As a strict follower and a fan of the Shining Force Series, I must say that, in my opinion, Shining Force II on the Sega Genesis is the best ever, with the Sega CD and Game Gear Shining Force games a close second. What Shining Force II does is take the best elements from the first Shining Force and improves greatly upon them. Graphics, Music and Interface have all improved and make Shining Force II really impressive for a Sega Genesis game.
The story starts out on a stormy night in some ancient ruin. We see Slade, a kind of Robin Hood, and some companions entering the ruin, they explore a bit and enter a room with two jewels. Slade then removes them not knowing of the big and boy do I mean BIG consequences for doing so. Back in Granseal Castle, the king is assaulted by a monster and this is where we begin our adventure.
Players take control of the hero, Bowie, whose name can be changed. He sets off for school early in the morning, meeting his friends and calling his teacher Astral to begin lessons. Astral is, however, called to the castle as the King was ill and Bowie’s pals Sarah and Chester decide to sneak into the castle with our eager hero in tow. This little act of mischief soon leads our heroes to a great adventure across Grans Island and the continent of Parmecia as they discover the secret of Ground Seal and the fearsome King of Devils, Zeon.
Shining Force II is a large game, with lots of towns and villages, ruins, secrets, characters to recruit and battles to fight. Everything in Shining Force II has been improved. The graphics are much better than the first Shining Force and characters sprites are more colorful and better animated. Battle animation has improved by leaps and bounds, with battlefields ranging from small, constricting caves to large landscapes. Unlike the first Shining Force the variety of battlefields in Shining Force II isn’t as great and sometimes gets repetitive. Some exceptions are the battles fought later in the game, one of them being at Mitula’s Shrine, as these battlefields look quite impressive and original. The animation for characters in battle has also improved.
Enemies look more colorful and varied and some in later parts of the game are downright huge. In addition, some bosses look awesome. Characters are just as colorful and are more detailed with an anime-like feel to them. Good examples will be our hero when he gets a promotion or Peter when he transforms from a half-naked and dopey-looking bird to a majestic Phoenix. Minor detail: RPGFan staff Sensei Phoenix uses Peter’s mug shot for his own. (editor’s note: the man knows his birds!) The details and amount of color used for the characters must have really pushed the Genesis into overdrive!
The music in the game is pure ear candy. From some remotely familiar tunes to many new musical scores, Shining Force fans couldn’t be happier. From atmospheric tunes to some lively battle music, Shining Force II has way more music than the first Shining Force! Sound effects are average at best, from crackling thunder, blazing fireballs and frosty blizzards being the more impressive the sound effects can offer.
Control in the game is simple to master and menus and buying/selling stuff has become much easier and more convenient! Added to the game is the Caravan, a vehicle that allows item/character storage and allows you to edit your battle party on the go! There is, however, one noticeable flaw in the game which any Shining Force player can easily point out: the characters are no longer able to open chests in battle! This isn’t such a blow as the stuff players miss out on isn’t really that valuable. The Japanese version did not have this problem, so I guess some screw up must have taken place when Shining Force II was translated by Sega.
If you think since Shining Force II is such a long game that would simply mean that some things must have changed a little, well you’re right. Promotions now require a minimum of Level 20, with the maximum at Level 40. There are also several secrets in the game and references to the Hero Max from the first Shining Force and the continent of Rune. Promoting early isn’t a surefire way to make your stronger anymore. I promoted my hero at Level 40 and got an even better Level 1 HERO than if I had promoted him when he reached Level 20, (not to mention he starts out with killer stats and a BOLT 2 spell to boot). There are also rare items that allow characters an alternate promotion. An example is the Secret Book, which lets a Mage become a Sorcerer instead of a Wizard! This plus many other secrets give Shining Force II an incredibly high replay value.
In my overall opinion, I feel that Shining Force II is the best of the Shining Force games I have ever played. Shining Force 3 was great but I really couldn’t make the jump to 3D; it made the game feel different and it did not have the atmosphere it generated when it was plain old 2D. For a classic masterpiece Strategy RPG, I highly recommend Shining Force II.