Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention – Review

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!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Taking to people in the towns help you progress further in the game (Screenshot taken by the author)

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 is the son of Darksol and Mishaela from this game, meaning that Shining Force is a prequel to Shining in the Darkness.

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.

An easy to use menu system helps you keep track of the stats of your party (Screenshot taken by the author)

For the most part, the game takes place from an almost top-down view, in the traditional Japanese-style RPG. 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 given or accrued, 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.

This game has beautiful fighting animation scenes (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Did I complete the game?

Yes

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%.[1]

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%.[2]

Megatech: “Finely presented combination of exploration and fighting leads Shining Force to victory. Overall 90%.”[3]

My verdict:

“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.”

Rating:

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.


[1] ‘Mega Drive Review – Shining Force’. Mean Machines Sega. (May 1993). Issue 8: 74-6. (https://www.shiningforcecentral.com/content/magazines/magscan_7_1302171993.pdf Accessed 11th November 2020).

[2] ‘Mega Drive Review – Shining Force’. Sega Power. (July 1993). Issue 44: 58-9. (https://www.shiningforcecentral.com/content/magazines/magscan_8_1302172014.pdf Accessed 11th November 2020).

[3] Davies, P., ‘Mega Drive Review – Shining Force’. Megatech. (May 1993). Issue 17:76-8. (https://www.shiningforcecentral.com/content/magazines/magscan_9_1302172042.pdf Accessed 11th November2020).

Earthbound (Mother 2) – Review

RPGs are like Marmite. You either love ’em or you hate ’em. What tends to put gamers off is the investment needed to play through the game and many argue that the need to fight endless battles against minor minions to increase stats are a cheap way to ensure the longevity of a game. However, this is also what attracts many gamers. They fully immerse themselves in their chosen character and enter a world of pure escapism where they can be a barbarian, dwarf, mage, elf or countless other humanoid species.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan) is a single-player RPG developed by Ape Inc. and HAL Laboratory, and published by Nintendo. It is the second game in the Mother series, and was released in Japan in 1994 and North America in 1995 for the SNES and Game Boy Advance. In 2013, it was released on the Wii U Virtual Console. For this review, I played the version found on the SNES Mini.

The graphics suggest the game was designed for a younger audience (Screenshot taken by the author)

A decade after the events of Mother, the alien force that is Giygas has enveloped and consumed the world with hatred, turning animals, plants and humans into monsters. With his three companions: Paula, Jeff and Poo, Ness must travel the world collecting melodies from the eight sanctuaries in order to stop the invasion.

Characters:

Ness – Just a normal kid who defeats his enemies with the use of a baseball bat

Paula – Ness’ friend who possesses psychic powers

Jeff – A young scientific genius

Poo – A mysterious Eastern prince

Fighting scenes sport an array of weird and whacky opponents (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game is viewed in 2D with the overworld view being an iosmetric design Interestingly, unlike other RPGs, there is no difference between the overworld and town/dungeon scenes, meaning the game moves seamlessly between the two.

Although the game looks to be aimed towards a younger audience with whacky and childish jokes, I thought that it was quite fun to play. The story is well thought out, if a little bizarre, and there are plenty of collectables to keep you interested. Although cartoon like, I thought the graphics were good (but not great), bright and colourful, with lots of variations amongst the sprites.

Battle scenarios consist of standrd RPG practice in that it is a turn based affair. You can choose to attack, use an object, defend yourself, use PSI, flee etc. Once an enemy is defeated, you gain experience and money.

Isometric overworld view (Screenshot taken by the author)

What makes Earthbound different form other RPGs, is that it isn’t based on random encounter scenarios. In this game, you can actually see your enemies and can give them a wide berth if you do not wish to fight. Also, once your team reach a certain level, many of the lesser enemies are automatically defeated, meaning you don’t have to waste your time faffing around with pointless battles that give you little in the way of experience points. Additionally, you can gain a tactical advantage by approaching an enemy from behind. This allows you to strike first everytime. I thought that these were great features to have. I have always disliked the random encounter aspect of RPGs. I understand that they may be important for the game to ensure your characters build their stats but I’d rather have the option to fight when I wanted to because I feel random encounters just slow the game down too much.

