Retro Review #8…it’s very short

by dsiso on September 17, 2012

Welcome back to a community produced feature where members of the forum would send their reviews to me and I’ll put them here. The focus is on Retro entertainment, the general rule of thumb is something that was released ten years+ ago…although lets face it some modern games aren’t really anything more than prettier GC/PS2/Xbox titles!

Due to lack of content and me thinking my reviews were ridiculously bad (hence why mine are missing), this is an extremely short issue. I’ve decided to drop this feature altogether and instead concentrate on the GBAtemp Recommends Revival feature instead as that only requires a little write up which takes hardly anytime to do. If you want to submit something for that feature please get in touch with Another World.

Shining Force – Mega Drive/Genesis – By BortzANATOR
Exile 2: Crystal Souls – PC – By DaggerV
Game: Shining Force Review By: BortzANATOR Format: Nintendo 64
Genre: Party/Mini Games Publisher: Nintendo Developer HAL Year Released: 1992

Shining Force is the story of a young hero (Max) who has amnesia (surprise surprise) and is raised by the noble family in Guardania. The King on day summons you to go to the “Door” and take out a small weak strike force that was sent there by the Runefaust army. Whats behind the door?
For that, we have to go back many years. The Dark Dragon, a three headed terror was brought to life and used for evil by the land of Runefaust. The “Ancients” used old technology and a magic spell to banish the dragon to a different dimension. As everyone knows, magic spells wear off in increments of 10. This one happens to be 1000 years. The Seal is now weak enough and the dark lord, Darksol, who summoned the dragon in the first place, is read to bring him back. The problem? He doesnt have all the pieces. So he has assimilated control of the country of Runefaust and is using the army to trample anyone in his way of finding the pieces to bringing the Dark Dragon back.
The gripes I have with the story is that some of it is so rich and detailed, its hard to make sense of everything. Some names of towns and people are confusing as well. Understand where, who, and why they are all important took me a few plays though.

Basically the whole game is you meeting the Runefaust army at every turn and beating them back to where they came from. You chase Darksol and his army around the map attempting to stop his moves, and spread the word that the Dark Dragon is coming. Of course, no one believes you.

There are two parts to the gameplay. Wandering around the towns and such (all set up on an overhead grid system) and the other is SRPG battling.
In towns you do basic SRPG things. Buy weapons, arrange your troops, talk to people who are about as dull as a butter knife. Sometimes its searching for the point that advances the story.
The buy and selling of items is ok, thanks to markers and shopkeepers telling which character can equip what items. But when you start finding items and weapons in chests or on the ground, you run into inventory problems. Mainly, every item picked up goes directly into one of Max’s 4 inventory slots. almost always will one be already used for a weapon and another for a ring or item of some kind. If you have no available slots, you have to start suffeling things so Max has an empty slot for the item to enter the parties exchange circle. I think this was remedied in the GBA version with 3 different sets of 4 slots and trickle down item pick up inventory sort of system.

But the real meat of the game are the battles. You start at one end of the map with you and your [up to] 11 piece army. You army is a collective of various people willing to believe that the dragon is coming and would like to lend a hand beating back the onslaught. You can get humans, centaurs, birds, robots, a dragon, and even a floating jellyfish with ice magic, and a defense rating that will stop the strongest of blades. Eventually the “Shining Force” starts to look like a rag tag group of misfits. You get a large number of recruits and by the end, you will have to pick and choose who you want to bench, because you have too many awesome characters.

You advance your way thought he battlefield and take on a few enemies at a time, working your way to a boss, or simply routing the other army. There is only one battle that plays out like two armies rushing the same battle field (think American civil war style). Most of the time is moving your army as a collective clump and overpowering several enemies at a time.

When you actually engage and enemy, the game shows you a zoomed in almost cut scene of your character (or the adversary) doing the attack. While this looks cool and adds a lot to the game, sometime it feels slow and wastes your time. Also when attacking with a mage, sometimes its frustrating when you forget that “Attack” and “Magic” are under two different options. Attacking with a mage will do maybe one damage, thanks to most of them using a blunt staff.

Also my biggest problem is how death is handled. If someone dies, you have to pay to bring them back after battle. Fair enough, but if Max falls, its all over. When I played this as a younger child, this meant I would grow to hate using Max, and keep him toward the back. Late in the game, enemies that could fly can seek out Max and kill me before i got into the fray with my main force.
Other qualms I have with the battle system really comes down to pinch points. In just about every other battle, there is a point where an enemy with substantal heath, blocks a one person walkway. Your only hope is to use a tank character and back him up with long range arrows or magic till he falls and you can ssslloowyyllyyyy funnel though the gap. Because moves are determined by the computer, and the “Wait” command doesnt bump up that characters turn, you tend to have a very unorganized march though tight gaps, which takes way too long thanks to a set in stone AI running the turn algorithm.

The graphics are pretty well done for a sprite based RPG. Given most of the game is found in close ups of you and your enemies beating the snot out of each other close up, There is alot of individual sprite work done on each individual character. This leads to some repaleting for enemies and a few of your comrades even, but over all there is a solid effort put into making everyone look unique.

Weapons also change with what is equipped, even if it is just a different color of the same thing you were holding before.

Sound is good, unless you have a thing against chiptunes, then you shouldnt be in this thread at all. The overworld battle them (used in battles between cities or anywhere generic on the world map) is extremely boring. I usually try to boost though them as quick as possible. Every time you have a close up battle scene, the same music plays. Which gets old after a few battles. Whats funny, is that the victory music is the SAME track, and it playes after a set number of seconds, regardless of who is attacking. Usually this isnt a problem, but when a Dark Mage casts a spell that hits 4 or 5 of your characters, its a bit of salt in the wound when the victory music loop starts in as the mage is still freezing the balls off of your troops.
Every town and castle has the same music and every battle chooses from a pool of about 5 themes. most of them are catchy and display a sense of urgency, which is good because you will be hearing them a lot.

