Shining Force 3 Scenario 2 is the 2nd in a series of 3 RPGs planned for the Sega-Saturn. In this game, you basically have to lead your band of warriors/palladins/magicians/etc... through tons of battles. Unlike other RPGs, what makes the Shining Force 3 series unique is that what you do in previous scenarios may affect the series of events in the later scenarios. (Actually, I haven't played scenario 1 myself so I don't know exactly WHAT kind of changes may happen...)
The graphics in the game are pretty good (amazing when compared to recent 'graphical' disasters such as the House of the Dead and GT24). It's entirely 3D except for the characters. However, during the battle sequences, when one character attacks another the screen shifts to a cut-scene where fully polygonal (and beautifully shaded / light-sourced) characters take it out on one another. These sequences look really impressive especially when spells are summoned; you'll see some impressive lighting effects WITH transparencies. Comparisons with Grandia's 3D graphics engine are inevitable; here's a summary:
The music in the game ranges from average to good. All the tunes are in FM (again, unlike Grandia which used PCM sound samples which sounded really impressive!). They aren't very memorable but they do their job well, getting you pumped up for a battle.
Here's where Shining Force 3 is like just about every other RPG around. Obviously, a lot of memory went into the graphics engine so the developers probably didn't have enough space left for really good sound samples. Granted, many RPGs have little or no sound effects at all but after playing Grandia and Azel: Panzer Dragoon RPG, you can't help but feel disappointed when walking right next to a huge, SILENT waterfall (I guess I'm just a bit too fussy) or talking to a bunch of people for 5 minutes without a single voice sample. On a more positive note, the sound effects during the battle sequences are pretty good with some excellent wind / fire / lightning sounds plus other sounds which 'hurt' when you get hit.
A lot of people are bound to confuse Shining Force 3 as an adventure RPG ala Grandia but it's more of a battle RPG like Dragon Force. In fact, there's no exploration whatsoever! No dungeons, no secret areas to uncover, NOTHING. There's is some story involved however, but I don't think it adds much to the game (There's way too much Japanese text to read through at times and in ultra-difficult KANJI too!!!). In other words, like most people, I just skip all the text (unlike Grandia and Sakura Wars where you HAD to read the text to gain maximum enjoyment).
The battle sequences here are turn-based where how soon each character's 'turn' comes depends on his/her 'speed'. There's tons of strategy involved here as a lot of factors come into play such as the mobility of your characters due to the terrain (ie: forests/sand/water slows you down) as well as the range of each character's attack. There are also some instances where you have to decide whether to split up and cover more ground (thus risking the lives of your party members) or moving around in one big gang; this doesn't sound very difficult until you need to get to another part of the 'map' in a hurry (as in rescuing people or preventing enemies from escaping). Now, you'll even have to choose the best possible route (the one which doesn't leave you wide open for an attack). It's all sounds very complicated and it IS. You'll find yourself dying over and over again at times since the enemy AI is pretty good; they usually attack your main character or your weaker characters. Each battle may last between 15 minutes to an hour depending on your style of play (slow and safe or fast and dangerous). You can summarise the gameplay here as 'brains and patience required' Overall, this is one of the better battle sequences I've ever come across in an RPG and I like it a lot!
Notes for non-Japanese reading gamers:
There are loads of options available, the loading times are exceptionally quick, most menus / options have icons so getting around option screens is pretty easy, you have as many save game spots as your back-up memory permits... basically, this game aces in this department. The only complaint I have is that during the battle sequences, your enemies sometimes drop objects when you defeat them and you HAVE to pick the object up whether you like it or not. Worse still, you have only 4 places per character for storing items so if you're carrying 4 very important items, you HAVE to get rid of one of them to pick up the object!!! This is a rather annoying flaw but doesn't really detract from the game.
A solid (and rock hard) battle RPG which will keep you glued to your joypad. And it looks good too! Knowledge of Japanese isn't really required as it doesn't detract from the gameplay. Strongly recommended for all RPG fans.
Review By: Christopher Chong