Sunday, September 1, 2013

Game Review: Shining Force III: Scenario 2

Strategy RPG; SEGA Saturn; Camelot Software Planning/SEGA; 1998 (JAPAN ONLY)
Yes, it's been forever since my last video game review, for that I am sorry. For those of you who don't know, Shining Force III came in three parts called Scenarios, and much like the Mass Effect series many years later, clear data from the each game can be used in the later games, where your choices in each effect the outcome of events in later games. However, only the first scenario was released outside of Japan, leaving the story frustratingly incomplete. But thanks to the efforts of the Shining Force III Translation Project, all three scenarios (as well as the Premium Disk) are available for English translation (provided that you have the original CDs). Due to the legal uncertainty of emulation, I will not provide links (though they are easy to find on your own), but I will review this game and give my thoughts on it. Mainly because that's what I do on this blog. Anyway, on to the review!

Meet Medion, our NEW silent Protagonist!
Medion is the third prince of the Destonia Empire and is the only prince of a common born mother. During the peace conference between the Empire and the Republic, Medion's small army was tasked with guarding the port during the proceedings. That is until Medion and his friends spot a Masked Monk setting up explosives in an act to disrupt the conference, an act that allowed the Emperor to be kidnapped. With signs of conspiracy among the ranks of the empire but all fingers pointing to the Republic, Medion heads out to find answers to his questions and learns that his best intentions alone will not ensure peace.

Unlike the first scenario, the second scenario feels more complete a story, not only because with what we know of the first scenario gives light to the events of scenario 2, but also because there is no dangling plot threads that are left untied, apart from the conclusion which sets up the events of scenario 3. However, a lot of the problems of the first scenario remains, there is too much expositional dialogue that flows unnaturally from each character, we don't get to know the minor villains enough to care about fighting them, and our silent protagonist feels out of place in this story. New problems also arise from the nature of the two games. All of Synbios's dialog is now filled in while Medion's is completely rendered as "......" making the character your playing as the least interesting character in the game, and the fact that the reoccurring villains from Scenario 1 appear just as often in Scenario 2 which makes them too omnipresent to be realistic. Ultimately, the story is just more of the same, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.

Action scenes like this are more dynamic this time around.
On the gameplay side of things, if you played the first scenario then not much has changed with Scenario 2. The core gameplay is identical, with Medion running around an explorable town before his army enters a battle and the turn and grid based battle system takes over. If you want to know what the gameplay system is like, read my Shining Force III review (Link Here). Most of the changes between the two games come in the form of small tweaks. For example, the "Boss" icon is now visible when you enter cursor mode in battles, rather than having to select the enemy to identify the boss. The action scenes during battle are more flashy, with dynamic camera zooms, unique casting animations for some mages as well as new casting effects, and a new sequence for when a character levels up. While these changes don't alter the gameplay much, they do help make the game look nicer. But the main draw is carrying over your previous game data, which if you accomplished certain things in the first scenario, you will gain access to new characters, special items, and altered scenes based on your actions. Likewise, in Scenario 2 there are certain events that carry importance in Scenario 3. Of course, the problem is most of these events aren't highlighted to you with big bold letters telling you "This is important" forcing you to use a guide to know what half of the triggers are, which is somewhat frustrating.

However, there are a few new problems with Scenario 2 that weren't in Scenario 1, and that is mainly with how the game is designed. Unlike the first game, there are several battles in Scenario 2 which adds one or several NPC characters to your army, and later in the game some of these characters MUST survive the battle. The problem: The AI in this game SUCKS! In one of these battles I had to freeze some water in order to cross to the other side; however, my AI companion never figured out that he could cross the water when it is frozen and would stand on the other side dumbstruck and attacking the water as if that was going to do something, while the impossible to kill and so F*ing strong enemies where coming up from behind to murderize him. This is made worse as the last several battles before the final 3 fights, forced me to baby sit a whole group of these morons, who never realized that they can move forward, and when they did they went in the opposite direction as I did. Add to that a Magikarp character whom I gain at Level 1 unpromoted while everyone else was at Level 7 promoted, and you have a frustrating last act.

What dropped this game's recommendation from the last game was it's frustrating frequency idiotic NPC AI towards the end of the game. Nothing drops the excitement of a Strategy RPG, then being forced to baby sit people who are too stupid to live and too moronic to strategize around. Add to that the fact that you really have to have played the previous scenario to truly get into this game and that it isn't much different from it's predecessor, and you got a solid recommendation but nothing more. Shining Force III: Scenario 2 is Recommended.

Until next time.

-Crescent, You know, if you guys stop standing around talking about your evil plans then maybe they will actually succeed.

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