There are a few other interesting aspects to this game. Firstly, your father regularly deposits money into your account so that you are never short of cash to buy new weapons and other items. Secondly, because you can only carry a certain amount of items, you can drop off items or have them delivered to you when you find a telephone. Thirdly, your character becomes homesick at times, which I believe affects him during battles. To remedy this, you simply need to call your mother who gives you a pep talk…very cute!

Did I complete the game?

Yes, with minimal help from a walkthrough

What the critics said:

Gamefan: If you love RPGs, you really must buy earthbound. At first glance the game may not seem like much, but a rich and involving adventure hides just beneath this game’s 8-bit veneer. While not as mind blowing as, say, FFIII, EB is just as fun to play simply because it’s so wacky, original and amusing. Overall 89%.[1]

Super Play: “An RPG that’s very much more than the sum of its parts. If you’ve got the patience to suffer its crude elements then prepare to be boggled: there’s simply nothing like it on the SNES. Overall 88%.[2]

Nintendo Power: “A great story, fun graphics, good sound effects. Frequent, sometimes tedious battles. Poorly designed inventory system limits how many items you can carry. Overall 4/5.[3]

Game Players: “The game’s biggest strength is its humour, but while there’s something here for everyone, most of the quips and strangeness are geared for the younger set – it ain’t exactly Final Fantasy or Illusion of Gaia. Overall 69%.[4]

Awards:

RPG of the Year – 1995 Game Fan Mega Awards[5]

My verdict:

“I really wanted to give this game five stars, but I feel that the graphics let this game down a bit. When compared to the likes of Final Fantasy III and Secret of Mana, the graphics are not what one expects from a SNES. However, don’t be put off by first impressions. This game has much to offer and endears itself to you the longer your play it. Say ‘Fuzzy Pickles'”

Rating:

What are your memories of Earthbound? 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.


[1] Rox, N., ‘Earthbound – Review’. Gamefan. (August 1995). Volume 3 Issue 8:70-71. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume3Issue08August1995ALT/page/n69/mode/2up Accessed 22nd October 2020).

[2] Nicholson, Z., ‘Earthbound – Review.’ Super Play. (September 1995). Issue 35:38-40. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_35_1995-09_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n39/mode/2up Accessed 22nd October 2020).

[3] ‘Earthbound – Review’. Nintendo Power. (June 1995). Volume 73:10-19 & 107 (https://archive.org/details/NintendoPower1988-2004/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20073%20%28June%201995%29/page/n113/mode/2up Accessed 22nd October 2020).

[4] Lundrigan, J., ‘Earthbound – Review’. Game Players. (July 1995). Issue 54:60. (https://archive.org/details/Game_Players_Issue_54_July_1995/page/n63/mode/2up Accessed 22nd October 2020).

[5] ‘1995 Mega Awards’ Gamefan. (January 1996). Volume 4 Issue 1:106. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume4Issue01/page/n105/mode/2up accessed 22nd October 2020).

Phantasy Star II – Review

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Before the 1990s, RPGs were a niche genre in the video game world. They take a lot of time and effort to play, and not everyone has the patience or desire to attempt such gargantuan games. However, those that do play RPGs cherish every moment of their journeys through fantastical universes. They take great care in building up their warriors and magic users in order to defeat hordes of enemies. Phantasy Star was one such RPG which was highly praised by critics, even though it did push the Sega Master System to its limits.[1] The successor to the Master System, the Mega Drive, offered the creators of Phantasy Star II more to work with.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Phantasy Star II is a single-player RPG developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Mega Drive in 1989, but it wouldn’t reach North America and Europe until 1990. It was later re-released on the Sega Saturn and Game Boy Advance as part of the Phantasy Star Collection, and the Dreamcast as part of the Smash Pack Volume 1. In 2005, an updated remake was released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. For this review, I played was the Mega Drive version on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PlayStation 3 (also available on the Xbox).

Walking around the overworld (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game is set 1000 years after the events of Phantasy Star and takes us back to the Andromeda galaxy and the Algo star system. Orbiting the Algo sun are three planets: Palma – where the government reside; Mota – once an arid desert planet that has since been transformed into a tropical paradise; and Dezo – an inhospitable ice planet.

