DISCLAIMER: This is what I hope will be the first Feature Article I plan to post here at the US PlayStation Forums regarding classic games and franchises that have, for whatever reason, not been seen for varying lengths of time despite strong interest from gamers. My hope is to introduce newer gamers to such titles and perhaps to see interest expressed in seeing them (or either updated re-makes or sequels) released once again. These are games that stood far above their contemporaries and made countless cherished memories for those who were fortunate enough to experience them. Depending on whether this first Feature garners significant interest I will do more; if not, no worries.
SHINING FORCE III
The first Feature I'd like to do for this series is dedicated to Shining Force III for the Saturn.
The Scenario 1 USA Artwork. Sadly, we'd never see Scenarios 2 and 3 here in the West, which left an incomplete story and a lot of VERY disappointed fans.
Shining Force III is almost unknown to RPG fans here because A) it was released on the (woefully underrated) Sega Saturn and B) only one of three interconnected Scenarios (including Saves that transfer over to the next Scenario), all of which combined to make a giant cohesive storyline, made it here to the West. And perhaps even more tragically, Team Camelot had a serious falling-out with Sega, which resulted in there having been no proper turned-based SRPG iterations of the Shining Force series since. The series instead has endured a parade of mediocre Action RPG-style games that are pretty much Shining Force in name only since then. Some steps have been taken to return the series to its roots recently, but none of those efforts have made their way to the West.
Where the first two Shining Force games on the Genesis pioneered the semi-cinematic battle animations the series is perhaps most famous and beloved for (not to mention offered very challenging turn-based Strategic battles), they were somewhat limited story-wise; every dialogue was merely a brief respite between battles. That would change in a MAJOR way with Shining Force III, whose character dialogues span literally hundreds of pages' worth of text (I know; I printed the English-translated scripts!). And the storyline is incredible, easily ranking with the likes of Valkyria Chronicles, Suikoden II, and the very best Final Fantasy titles.
Scenario 1 put you in charge of Synbios and his Republican Army, whose country had split from the Empire years ealier. When at the beginning of the game the Emperor himself is kidnapped at a peace conference with the Republic in an Imperial city, Synbios and his crew must get out of hostile territory while trying to find the truth about what happened and clear their country's responsibility.
Synbios' Army. You could have up to 12 members participate in battle while the rest stayed at your base. Each character could level up to become a new class...and in Scenario 3 they could reach an uber-powerful third class by which time they had gotten some awesome attacks.
This old wizard and his fairy friend greeted each of the three Heroes (Synbios, Medion, and Julian) as they started their journeys and whenever you'd save your game.
Both the overworld and interior environments of Shining Force III were three-dimensional and could be manually rotated by the player; using this method you could find hidden chests, characters, and other items of interest. It was a huge improvement over the static top-down views in the (still excellent) Shining Force I and II).
Synbios readies his sword (apparently the player had renamed him "Pavlik" at the start of the game, which you can choose to do if you wish). While the polygon-based characters and environments are first-generation and heavily pixellated by today's standards, the battles are every bit as engaging as the Genesis Shining Force games.
Dantares is a Centaur Knight and is definitely one of Synbios' army's "tank" characters. His later Special Attacks are awesome and over-the-top.
Masqurin is Synbios' primary wizard. As your magicians gain experience their attacks can become truly powerful and spectacular, and I won't even go into the Summon spells you can use later on. They are often absurdly powerful and one I remember from Scenario 3 is downright RISQUE.
As this screen indicates, having three dimensions gave Camelot the ability to create amazingly varied and multi-leveled battles for Shining Force III (in some battles different members of your army would be moving and fighting in totally different rooms or areas). Due to scripted events the environments could change mid-battle, forcing you to take different paths.
The Japanese Scenario 2 case artwork.
