The Shining Force Series

Shining Force was preceded by Shining In The Darkness, which was markedly different from the later games in the series, but had the same art style and type of world. This was followed by Shining Force 1 & 2 on the Megadrive, two Shining Force games on the Game Gear (which were later re-released in one title with vastly improved sound and graphics on the Mega CD), and Shining Force 3, which was released in 3 installments (only the first of which recieved an English translation) on the Sega Saturn.

The main focus of all the Shining Force games was strategic, turn-based fantasy combat. The player would control a party of up to 8 characters (the "Shining Force" - a prophesised team who would save the world from an ancient evil) at one time (although more could join the "caravan" as the game progressed - there were many secret characters, and ones who you could only acquire at the expense of others). The game was played out in top-down exploration of an Ultima-like world, with a fairly linear progression from location to location.

There were no random battles - each battle was unique. Each attack or spell action in a battle was shown in a close-up cutscene. Each character in the party could be leveled up, and also promoted, changing their appearance and characteristics (this was used to great effect in the second game, making the fresh-faced main protagonist into a grizzled hero, his companion into a Baron, and even a baby Phoenix into a fully-grown one).

The Shining Force games followed the standard console RPG conventions of the time to the letter (you know, towns with churches, inns and weapon shops, possessed kings and plot twists aplenty), but still kept things moving at a good pace and offered many hours of gameplay. Although the first games were credited to Sonic / Sega, the later ones were (I think) credited to Climax Entertainment who also did Landstalker, Ladystalker and Climax Landers among others (Landstalker takes place in a different region of the same world as Shining Force). The games share some similarities to Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, and the middle Ultimas.