Written by  :  MasterMegid (902)
Written on  :  Jan 27, 2009
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Shine On You Crazy Diamond

The Good

The Shining series by Sega and Climax, and later Sonic Software Planning, now Camelot. Is one of the longest running RPG franchises in gaming today. With over a dozen of so games in the series, it holds yet another distinction, it is one of the only RPG series I know of in which the various games are of a different genre. From the strategy/RPG gameplay of Shining Force II. To the action/RPG styling of Shining Wisdom.

Shining The Holy Ark, is more of a traditional, party based RPG. The spiritual successor of the Genesis RPG, Shining In The Darkness. With such an illustrious linage how does, Shining The Holy Ark hold up?

Despite the fact that the gameplay is most similar to Shining In The Darkness, Shining The Holy Ark is more of a prelude to the epic three disc, Shining Force III.

You play as Arthur, who can be renamed. A mercenary hired by the king to hunt down the rouge ninja Rodi. With your fellow mercs in tow, you head off to Desire mine, where the fugitive is said to be. However before you can take him in something strange happens. One of your friends, Forte, is possessed, by an evil spirit. He attacks the group, leaving them for dead, they are saved by a mysterious force. That explains to them the danger that the world faces. From the rebirth of The Vandals.

You must now befriend Rodi, and help destroy the Vandals, and return the spirits to the holy ark. During your adventure a myriad of characters will join in your cause. The beautiful mercenary Lisa. And the dragon man Basso stick out in my mind. Needless to say that the cast of characters is one of the games strong points. As one would expect from this type of RPG. They all look great too, cool designs all.

You also collect pixies. These little minor party members help you get pre-emptive strikes in battle. Doing so not only makes combat easier, but rewards your party with extra cash and exp. Furthermore collecting all 50, results in a special reward.

The bulk of the game revolves around exploring and solving the various dungeons. There are also various towns and villages to explore as well. You can even have a blacksmith make you custom weapons when you bring him mithril ore. (A tradition since Shining Force II.-MM)

What would an RPG be without hundreds of monsters to slay? The combat system here is traditional turn based. Which is fine by me. The game however makes things more interesting by adding little perks to the familiar attack, magic, defend formula. As there are a great deal of special attacks. Some are always available, others only when a certain item is equipped. For example equip Arthur with a short blade along with his standard sword, and he will be able to perform, a power attack, criss-crossing his blades on his foes. The only down side to this is that the power attacks happen randomly. So no pulling out the big guns during boss fights.

Speaking or boss fights. Each dungeon ends with a boss fight. These are long battles that will take all of your RPG skill. And can be quite fun and rewarding when you see those big bastards go down.

As with most of the Shining games, you can promote your characters when they reach a certain level. This increases there overall status. And the sooner in the game you can do it the more advantageous it will be in the increasingly tough dungeons.

The graphics are 3D with 2D sprites. Overall it looks decent. Particularly once you consider the games age. There are also scattered CG cut scenes. That look impressive for the early days of CGI. Don’t get me wrong this game is no Panzer Dragoon Saga, but it’s graphics hold up.

The sound effects are all proper and sound good. But the music is where it’s at. From the pleasant title theme, to the more brash battle music. It’s all good here.

The Bad

Some voice overs would have been nice. But alas there are none.

The fact that you can only save your game in churches in towns is too old skool for it’s own good. And as the dungeons are quite large, it becomes quite the hindrance.

As I mentioned earlier. Not being able to use your power attacks when ever you want to can be a little annoying. I guess that Sega thought that it would make the game to easy.

I am not sure of how valid a complaint this is, but Forte is just about useless until the latter stages of the game.

Finally there are a few minor sound glitches, that can get annoying.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Shining The Holy Ark, is a worthy entry into your JRPG collection. As I found it to be quite an enjoyable game, all 50 hours of it. And while it may not be as polished as Shining Force III, or as classic as Shining Force II, it is still an excellent example of the Shining series and what it has to offer. Let’s hope that they make another dozen games!