Scenario 2 places you in charge of Medion's army; he is the youngest (and illegitimate) son of the Emperor and the least favored among the three princes. His trek will involve encountering conspiracies and trying to protect a special child from the elite forces of his own Empire: the Rainbloods. And the sheer, diabolical manipulations of the Emperor (including Medion and even his own kidnappers!) are absolutely astounding; the guy seriously deserves mention alongside the likes of Kefka and Sephiroth as an all-time great RPG villain. As with Scenario 1, Scenario 2 ends with a cliffhanger where Medion and Synbios are facing off at the bridge leading into the Republic capital, about to be forced to fight a duel neither of them wants but neither seemingly can avoid.
Prince Medion attacks an evil Bulzome Monk. The Monks' designs and bird-like masks were apparently influenced by masks worn by medieval monks during the Plague in Europe during the 1400s.
Medion's Centaur Knight, Campbell, warns an over-aggressive Imperial soldier that it isn't a good idea to mess with Dantares.
Emperor Domaric is one of the most deliciously manipulative, cold-hearted villains ever to grace a videogame. The sheer depth of his schemes and what he's willing to sacrifice to achieve them makes every moment he's on screen riveting...and he's not even the MAIN villain.
Emperor Domaric's elite unit, the Rainbloods. Don't bother trying to fight them in Scenario 2 (you'll get your chance in Scenario 3 and they're tough enough then!); they're invincible to your attacks.
The Scenario 3 Japanese case artwork.
Scenario 3 continues with Julian, who's in essence the "core" hero of the story. He's a monster hunter who's on the trail of the demons who slaughtered his village and family when he was a boy (you actually encounter the young Julian as a young child in that same village in Shining the Holy Ark!). He joins both Synbios' and Medions' armies in Scenarios 1 and 2 and leaves them at certain points. Julian's force is by far the most diversified (and frankly the most powerful as well, by far): you'll have a Lion-Man, a Dragon-Man, a Fairy, a Witch, a Unicorn, a Goblin who rides the back of a giant Troll, and even a huge DRAGON join you along the way. And in the end all three armies of the Shining Force will converge to fight the "Ultimate Evil", Bulzome, in the frozen wastes far to the north. That battle alone (and an optional one near the end where you can level-up your weaker troops) can take upwards of 2 hours to finish. Yeah, EPIC.
Julian takes on a Bulzome Pegasus Knight.
Thousand, the rare White Dragon who joins Julian's army. He's the strongest physical attacker in any Scenario.
All told, Shining Force III is 190 HOURS' worth of incredible and surprisingly cerebral storyline filled with political intrigue, betrayals, and difficult decisions that affect which characters you may recruit in later Scenarios (you can easily miss many of them completely). It's simply sad that more gamers haven't been able to experience it so far. Made by Team Camelot, it stands easily beside Valkyria Chronicles as two of the greatest SRPGs of all time. A 3DS version of SFIII would be a system-seller (and would really be able to take full advantage of those rotatable environments); a high-res WiiU version seriously might just save even that struggling console. It's THAT good.
A beautiful illustration from the Shining Force Central website where members of all three armies enjoy a quiet moment in the solitude of the frozen lands to the north where the final battle takes place.
Edit: Updated text color of first paragraph to improve reading against white background and added label
Since that's the case, one would have to believe that a graphically updated Shining Force III would likewise be a fantastic asset for either the PlayStation 3/4 or the Vita. This game really deserves a second chance to be experienced by gamers on both sides of the Pacific, regardless of who publishes it or which system(s) it ends up on. The only question now is, will it ever happen?
Come by and visit and add your voice of support to bring this awesome strategy title to North America!!!
Shining Force games should definitely be on the "Remaster" list. A lot of great things can be done for those games using today's technology.
There are too many great games being left behind. I'm always thinking, "What the heck?!", ya know?
Honestly, had I realized something like this could happen, I would've worked on becoming a videogame developer. I was just young and enjoying the moments I guess.
I imported all three installments. Having played SF 1, 2 & CD, it was easy enough to play the basic game without knowing Japanese ... but I imagine I missed a lot of secrets!
I preferred the (also Saturn era) Langrisser fantasy war game series, but I have a soft spot for SFIII as well.