Shining the Holy Ark is a rare breed of RPGs on consoles these days. Shining the Holy Ark is a corridor based RPG like Might & Magic or the classic Shining in the Darkness on the Genesis. Brought to us by the same team responsible for the Shining Force games, you can expect the same character development and game interface as the Shining Force games, minus the Strategy/RPG aspects.
In Shining the Holy Ark, players take control of Arthur, a mercenary whose skill with a sword is remarkable, as well as many other characters who will join at certain events in the game. He and the mercenaries Melody and Forte were hired to hunt down a ninja named Rodi in the Northern Mines. After a short battle with him, a cave-in results and everyone is mortally wounded. A short while later, an evil spirit appears and attempts to possess Melody and Arthur but Forte, with what strength he had left, prevented the spirit from possessing them. However, with no power left to protect himself, he is soon possessed by the spirit and taken away. Soon after, Arthur, Rodi and Melody are rescued by 3 Spirits who tells Arthur of their destiny and soon enter their bodies to help heal their wounds. Thus begins an adventure to prevent the revival of the Thousand Year Kingdom.
The story is interesting and has its ties to Shining Force 3 as we get to see the young Julian and the reason why he seeks revenge on Galm. We also get to learn about the Thousand Year Kingdom and the Vandals and Innovators which were further explained in the Shining Force 3 Trilogy. The only thing about this game is that I wouldn’t recommend it to people who hate to explore dungeons rather than visit villages and towns to get their bulk of the story. Shining the Holy Ark has loads of long and tricky dungeons and only two villages and a town that I know of! The battles are tough and long and this really puts some emphasis in training your characters and getting the best possible equipment. There is also the Pixie system where you find pixies hidden all over and use them to execute surprise attacks on enemies.
The graphics in the game are quite good. Enemy sprites are detailed and colorful as are character sprites. The attack animation is flashy and quick and every item has its own icon. Graphics for dungeons and villages are good but can get seriously monotonous and dull over time.
The music in the game is quite good and pleasant. The only downside is that sometimes after a battle, the track for a dungeon might fail to load. The sounds are good and varied. From simple footsteps to spell sounds and weapon hits and if you are expecting vocals, there aren’t any, which is a real pity.
Controls in the game are simple and responsive. Menus are typical of those seen in the Shining Force series so fans of Shining Force can jump into this game with relative ease. There are also maps to aid you in dungeons, so finding your way is relatively easy.
Overall saying, I still think this game is average at best, but for those seeking a classic RPG with ties to Shining Force 3, Shining the Holy Ark is as good as it gets. Well, it’s a rather old game but I guess part of the thrill comes in searching for it…