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Platform: Game Boy Advance
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: THQ
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy RPG
Format: Cartridge
Release: US 06/04 - Japan N/A



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"Diced ogre anyone?"
 
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"Perfect your strategy to receive a bonus."
 
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"An excellent question."
 
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"Nice of them to ask first."
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John McCarroll
Preview First Look
2/13/04
John McCarroll

Not since the golden age of the Sega Saturn has there been a new Shining Force game, and even then, Scenario 2 and 3 of Shining Force 3 never arrived in the United States. This will soon change; Atlus has decided to pick up a remake of the original game for US release. This GBA release isn't a strict port; to both the dismay and joy of many fans, a Card system has been added to this Genesis classic. This title is also headed for a European release courtesy of THQ and - surprise! - The European release is a month before the US release. Neither THQ or Atlus have released many details on the card system, but hopefully more will surface closer to release. With or without a card system, Sega fans will be happy to have a graphically improved version of one of the most revered strategy-RPGs of the 16-bit era.

The visuals on the GBA version of this 1992 classic are much improved from those seen on the Genesis. Sega has taken the sprites, streamlined them, and made them a bit larger; using the GBA's capability for big sprites on the small screen. While the map layouts look nearly identical to the original, there are huge improvements in the backgrounds and larger character sprites. Battle sprites have also been improved; with the larger sprites and more frames of animation, combat looks more fluid, even with the screen resolution difference. Without a demo or video released yet, it's impossible to tell how the aural side of Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon will turn out. With the good score in the original, gamers should have hope that the port will be a similar caliber, unlike the error-plagued Phantasy Star Collection.

1,000 years have passed since Dark Dragon fought the forces of the world of Rune for domination. The forces of light, the Shining Force, forced Dark Dragon into another dimension, but he vowed to return a millennia later. The world has recovered since then; magic and technology have healed more than when Dark Dragon sought to destroy them and the world is generally at peace. The kingdom of Runefaust has other plans, deciding to begin attacks on the other kingdoms in Rune in an effort to return Dark Dragon to their world and gain his favor. You are a young man from the city of Guardania, new leader of the Shining Force, and the only hope against Dark Dragon.

Shining Force has a large and impressive story, especially for a game that is 12 years old. The characters are incredibly memorable, including everyone's favorite character: Jogurt. This extraordinarily powerful character has a one in every statistic and only deals one damage to every enemy. Not only is he already too good to describe, but if he actually defeats an enemy, you gain an item called the "Yogurt Ring", which turns the character wearing it into a facsimile of Jogurt. There have been three entirely new characters, and several secret characters, acquired by wandering in and around towns, promised for this GBA reincarnation

Shining Force is one of the least complicated SRPGs on the market. There are no complex skill menus to determine what abilities your character gets, and the level system is simple as well. A character can go up to level 20 in both un-promoted and promoted forms. A character can be promoted at level 10, but it may be statistically better to promote him later as some attributes may go down at promotion; an un-promoted form may have better attribute growth but inferior skills. Some characters may be promoted one of two ways if an item is used to promote the character; for instance, there is a special promotion for the archer classes that gives better stat growth.

Combat itself is also very simple: you can move, attack, cast magic, use an item or give an item to a teammate, or do nothing. Most characters can attack only one square in each direction, but archers may be able to hit up to five squares away. Magic spells in Dark Dragon all require a target rather than targeting a single space like in Final Fantasy Tactics. Several spells cover an area around a target however, hitting upward of 10-16 enemies with a single spell, or allies with a healing spell. Terrain affects character movement with grasses and forests reducing move by 15%, and hills reducing it by 30%. Mountains are a complete obstacle with the exception of flying units, who are not affected by any kind of terrain. The glory of Shining Force is not micromanagement, like in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but the ability to focus on the battle as a whole and be able to win with style.

Shining Force was one of Sega's premiere Genesis and Saturn franchises. While many fans clamor over new titles, Atlus and THQ provide us with a remake of one of the games that many of us started playing SRPGs with. Improved graphics and the fact that it is portable assure that Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon will take the hearts of many gamers, provided that the Unique Card system is well developed and not a gimmick to resemble the popular Yu-Gi-Oh! games. Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon is slated for a GBA release in April for Europe and in June for the US.



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