and Windows, Linux and Mac (Steam) in 2011. It can also be found as part of the Sega Smash Pack Volume 1 on the Dreamcast, Sega Smash Volume 2 for Microsoft Windows, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. For this review, I revisited the version found as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3.
Millenia ago, in the Kingdom of Rune, a battle between good and evil took place. Dark Dragon, who led the forces of evil, was defeated by the Warriors of Light who cast him into an alternate dimension. Dark Dragon vowed to return in 1000 years to once more wreak havoc in Rune. 1000 years later, in which time peace and tranquillity existed in Rune, the Kingdom of Runefaust attacked Rune hellbent on helping Dark Dragon to return.
A young man named Max, who lives in the Kingdom of Guardiana, is sent to defeat the evil warrior Kane and his army. Along with an army of his own, Max soon discovers that Darksol is behind the plot and pursues him throughout Rune to stop Dark Dragon’s ressurection.
Just so there is no confusion, Dark Sol from Shining in the Darkness (1991) is the son of Darksol and Mishaela from this game, meaning that Shining Force is a prequel to Shining in the Darkness (1991).
Meet Your Party:
Max (You): Max is human and an all-round fighter, both fast and accurate. If things are looking bleak during a battle, he can cast Egress to whisk your party away to safety. Be warned, if Max is defeated in battle, you automatically lose the confrontation, and are sent back to your last save spot minus half your gold! To prevent this, keep an eye on his health and don’t be afraid to use Egress or keep a supply of Angel Wings for each member of your party (Angel Wings have the same use as Egress).
Luke: Luke is a dwarf and a great warrior. He cannot cast spells and his movement is limited, but he is strong.
Ken: Ken is a centaur and a good fighter. Centaurs have quite a long movement range so be careful he doesn’t go too far and get separated from the group.
Tao: Tao is a young elf who is training to be a mage. As she gains experience, she will be able to cast spells from afar but she is weak in hand-to-hand combat. Make sure your protect her.
Hans: Hans the Elf is an archer, perfect for ranged attacks. Again, protect him from hand-to-hand combat.
Lowe: Lowe is a halfling priest. Although weak in attack, his skill lies in healing your party during battles.
There are nine other characters who will join your party along the but you’ll have to wait to meet them to find out who they are.
For the most part, the game takes place from an almost top-down view, in the traditional Japanese-style of RPGs. There are no labyrinths, and only a few puzzles to solve. You must make your way through various towns and through the overworld map in pursuit of Darksol. In the towns, you can talk to the citizens, some of whom offer insights to help you progress. You can buy and sell weapons and items from the shops to assist you on your quest. You can also find priests who can resurrect fallen characters, cure them of various ailments, promote those who have reached level 20, and record your progress.
Unlike many other RPGs, there are no random battle encounters as such, but there are areas where you can find battles should you wish to increase your stats before progressing in the game.
Battles take place on a square-grid system. Depending on their stats, characters can only move a certain number of squares at one time. Depending on your proximity to an enemy, you can either attack with a weapon, cast a spell, use an item or choose to do nothing. If you are adjacent to a member of your own party, you can swap items. This does not class as a move, and so items can be exchanged without losing your turn.
When an attack occurs, a beautifully animated action scene appears with a blue dialogue screen explaining damage inflicted or sustained, and experience points and money earned etc. When an enemy is hit by your weapon or spell, your attacking character will earn experience points for themselves. When an enemy is defeated, a larger amount of experience points will be awarded to your attacking character and the money earned will be added to your party’s kitty. For every 100 points accrued, that character will level-up increasing their attack, defence, MP, agility etc. Once a character reaches level 20, they can be promoted to a different class of fighter.
How Does It Handle?
With intuitive menu system that is identical to Shining in the Darkness (1991), you’ll have no issues learning to how to play this game. This instalment is linear in story so you won’t find yourself going back to the same areas to solve puzzles and gather dirty information which some feel make this game a bit too easy.
What can I say other than this game looks beautiful. The overworld map and village scenes are bright and vibrant, and detailed with clear distinction between the sprites and environment. The fight scenes are beautifully illustrated and animated with incredible looking sprites, action shots and backgrounds. I really cannot compliment this game enough on its graphics. For me, they are superior to games like Final Fantasy V (1992), Treasures of the Savage Frontier (1992) and Paladin’s Quest (1992). However, by the time this game reached North America and Europe, the SNES was beginning to take the graphics up a notch with games like Secret of Mana (1993) and Illusion of Gaia (1993). Had Shining Force been released a year or two later, it would have looked a but dated.
The only thing that lets this game down for me, is the music. By 1992, both Nintendo and Sega had released games with fantastic 16-bit soundtracks like Super Mario World (1990) and Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) respectively. Now I know that these are different genres from Shining Force, but it is an indication of how good the music could be in games. I just feel that Shining Force loses a few marks in this department.
Not all your army will gain the highest possible levels. This means you may wish to play through again and ensure characters who didn’t achieve their potential, do so a second time round just to see what they are like. This adds some replay value to this game.
Did I Complete The Game?
What The Critics Said:
Mean Machines Sega: “A beautifully crafted piece of Megadrive software with just the right balance of action and adventure to satisfy all needs. Overall 91%”.
Sega Power: “A beautifully produced RPG. Great tactical battle sequences. Loads of unique, cute characters, speedy gameplay and lots to see ‘n’ do. Gorgeous to play and look at. Overall 89%”.
Megatech: “Finely presented combination of exploration and fighting leads Shining Force to victory. Overall 90%”.
Mega: “Huge, gorgeous looking, and absorbing. I’ll never scoff at an RPG again. Overall 92%”. 
“Blood, death, war, rumpy-pumpy, TRIUMPH!!! I love this game. Shining Force looks beautiful with great graphics, illustrations and animations with plenty of different characters to get to know. The chess-like manoeuvring during battles is challenging and enables you to prepare your army for strategic assaults on the enemy. However, hardened RPG players may find this game a tad easy though.”
What are your memories of Shining Force? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Mega Drive Review – Shining Force’. Mean Machines Sega. (May 1993). Issue 8: 74-6.
 ‘Mega Drive Review – Shining Force’. Sega Power. (July 1993). Issue 44: 58-9.
 Davies, P., ‘Mega Drive Review – Shining Force’. Megatech. (May 1993). Issue 17:76-8.
 ‘Game Review – Shining Force’. Mega. (June 1993). Issue 9:54-5.