Important Importables: Sega’s Shining series

March 31, 2012 - 2:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: Sega’s Shining series

JRPG series have become overshadowed in recent years, thanks to the success of western RPGs or RPG-hybrids from companies like Bethesda and BioWare. That doesn’t mean they’re gone though or that older series are disappearing. The classics still carry on. One of these series is Shining. I bet all you gamers who played Shining in the Darkness or Shining Force didn’t even realize they were part of a long running series, one that’s still going on today. They are and even though they haven’t been released overseas in a while, they’re still going strong in Japan.

Wasn’t the Shining series a bunch retro RPGs?

This may take you aback a bit, but the Shining series is still a very viable line in Japan. I know, I was stunned the first time I saw a recent RPG with Shining in the title from Sega as well. I think all gamers know by now that sometimes good games and series just don’t make it outside of Japan.

With Shining, it’s more understandable. The games cover a number of different RPG genres. The first few entries were strategic RPGs, some were turn-nased RPGs, there were a few action RPGs, and some melded a bunch of different RPG genres together. There were even a few that could be considered rogue-like. In all, there have been 30 Shining games. I bet you thought Tales was the most neglected Japanese RPG series from a major publisher until right now!

The Shining series originally began with the Genesis turn-based RPG Shining in the Darkness in 1991. Sega didn’t seem too invested in the series, as it initially only offered the minimum amount of resources to create it. Even so, Genesis owners responded positively to the game and the result was more Shining games. They were so beloved that many of the original entries were remade or ported between 2002 and 2006. The series still continues strong today with DS, PSP and even arcade games. Now the games are just as likely to be turn-based as they are to be action RPGs or strategy games.

One of the best things about the Shining series is something it has in common with Final Fantasy. While some entries do have ties to one another, perhaps are even direct sequels, they’re all stand alone adventures that typically focus on only one region or area in a fight that pits good against evil. So you don’t have to get involved in every single game to enjoy one game.

The shiniest Shining games.

As I mentioned earlier, there are about 30 Shining games. Most are original entries, but there are quite a few remakes stuffed in as well. I’d say about half have been released in English, give or take, which means there are plenty of opportunities to get acquainted with some of the better entries. So I decided to go through a few of the games I’ve played and would recommend trying out. Many of the original entries are available via assorted Sega Smash Packs or Genesis Collections, so you should have no trouble finding a Shining game for a system you own.

There’s just one thing to beware of when it comes to North American Shining PS2 releases – they’re known for their horrible voice acting. So while the overall experience may be good, you’re going to want to play with the sound off.

  • Shining in the Darkness (Genesis, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360) was the first Shining game and was originally released for the Genesis in 1991. It was a first person, dungeon crawler with turn-based battles and starred a young boy and two friends who were searching for a missing princess and the boy’s father.
  • Shining Force (Genesis, Windows, GBA, Wii, iOS, Dreamcast, PS3, Xbox 360) was a 1992 strategic RPG for the Genesis. Darksol wants to resurrect the Dark Dragon and use it and his Runefaust troops to rule the world. The GBA version is best as it has an additional storyline.
  • Shining Force Gaiden (Game Gear) was a 1992 strategic RPG that was a sequel set 20 years after Shining Force and followed a young man named Nick who helped the Shining Force protect the land from the dark intentions of Woldol. It’s only available in Japanese, but the Game Gear was region-free so anyone can play it.
  • Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya (Game Gear) is a strategic RPG from 1993. It’s a direct sequel to Shining Force Gaiden, which makes it ironic that this was released in North America and that wasn’t. Nick left to fight forces from Iom and left the Sword of Hajya and additional forces behind. Iom soldiers break in and steal the sword, so Nick’s friend Mayfair and additional warriors set out to reclaim it.
  • Shining Force II (Genesis, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360) is a 1994 strategic RPG set after the three Game Gear Shining Force Gaiden games. In it a hero named Bowie and his friends have to fight Zeon and his invading Gizmo army to save the world from the Devil King and reseal him in a tower.
  • Shining Force Neo (PS2) is an action RPG that came out in 2005. Max is a warrior who’s trained to become a Force, which means he has exceptional powers that help him fight against the Clan of the Moon and their Legions of monsters. Just as he finishes his training, the Clan of the Moon starts making a push to take over the world again. The voice acting is ridiculously awful, but the rest of the game is pretty solid.
  • Shining Force EXA (PS2) is an action RPG from 2007. Toma and Cyrille are both searching for the Shining Force. Players get to choose which one to control, with Toma being a warrior and Cyrille a mage. In this world, humans from Noswald and demons from Fyrlandt are pretty much always at war. This entry is especially neat because you also get a Geo-Fortress castle that you upgrade and maintain.
  • Shining Force Feather (DS) is a 2009 strategic RPG that was only released in Japan. (The DS is region-free though, so enjoy!) Players follow treasure hunters Jin and Bail, along with a newly found android named Alfin, as they hunt for artifacts from the Shining Force war 3,000 years ago. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that they aren’t the only people after these treasures!
  • Shining Hearts (PSP) is a turn-based RPG from 2010. As you can guess, it’s a Japan exclusive. Rick the warrior lives on Wyndaria island and ends up finding an emotionless amnesiac named Kaguya on the shore. Pirates are after her necklace, so he saves her. He then works with his coworkers and friends to help restore Kaguya’s emotions and memories while also protecting the island. What’s neat is players’ choices influence the feelings of people in the game, releasing hearts to restore Kaguya’s mental state. Collecting hearts unlocks Heart Keys that advance the story.

In addition, a new Shining game was just released on the PSP this month in Japan. It’s called Shining Blade and follows Rage and his friends as they use attacks and songstresses to fight battles against the Dragonia Empire. If Rage and his team can find the Shining Blade and Loreley the songstress, they can stop the revival of the Dark Dragon.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports will hopefully have a review of Idolm@ster 2 for the PS3, provided my copy arrived this week.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports talked about Arc System Works

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