The Algo star system has prospered under the control of Mother Brain, a computer that regulates the climate, and is responsible for terraforming Mota. However, Mother Brain has started malfunctioning, producing increasingly strong monsters. One night, Rolf (our main protagonist) awakes from a nightmare, where a young girl whom he doesn’t recognise is battling a demon. It is suggested that this girl is Alis from Phantasy Star. After being informed of Mother Brain’s malfunction, Rolf, along with Nei, a humanoid with cat-like features, sets off to investigate why Mother Brain has seemingly turned against her creators.

The screens for dialogue have been greatly improved (Screenshot taken by the author)

Phantasy Star II is first video game to use  a mega 6-bit cartridge. This enabled the designers to create the largest world yet seen in a video game.[2] They have dispensed with the dingeon crawling parts of the game, and have focussed on the overworld views when trawling through the dungeons. As expected, the overall graphics have been improved, creating three very distinct worlds. The sprites in the overworld maps are more individualised and are brightly coloured. The dialogue screens have also been greatly updated to anime-style character screens.

Where did the beautiful backgrounds go? (Screenshot taken by the author)

The battles screens are greatly improved. Firstly, you can now see your characters attacking animations, and the enemies are more varied and detailed. Sadly, they decided to take away the scenic backgrounds and replace them with a blue grid. I’m not sure what the thinking was behind that decision. They have still yet to fix the fighting menu. Annoyingly, You still need to scroll through the menus to target individual monsters which is tiresome.

There are two further irritating aspects to this game which I would have hoped they’d have resolved by now. The first is that many of the names of the plethora of spells you are able to use do not indicate what type of spell it is. The manual doesn’t have any information on this either, so you need to experiment during battles to find out what the oddly named spells do.

“That’s part of the fun!”, I hear some of you cry. Not really. One would assume that a magic user would know what the spell was they were using. Hopefully this will be resolved in Phantasy Star III.

The second irritating aspect is that you do not have a combined inventory, so you need to constantly scroll through the menus in order to exchange items between your fighters. Its exasperating!

Overworld view on Dezo world (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game?

Yes, it felt like a slog at times, and needed a walkthrough on occasion.

Dragon: “The animation, especially for battles, is superb. There are over 50 spells available. Even weapons and armor can give benefits to characters beyond their normal effects. For example, special armor found in one dungeon allows the wearer to cast a healing spell every so often. The battle system enables more than one type of creature to attack and allows the characters to attack specific creatures instead of idiotically going after one creature at a time. This game is definitely a winner. Overall 5/5”.[3]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Martin – “RPG’s aren’t my thing., but this one has a monstrous quest anyone can get involved with and lost in…I wish the battle scenes were on landscapes instead of boring blue grid, but all in all PS2 is presented well. Overall 8/10”.[4]

Raze: “Large combat sprites, wonderful scenes and backdrops. Great in-game effects and unobtrusive background music. A challenging quest packed with gameplay. Overall 90%”.[5]

Video Games and Computer Entertainment: “It’s very user friendly, with a simple but extensive menu system, and a battery back-up that allows you to save numerous games in progress. The plot advances quickly, providing a constant stream of new subplots…Phantasy Star II is a complex and eminently enjoyable game that will give you more variety and challenge for your buck than any other video game. Overall 9/10”.[6]

Zero: “Phantasy Star II is definitely not just any old thing. In fact, it’s just about everything you could want from this kind of game – big (very big), involved, exciting and challenging. Overall 89%”.[7]

Sega Power: “Long-awaited sequel to the MS RPG. With a massive quest set over different worlds and four characters to control, you should be thankful for your battery back-up! Overall 5/5.[8]

My verdict:

“Graphically, a great improvement on the first, with an engaging story and plenty of action to keep you quiet for many hours. They just need to sort out that poxy battle menu! RPG fans will love this game!”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star II? 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.


[1] Tracy, T., (16th December 2002). ‘Phantasy Star Collection Review’. Gamespot.com.  (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/phantasy-star-collection-review/1900-2901862/ Accessed 15th March 2020).

[2] Adams, R., ‘Wishing on a Phantasy Star II’. Computer Gaming World. (November 1990). Issue 76:85. https://archive.org/details/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_76/page/n83/mode/2up Accessed 14th March 2020.

[3] ‘Phantasy Star II’. Dragon. (August 1990). Issue 160:51.  https://www.annarchive.com/files/Drmg160.pdf Accessed 14th March 2020).

[4] ‘Phantasy Star 2’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (April 1990). Issue 9:18.  https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_Issue_009_April_1990/page/n19/mode/2up Accessed 14th March 2020).

