Title: Shining Force II
Developer: Sonic Co. (a.k.a Team Sonic a.k.a. Sonic Software Planning, becoming Camelot Software Planning in 1994)
Publisher: Sega
Release Dates: 09/30/93 (North America), 10/01/93 (Japan), 07/02/94 (Europe)
Platform: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
ESRB Rating: N/A

Shining Force II

The citizens of Granseal are hard at work. Inside the castle grounds, the centaurs concentrate on jousting and target practice while the spellcasters compare teleportation and healing spells. Granseal isn't at war, but there has been trouble with monsters on the outskirts of the kingdom, and the king has ordered troops to sweep the area and drive the creatures away.

All notice the thunderclouds that gather above the castle. Not only is rain unusual for the season, but the storm does not look to be an ordinary one.

The storm is a harbinger of coming events - events which will change Granseal and its neighboring kingdoms forever. An ancient evil has broken free, and is spreading over the land of Rune, devastating all that it touches. Is there anyone, or anything, that can stop it? Start the adventure and find out!

Can I Get a Story Here?

And so begins the excellent follow-up (the stories are not related) to 1992's Shining Force (itself a follow-up to 1991's Shining in the Darkness.) The only truly noteworthy RPG series to appear on the Sega Genesis besides Phantasy Star, Shining Force II is a tactical RPG in a medieval setting. You control Bowie, the hero of Shining Force II, and his friends as they discover what terrible fate will befall their home nation and what to do about it. Along the way, they befriend powerful allies, enhance their own abilities, and tap ancient technologies to accomplish their goal. In other words, there isn't too much in the story that's never been seen in a RPG before, but it does a good enough job of getting the player from battle to battle and giving new characters excuses to join the Force (not surprisingly, the gameplay is extremely linear, with few chances for excursions off the beaten path.)

Come On, Let's Fight!

The heart of the game is, of course, the battles. The Force grows in ranks gradually throughout the game, though there can never be more than twelve characters in battle at once. This forces the player to make some choices, but it becomes pretty obvious which characters are keepers and which characters are best relegated to the Caravan, the vehicle which players eventually acquire and which holds excess characters and items. The motley crew consists of fairly stereotypical character classes-wizards, monks, knights, healers, archers, etc., with enough variety to enable players to field a balanced fighting force relatively easily. Characters can also be promoted to new classes during the game, though a promoted character is, with a few notable exceptions, mostly just a stronger version of his previous self, rather than a whole new type of character.

The various types of battlegrounds in Shining Force II force players to alter their strategy significantly-players will do battle in castles, caves, shrines, towns, deserts, and fields. Some of the more exotic locales include a chessboard, a suspension bridge, the outside of a tower, and even a raft under attack by a large octopus. Each type of arena provides its own unique challenges to players (fields are open but offer little cover, castles and towns have lots of obstacles, caves are cramped, etc.), and will give different types of characters the chance to show off their strengths.

The game offers four difficulty levels, with each successive level inflating the monsters' statistics. The highest difficulty level will give the Shining Force quite a workout, and some battles may require many tries. Even poor and overmatched players will succeed eventually, however, since characters retain all the experience they earn in battle when they die, and will eventually become strong enough to plow through any enemy (given enough time and revives.)

The level grind is manageable in Shining Force II. Experience is given to individual characters whenever they successfully attack an enemy (whether directly or with magic), cast a spell successfully (either on enemies or allies), or use certain magical items. The game uses an unusual experience point system similar to Final Fantasy VIII's, in which each characters levels up after gaining 100 points, but a given monster will give a character fewer and fewer experience points as that character grows stronger. Characters who can cast support magic (healing, buffing, etc.) can grow stronger regardless of the strength of the enemy, though, as the experience gained for those spells is based largely upon how many characters were affected. By and large, however, the strongest characters will absorb the brunt of the enemy attack and dish out most of the damage, forcing the player to press on to build their strength.

Where Can I Find This Wonderful Game?

Shining Force II is somewhat rare, though a few copies of it can usually be found floating around on eBay. The ROM is not too difficult to find, though, and most emulators should play it without difficulty.

Final Thoughts

Shining Force II did not actually tinker with the formula established in the original Shining Force very much. This, however, is a good thing, because there was really very little wrong with that game. Shining Force II will take many hours to complete, and the constant appearance of new characters and monsters will ensure that players will remain interested all the way to the end.

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