Written by  :  Infernos (16552)
Written on  :  Jul 01, 2014
Platform  :  Genesis
Rating  :  2.83 Stars2.83 Stars2.83 Stars2.83 Stars2.83 Stars

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One of the best Tactical RPGs on the Mega Drive

The Good

Shining Force II is much less linear than the first game, which had a chapter based system so you couldn't go back to towns visited in the previous chapters and buy/find items or characters you missed the first time around. Here you can travel all over the game world and explore.

Shining Force's biggest strength, at least for me, has always been the character roster and this game doesn't disappoint in that regard: thief rat, phoenix, tortoise and golem (along with wolfman, birdman and robot classes from the first game). Adding to good replay value is the fact that there's quite a bit of secrets you can find in Shining Force II. Along with stat boosting items which were in the first game, now there's also secret promotion items with which some characters can be promoted to a special fighting class (the Sorcerer class has some wicked spells). There's also Mithril, which you can find in various spots and bring them to a blacksmith in a secret village who then makes powerful weapons out of them.

The first game had some good map design and so does this one - the fight with a sea monster on a narrow raft, chess board battle and one of the final battles where you're making your way up a tower. Some interesting enemies as well: Burst Rocks that explode and damage anyone near them, Prism Flowers that fire lasers which hit everyone on a direct line in a vertical or horizontal direction and Mist Demons that cast muddle (a spell that basically lets the AI hijack your characters and make them waste their MP or go after your own units). I only wished they were used more and in combinations.

Most of the stupid menu controls from the first installment have been fixed, for example, now you can just walk up to an NPC you want to talk to and press a button, in the first game you had to pull up a menu and select the "talk" option every single time. The AI makes moves quicker, acquired items are automatically passed to whoever has the inventory space to carry them and weapon vendors ask if you’d like to immediately equip newly purchased items. Also, like in the first game, you need 100 experience points to level up, but now you don’t lose the points that pass the 100 mark, like before.

Difficulty wise there's 4 options: normal, hard, super and ouch! (you'd expect "Ouch!" to be the hardest, however Super is actually the hardest difficulty setting). I played it on normal and the game starts out rather tame, but gets more challenging as you go on. I would say there's little to no grinding involved, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. The graphics have been given a boost, with more colorful and detailed characters sprites.

The Bad

The story is rather lousy and cliché, here you have the typical "some clueless guy (or rat) breaks a seal releasing evil and now it's up to you, the chosen one, to defeat it". Add to that a very stereotypical "rescue the princess" trope and a plot twist you can see coming from a mile away and you have the story of Shining Force II.

The non-linear style of the game can sometimes lead to confusion on where to go next. It also leads to poor gating on at least one occasion where you can fight the very strong (at that point) Kraken which you're not supposed to fight just yet.

Speaking of confusion, there's a completely unnecessary control method, where the C button automatically searches, while the A button allows you to manually select the search option and on one occasion (getting the "Holy Sword"), an item cannot be found using the C search option, only by using the A button. Also, in the English localization the "Search" option in battle is gone, meaning every treasure chest and searchable spot only reachable in battle become useless.

The bosses are still annoyingly cheap as far as I'm concerned, some of them can get as many as three turns before you even get one. And yeah, I get that it's a design choice from making it too easy, but there are better ways of handling boss battles.

The Bottom Line

Most of the interface inefficiencies from the first game have been fixed in Shining Force II, delivering a more streamlined game that easily ranks amongst the best in it's genre on the Mega Drive. However, taking into consideration that there weren't a lot of tactical RPGs on the system (only the Langrisser a.k.a. Warsong games come to mind) that's not really saying a lot. When compared to SNES/Super Famicom tactical RPGs such as the Fire Emblem games, Bahamut Lagoon, Front Mission, FEDA or Tactics Ogre, it might come off as bit simple, lacking the complexity of the aforementioned titles. Nevertheless Shining Force II is still a highly enjoyable game with plenty of interesting characters and mechanics that set it apart from other games.