Things haven't been too great for the Shining series, at least not since the Genesis. The last major game in the series was Shining Force III for the Saturn, which was horribly botched for its release here in the states. Shining Force III was the entire reason I bought a Saturn and remains the ONLY game I ever had for that doomed system. After releasing the first chapter here in the states, Sega up and decided to put the Saturn out of its misery, leaving the second and third chapters in Japan, never to be viewed by the non-Japanese reading US public.
Since then, the only members of the Shining series to see release have been the Shining Soul games on the GBA, which took a completely different angle in the series, and just weren't good. This fall, the series is getting a chance to redeem itself with the release of at least four titles in the series for the GBA and PS2. Atlus is kicking off the Shining Force revival with Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon, a reworked port of the original Shining Force for the Genesis.
Shining Force puts you in the role of a young hero who washed ashore in the Kingdom of Guardiana a year ago. He has no recollection of how he got there, or what his name is. The only thing he knows is that he's an excellent swordsman. Varios, the Knight who commands Guardinana's army, takes him under his wing.... err, hoof? (Varios is a centaur), and trains him to be the next leader of the Guardianian forces. After a disturbance at the Gate of the Ancients, the king sends you and a small expeditionary force to investigate. This thrusts you into a battle with the armies of Runefaust, who are slowly making their way across the kingdom and crushing neighboring countries.
You begin your adventure with a small fighting force comprised of a centaur knight, elven archer, mage, dwarf fighter and priest. As you progress through the game, you'll acquire new soldiers for your rag-tag army. All of the classes from the original will return, and will be joined by three new classes. These include a new warrior type, an assassin and a card player.
Cards are a new addition to the Shining series. Mawlock, the card player, is the only party member who can equip cards during battle. These cards give him a variety of special moves. Some will allow him to clone other party members, others will give him special bonuses, while others will allow him to enhance other party members. Some cards will allow Mawlock to double the movement ranges of characters, copy their most powerful spells (and use them) and even double their attack rounds. Cards are received throughout the game through talking to other party members and other people you meet during your adventure. Rarer cards can also be found in towns and obtained from enemies. Cards can only be used once in battle, lending a bit of strategy to the entire system.
Shining Force is a return to the 'classic' Strategy RPG. Unlike recent strategy RPGs, which take a 3/4 perspective of the action, Shining Force takes a birds-eye view of the action. Each soldier has their own movement stats and attack ranges based on their class and, in some case, their race. Terrain will also affect your movement ranges. The half-horse centaurs have the greatest movement range of the bunch, but have difficulty crossing hilly areas. Birdmen, on the other hand, are unaffected by terrain and can move just about anywhere. Knights have the smallest attack range, while archers can attack great distances.
Graphically, the game has received a slight upgrade. Character portraits have been redone and overall the game looks much cleaner than its Genesis counterpart -- which, by the way, wasn't all that shabby looking to begin with -- so players can expect good things from Shining Force.