Shining Force 2 (GEN, 1994)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

1994 was a good year. In this year, a game and a service were both released which were quite amazing. The service was Sega Channel, which allowed Sega Genesis users to play up to 50 Sega Genesis games for about $15/month. You can check out Sega Channel on Wikipedia for more information on that, because this article is not about that service, no. This is about a game that I first played on Sega Channel called Shining Force 2.

I remember it quite clearly. One of my childhood friends named Eric had the Sega Channel. I was at his house and we were playing Vectorman over the service. Not having the cartridge but still playing the game was really awesome. Eventually, Vectorman started to get a little boring so we started looking through the games list for something that sounded cool. This is when I pointed out a game near the end of the list that was unknown to me at the time. Shining Force 2. Eric would eventually develop into a fan of RPGs, but this was well before that time so he allowed me to play Shining Force 2 and he would watch.

From the opening theme song, I knew that we had selected a pretty epic game. Few games have opening themes on the main menu that are truly gripping and phenomenal, but Shining Force 2 sure did! Imagine hearing this when loading up a game in the mid 1990s! It was truly awesome.

That track also served as the overworld theme, which was even better! To this day, “Wandering Warriors” is one of my favourite overworld theme songs and is surpassed by only two others – Terra’s Theme from Final Fantasy VI, and Over the Hill from Final Fantasy IX.

Shining Force 2 had a wicked soundtrack, and this showed in the first battle sequence in which you battle evil spirits in a tower. Everything about the game felt immediately epic, from the awesome soundtrack to the truly amazing visual presentation of the game. Every single fight felt like a truly heroic experience, which was quite an accomplishment since Shining Force 2 is a tactical RPG similar to Fire Emblem or Tactics Ogre.

The gameplay was a lot of fun. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of exploring and the game was pretty linear, but the fact that we could travel a world map freely was enough of a reason to put this game ahead of it’s competition. Most tactical RPGs only let us move a cursor over a simplistic map, which doesn’t really satisfy one’s thirst for exploration at all. Shining Force 2 had a gigantic world map, and you could easily get lost on it. It felt a lot like the overworld from the first Breath of Fire, which is certainly a good thing. It was massive, but it was tons of fun and the music was great.

The storyline, overall, wasn’t the best at all. Truthfully, I think that Shining Force 2 actually has a very underwhelming story. As I said, it is the gameplay and soundtrack that make this game the ultimate classic that it truly is.

The amount of recruitable characters in the game felt absolutely massive at the time. The final roster numbers close to two dozen, I believe. This was an astounding number for a game released in 1994. Each character had their own unique sprites, portraits, and classes as well. To make things even better, each character could be upgraded to a second class. Upgraded characters would have new battle sprites as well as new battle themes! It was really quite cool to upgrade a character and experience the new battle sequences for the first time.

The gameplay itself was not any different from what you would find in the games I mentioned previously, Fire Emblem or Tactics Ogre. Unlike in those games, the characters in Shining Force 2 have better identities and personalities, even in the midst of battle. But as for how the game plays, Shining Force 2 is the typical “move character a certain number of tiles on the map, attack if able, if not then finish your turn” sort of game. A true tactical RPG, and it was fantastic. The difficulty also spiked dramatically later in the game, making some fights very difficult! The AI would have a tendency to seek out weakened party members, so protecting your army was paramount.

Gameplay, soundtrack, overworld exploration, and character development are Shining Force 2’s key points which shine the most – no pun intended. While the storyline is weak, it’s really the only part of the game that isn’t fantastic. With this in mind, it’s not hard to understand how this game could be so special, which it is.

Shining Force 2, my favourite Sega Genesis game by miles. Definitely a classic, and a true gem in the Genesis library.

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