Shining Force III is a game that has managed to attract a large amount of attention ever since it was announced for the Sega Saturn. Not only has it turned out to be one of the greatest strategy-RPGs ever created, it was one of very few games that was released in successive multiple chapters (SFIII was released in three interconnected scenarios roughly 6 months apart). To add fuel to the fire, Sega of Japan announced that a special gift would be sent to everyone who had bought all three scenarios of SFIII. This gift turned out to be the fantastic Shining Force III Premium Disc.
The SFIII Premium Disc opens with a very short commercial for SFIII featuring a few CG cut scenes from the game. If players let the disc run, it begins to play a promotional video for SFIII that features interviews and the history of the entire Shining series of games. Upon pressing "start," the player is presented with 6 main options to choose from.
The first option allows the player to view just about all of the player characters, non-player characters, and enemies in the game in their polygonal battle screen form. For each player character, you can select which level of promotion you want to view them in, as well as which type of weapon (out of the ones that the particular character can use) that you want to view them holding. The polygonal characters can be freely rotated (though not fully in every direction), and you can zoom in and out on them as well. I personally liked the polygon characters in SFIII, so this option was one of my favorites on the disc.
The second option allows you to view artwork from the game. All of the player characters and most of the more major non-player characters each have their own art. Typically, each character who has individual artwork has a full-color and full-sized piece, as well as a black-and-white sketch of their mug. Some of the more major characters (such as Synbios, Medion, and Julian) have additional artwork. There are also a few shots that have multiple characters on them, showing them in action. You can zoom in and out on the artwork, like you can with the polygon models. I'm a big fan of the art from SFIII, and the character designs (in particular those from Scenario 3) are some of the most creative and brilliant that I've ever seen for player characters in a game. Because of this, the artwork option is probably my favorite feature on the Premium Disc.
Next on the main option list is the special battle mode. There are 8 special battles, and most of them are from pivotal moments in past Shining Force games. For example, the first battle is against the Kraken from Shining Force II, and later battles feature Dark Dragon and Zeon (in separate battles, thankfully). You can load any SFIII save file into the special battle mode, and fight it out using the characters that you've built up. The special battles are fun (just like the game), and get really challenging as you get further on in them.
The fourth option allows you to create a backup data slot for Scenario 3 of Shining Force III. This option is really cool, as it lets you completely customize the file you are creating. Questions on all of the synchronicity points are asked to you, and you get to answer them however you want. For example, the guy will ask, "Did Spirited live?" and you'll get to choose whether she did or not. In addition, this option lets you rename *every* single player character in the game to whatever you want (within the 6 character limit, of course). This is a great option, as it lets people who have completed the game see different endings without having to play through all 3 scenarios again.
The second-to-last option is a movie viewer. All of the CG movies from the game, as well as a few TV commercials and the aforementioned promotional video, can be viewed from this screen. There's not much else to say about this option, except that one of the TV commercials was really funny.
The sixth and final option is the sound test. All of the background music, sound effects, and voices in the game can be listened to at your leisure. Going through the voice test, I noticed that most of the characters had more different battle cries than I had remembered from the game; the diversity of the battle cries impressed me. Thankfully, the voices from the English version of Shining Force III were not included on the Premium Disc.
If you're unfamiliar with Shining Force III, or just not a fan, the Premium Disc will have little significance to you. If you are a fan, however, the Shining Force III Premium Disc is likely the greatest and most interesting bonus disc released for a game to date. I feel extremely fortunate to have received one from the nice folks at Sega of Japan. Don't pass this rarity up if you like SFIII.
No numerical scores were included because the Premium Disc is not really a game.
Comments? Questions? Email me.