Shining in the Darkness is the first game in Sega’s “Shining” franchise. It was also one the earliest first-person RPGs to be released on a console.
The story begins as you are called to the castle by King Drake for an important meeting. There, you meet the king and his advisors, which include Baron Vyrun, Chancellor Theos, Court Mage Melvyl, General Tristan, and the Minister. They tell you about a recent incident where your father Sir Mortred was accompanying the king’s daughter Jessa on a trip to the shrine, and both of them mysteriously vanished. The last known siting of Jessa and Mortred was near the old training labyrinth located near the town. The king asks you to investigate the matter. You were chosen not only because your father is involved, but also because according to General Tristan, you are the second best knight in the kingdom, rivaled only by Mortred. When you return to the castle after a short trip to the town, a monster calling himself Dark Sol crashes in. Dark Sol makes it clear that he is holding Jessa for ransom, and the price is ownership of the kingdom. After this, the king sends you into the aforementioned labyrinth to see if any trace of the missing persons can be found. You find a piece of hard evidence, and it becomes clear that the Princess, and possibly your father, are in the labyrinth somewhere. At this point, the king and his advisors realize that our hero can’t complete this taks single-handedly; you need allies. Knowing this, you turn to your childhood friends, Milo Brax and Pyra Myst. From this point, the adventure really begins..
The aforementioned charcters including Milo, Pyra, and yourself are the heroes of this game, and are the party you control from start to finish. The main character (you name him) is a knight. He has no spells or MP, but he can use many powerful weapons and heavy armors. He has the highest strength and HP, but he also has the lowest intelligence, speed, and natural defense. Milo has fairly good scores in most areas, and the highest Luck of the trio. Milo has many defensive and auxilary spells, but he also leans a few powerful attack spells. Pyra is the wizard of the group. Her attack power is low, and she can’t use powerful weapons, she has the best offensive magic. She also has excellent speed and natural defense. There are a few brief times in the game where your party will have an NPC assisting in the monster fights. Their contribution is usually small, but it’s interesting to see.
Milo and Pyra learn spells as their levels increase. Magic in Shining in the Darkness includes spells such as Heal, Detox, Quick, Egress, Screen, Sleep, Slow, Blaze, Freeze, Bolt, and (my favorite) Desoul. Gamers who have played any other “Shining” title will recognize the names and icons of many of the spells in Shining in the Darkness. Most spells have varying levels of power. Upon learning a spell, the subscreen will show how many levels of the spell will eventually be acquired.
Shining in the Darkness is a first-person RPG. You explore all areas of the game through a first-person view. Because the labyrinth consists mostly of walls, finding your way around can be confusing at times. There are a few things usable as landmarks, including statues, treasure chests, and fountains. Also, you can spend one MP to bring up a map showing where you are. The map displays areas you have been in, which is useful for finding out where you still need to go. Animation while traveling through 3D corridors is decent, but somewhat jagged. This is most likely due to technical difficulties, such as the limited 3D capabilities of the Genesis. Battles are fought using a traditional, turn-based battle system. Every hero and monster gets one attack per round, but faster characters always attack first.
The graphics in Shining in the Darkness are very good for a 16-Bit system. Monsters are very detailed. Although most enemy attacks have only minimal animation, special effects for magic are very good and they become more impressive as the spells’ levels increase. Powerful monsters always make grand entrances. The town was drawn nicely, and all shops are adorned appropriately.
The game’s main faults are in its lack of dramatic moments. There are some scenes with interesting character interaction, but they are few and far between, happening only during critical events. This results is limited character development. There are also almost no boss enemies. There are really only 2 official bosses, and both are towards the end of the game. There are a few fairly exciting battles at times, but not many particularly difficult fights.
To sum everything up, if you enjoy exploring through a 1st-person view, and fighting battles RPG style, this game is worth trying. It should be fairly easy to find at any used game store.