[5] ‘Reviews: Phantasy Star 2’. Raze. (April 1991). Issue 6:34-5. http://www.outofprintarchive.com/articles/reviews/MegaDrive/PhantasyStar2-Raze6-2.html Accessed 15th March 2020).

[6] ‘Sega Genesis – Phantasy Star 2’. Video Games and Computer Entertainment. (March 1990) Issue :34 & 49. https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d2/VG%26CE_US_14.pdf#page=24 Accessed 15th March 2020.

[7] ‘Review Console: Mega Drive – Phantasy Star II’. Zero. (March 1991). Issue 17:88. (https://archive.org/details/zero-magazine-17/page/n87/mode/2up Accessed 15th March 2020.

[8] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Phantasy Star II’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:54. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed on 29th July 2020.

Super Hang-On – Review

Hold on to your hats guys, its time to rev that engine, feel the horsepower, and leave your competitors to eat your dust. Glory awaits!

Screenshot taken by the author

Super Hang-On is a single-player motorcycle racing game developed and published by Sega. Originally released in the arcade in 1987 as a sequel to Hang-On, it would later be released for the following:

1987 – Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum.

1989/1990 – Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Macintosh, DOS, Sega Megadrive, and Sharp X68000.

2003 – Game Boy Advance (Sega Arcade Gallery)

2010 – Wii’s Virtual Console (2012 in North America)

2012 – Xbox Live Arcade (Sega Vintage Collection)

I chose to review the Sega Mega Drive version found on the Mega Games I (1992) package.

Whilst still similar to Hang-On, there is now a choice of four new tracks, based on the continents of the world. Each continent contains a different number of stages to increase difficulty (Africa = 6 stages, Asia = 10 stages etc.). A turbo button is also available should you need an extra boost.

Screenshot taken by the author

The Mega Drive version, which I played as part of Sega’s Mega Games I (1992), contains both the full arcade mode, and an original mode. The original mode is a bit more in-depth and allows you to gain sponsorship and earn money to upgrade your motorbike.

I have vague recollections of playing this in the arcade at Folkestone Rotunda Amusement Park when I was a pre-pubescent imp. It had the full arcade set up complete with a replica motorbike that you could sit on and use your weight to lean left or right. Being small at the time, my father would stand at the back of the bike and help me lean it, ensuring I didn’t go flying off.

Screenshot taken by the author

The bike is easy to control, and the game is easy to learn. The graphics are clean, with brightly coloured sprites making it easy to distinguish yourself from other riders. The backgrounds and time of day change as you move through the stages of the races giving you a real sense of location and distance. At the top of the screen you have information telling you your score, speed, what course and stage you are on, and a countdown dial.

The game can become frustrating when you crash in Arcade mode as there is no way to make the time up again, so you may as well restart the game. I also dislike the time countdown in Arcade mode too. In the arcade one can understand a time limit as you want games that are “quarter guzzlers”, but for gaming at home, it’s just plain annoying. Admittedly I didn’t spend that much time on this game as I’m not a racing fan, but if you are, I am sure that you will enjoy the challenge of this game.

Did I complete the game?

Nope, nowhere near.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “A high quality racing game which is a must for speed freaks. Overall 86%.[1]

Mean Machines: “This cart manages to contain all of the playability of the coin-op, coulpled with slick audio-visuals. Definitely worth getting if you enjoyed the coin-op, or if you’re after a decent Mega Drive game at a bargain price. Overall 90%.”[2]

Sega Power: “Brilliant biking coin-op conversion. Terrific sensation of speed and movement, with good graphics and smooth 3D update. Thrilling to play and lasts for ages. Overall 5/5.[3]

Sega Power “Another coin-op classic of yesteryear. Fine, but a bit mouldy. Overall 4/5.”[4]

My Verdict: “I’m not a fan of racing games but if you are, this may prove a challenge. Beautiful graphics and scenery too, and enough replay value to make it worth adding to your collection.”

Ratings:

What are your memories of Super Hang-On? 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.


[1] ‘Mega Drive Review – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1990). Issue 1:82-4. (https://archive.org/details/Mean_Machines_Issue_01_1990-10_EMAP_Images_GB/page/n83/mode/2up Accessed 23rd September 2020).

[2] Leadbetter, R.,’Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:127.

[3] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:54.

[4] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:98.