Shining History
An introduction to the original games

The Shining Series is one of the biggest RPG brands of Sega. Due to the the lack of new games some might not know the origin though. Thank to Lady Moogie I was able to set up a small history.

Shining In The Darkness 1991
In the beginning there was "Shining In The Darkness", the one that started the whole Shining Series. It was developed by Sonic Co. (not "Sonic Team") that was created for the developement for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis.
"Shining In The Darkness" is a classic first person Dungeon Crawler like Dungeon Master (which was also released for Sega CD), Eye Of The Beholder or Lands Of Lore. You are the son of the Knight Sir Mortred who got lost while accompaning Princess Jessa to
the Queen's Shrine so now it is up to you to rescue them.
The opions on SitD differ from each person - IMHO it was a great game that created an incredible tension though it lacks variety as there is only one dungeon and town. The graphics were great for its time and you can still hear me whistling the tavern song nowadays. A classic . No question.

In spite of the recognition of the first Shining game
Shining Force 1991
"Shining Force: The Legacy Of Great Intention" was one of the best games ever. It combined
everything we nowadays consider the small details that make a Shining game. The menu was taken from SitD but everything else changed. Like it well known followers it combined a classic 2D RPG with a fantastic
strategic round based battle mode. To my knowledge there was no other console game that had a similar gameplay. Besides that
SF had also good graphics and great tunes that created a unique atmosphere.
In "The Legacy of great Intention" you must fight the evil armies of Runefaust that invade your country and even worse the evil Dark Dragon himself is behind this invasion. This might sound like the average good vs. evil story but after some seconds it will hold your interest. Even more than a classic!

Shining Force II is more free-roaming than the original Shining Force, as it doesn't use chapters. You're free to go back to any town during the game, assuming you have a way to get there and that there are no obstructions. It doesn't follow directly from Shining Force as far as storylines go, in fact it's really a story in it's own right. That being said, the story is connected to that of the original Shining Force through various aspects of Shining Force Gaiden Final Conflict.
For some reason, Shining Force II is often referred to as "Shining Force II: Return of the King", but I've found no evidence as to why this might be. The Japanese sub-title for it clearly translates to "Ancient Sealing" or "Seal of the Ancients". You play Bowie, a young swordsman who must prevent the evil Zeon from awakening and rescue Princess Elis from the mad King Galam. The story is somewhat stereotypical, but the graphics, sound, comic moments and oodles of gameplay more than make up for that! It's especially nice to be able to backtrack through the game (although this can lead to confusion as to where you should be going next), as there are no chapters splitting it up as there were in the original Shining Force.
The game introduces a few new features, such as the Caravan, in which you can story many items, you can have less than 12 members in your team if you want to, and finally you no longer have to select the "talk" option to talk to someone - just walk up to them and press C.

Shining Force CD features far better graphics and sound than it's Game Gear counterparts (Shining Force Gaiden and Shining Force Gaiden II) - as one would expect.
The game takes place 20 years after the original Shining Force. Anri is now the Queen of Guardiana, and some of the original Force (or their relatives) still dwell nearby, although many have returned to their homes in other parts of Rune. In the first adventure, you play the role of Nick, a young man whose true identity is unknown until later in the game. The Guardiana Shining Force must travel to the Kingdom of Cypress to rescue Queen Anri... In the second adventure, Prince Nick and the Cypress Troops join forces with Guardiana after rescuing Anri, to prevent Iom's evil plan. I won't spoil the other adventures, you'll have to play to find out about them!
The one thing I really missed while playing Shining Force CD was "town roaming" sections - there aren't any. All towns are the same and are more like the one in Shining in the Darkness than in Shining Force. A single shop, and HQ, that's it. No roaming around plundering houses... the game is battle upon battle with some cut scenes of story inbetween. Still great fun though, and great for those who get tired of spending an hour in town trying to figure out what to do next.

I'd class Shining Wisdom as an Action RPG, nothing like the other games in the series - in as much as it's not turn based. Many people consider it to be a Zelda clone, and to be honest I never had the desire to play through it. However, in the last year or so I've given this game a chance and have thouroughly enjoyed it. So, it's not the same style as the rest of the games - it's still fun to play, has nice sound and graphics and fits into the Shining world and storyline.
Kazin and Sarah show up together (called Sara and Parn in the US translation), and there are mentions of Stormsong (Thornwood, "Shining in the Darkness").
I've heard that Working Designs have a habit of butchering translations, and it looks like they've done the same to Shining Wisdom. The Japanese version clearly says that the game is set in Parmecia (the same land as Shining Force II, III and Final Conflict)... WD translated this to Palacia. How Parumekia can be translated to Palacia is beyond me, it would seem would they did no background work on the other games before working on this one.
However, this isn't the case - as it turns out, Sega themselves have the rights to the real names used in the games, and as such WD were forced to use their own variations. Thus, the European release is more accurate in translation when compared with the Japanese version... but the US version is still very enjoyable.
It's often considered the "black sheep" of the series, but if you give it a chance I'm sure you'll agree that such a judgement is far from fair. A most enjoyable game and I'd recommend you try it if you have the opportunity.

Shining the Holy Ark is often considered to be the big brother of Shining in the Darkness, as they're both essentially first person dungeon/labyrinth games. The graphics are lovely, the music (by Motoi Sakuraba, who also worked on Shining Force III) is very atmospheric and the game is great fun. However, if you didn't like Shining in the Darkness, it's quite possible you won't like this... but, you do get to see all the attacks in glorious 3D!
Shining the Holy Ark has a great plot too, linking in with Shining Force III (which is set 10 years after Holy Ark), but there's really too much to go into here. I suggest you play the game (it's not too hard to find and not too pricey) or read on it at one of the sites listed here at SFC.

Only Scenario 1 of Shining Force III was released outside of Japan, but even on its own it's a great game. My first thought when I saw it was, "Whoah!!! Shining Force in 3D!!!". The game is simply beautiful (okay sure, so they're not amazing graphics by today's standards, but they aren't too shoddy for Moogie!), the soundtrack (by Motoi Sakuraba) is amazing and the game has a very in-depth plot - much more than your usual "save the princess" story. This tale has political twists and turns, backstabbing, impostors... the works!
The game not only introduces the wonderful new 3D battle system, but has other great new features. Characters who fight together become "friends", and give each other attack/defense/magic bonuses when fighting together. Different weapon types can be equipped, gaining special attacks as the characters skill with that weapon increases. Magic-users learn only three spells, gaining a fourth from the weapon they equip - spellcasters can use weapons that give them healing spells, and healers can gain attack spells in the same way!
Shining Force III Scenario 1 was recently re-released in Japan, available through Sega's D-Direct online store. Needless to say, it sold out very quickly, and is once again no longer available.

Shining Soul is the latest Shining game uptodate. The game itself is follows the Shining storyline, acting as another plot-joiner, as we see many familiar faces in the game. The plot, however, is flawed - most likely a result of the game being developed by a different company. Indeed, this is the first game in the entire series that the Takahashi brothers did not work on, and I'm afraid it's blatantly obvious.
It's similar in style to Diablo, allowing up to 4 people to adventure together and exchange items etc. For this reason, Sega have dubbed this game a Communication RPG, which in layman's terms basically means a multiplayer Action RPG. There are four character classes: warrior, archer, dragonnewt and magician. A reasonably enjoyable game in its own right, but as a Shining game, I'm sorry to say it's quite poor.

This information is based on material provided by Shining Force Central, and used with Moogie's permission.The original articles can be found at:
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