There are so many battles and characters to fight and collect, this game can effortlessly be played over and over again. Ive played it about 10 times now, from start to finish. Its not particularly hard, so replay is easy. But there is also no option for new game+, but with that the game offers, i dont think that is necessary.
Game: Exile 2: Crystal Souls Review By: DaggerV Format: PC
Genre: Rogue-like RPG Publisher: Spiderweb Software Inc. Developer Jeff Vogel Year Released: 1996

For many years, the Empire dealt with its misfits, its loudmouths,
its petty criminals in one way: it teleported them down into Exile, a
network of enormous caverns and twisty tunnels stretching for hundreds of
miles under the surface of the Earth. There, the banished humans fought,
worked, and struggled to survive.
Then they struck back. With the help of several banished wizards,
they assassinated the emperor of the Empire. In return, the Empire
invaded Exile, teleporting down a massive army of well-trained soldiers
and mages. These troops are now marching through your homeland, destroying
everyone and everything they find.
If something isn’t done, you are all doomed. The question is,
will someone step forward who is smart enough, strong enough, and just
plain good enough to stop the forces decimating your land?

I was first introduced to this game back in 2001, when one of my friend handed me this disc that was just loaded with hundreds of freeware games. A demo version of Exile 2 was on there, and being a huge fan of RPG’s (Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Baldur’s Gate, and many more!) I was hooked!The game runs on older Windows, newer Windows might take a bit of tweaking to get right.

You load the game up and it’s a typical menu. Various quick options in the task bar, then game menus.
You get a help window pops up telling you you’re about to start a new game, that different races have different abilities. Then the party creation screen pops up.
Here you can make up to six characters. While you can try and run through the game with just one, it’s advised you make a full party of variety of class-types. You type in a name for your character, pick a race and various perks and flaws, then on to skills (Train). In this screen you get to pick various skills for this particular character, based on a limited pool of points.

After you build up your Party (there’s a lot of options, it might take a few party death to learn the game better, but don’t worry too much about building the ultimate team first time through, after all, losing is fun! If you’re not one of those who love jumping into games without a guide, there’s plenty on the internet that gives helpful information, or specific on skills, even a wikia if it’s still around)

Now on to Chapter 1, The Barrier!
The game is grid and turn based movement. When not in active combat, you see the avatar for your first character (orders can be arranged later.) You start out in a room filled with various objects, such as a bed, chair, and dresser. You look around, and there’s a door, but curiosity wants to know what’s in that chest, right? This game is pretty big for being the kind of project that it is, good old school examine everything and get into anything, even other people’s pocket. This is basically rogue-like gameplay. Click to move, with various hot-keys for action. There are plenty of hidden doors and items to be found. Careful though, taking some items is considered stealing, but it’ll tell you it belongs to such and such. If you talk to some of the people you learn a bit more about the story, you’re exiles, and the empire has come down below to crush us, someone pissed them off.Chatting with people involve typing in keywords into a talk box. It can be difficult to continue the conversations at time, but if you played old school games like this you know what you’re dealing with. There are free items in the armory to gear up your party. The capatin informs you there are Nephalism to the east that are prepping to attack the barracks. As you’re moving around the starting area, which you later learn is a barrack, you get forced into combat, Oh No!
The battle then turns into turn based fighting, fasting char moving first. Each character has a alotted amount of movement points that they can divide up into various movement, such as moving, attacking, and casting spells. When you use up all the movement points you’re going to use, you end that characters turn, and turns keep cycling untill everything that needs to die is dead and you end combat (via the sword button.) Characters don’t gain XP unless they actually do stuff, so it’s likely your fighter and mages are going to be higher leveled than your healer, but don’t fret.

Alright, if that didn’t convince you to go east, I don’t know what will. with blood stained swords, you head out.
This is the open world, you move around such as you would in town, any foes move on their own turn. You can explore around if you want, but you know your target is eastward bound, so you should go that way. Eventually you’ll stumble upon a cave. Once inside the game plays like a true rogue-like. You can only see the area around you, you have to explore the area to open up more fo the map, but still limited on point of view. It adds quite a bit of feeling of exploration and caution. Be sure to bring those torches if you’re exploring dark places, lest you stumble upon a party of flesh eating mushrooms before you have a chance to prepare!

It has a true Open World RPG feel to it. You’re free to go where ever, do whatever, kill who ever you want, as long as you have the power to back that decision up. In that regards, the game doesn’t hold your hand either. There has been a few occasion where I discover a new locale, enter, and bam I’m dead as I get flooded with traps and spells … game over man! Don’t let that deter you however, reload, and avoid that place for later, or be all hardcore and start anew, your decision. Occasionally on the open world you’ll run into other unit, if you make contact, and encounter happens, whether it zooms into the area for a fight, or you stumble upon a camp. As you play the game, you’ll discover an older, much more ancient threat to the exiles, and then does your adventure truely begins! My only real complaint about this game is the lack of screen estate, it’ll seem really tiny on high resolution, and the sounds? There are no music, just sound effect that gets old really quick, the constant sound of foot steps. This game does a good job about giving the old school adventure feel, from epic fights to exploring dark caverns and saving princesses. Level up as powerful warriors and spellcasters, run away from dragons, to trying not to let your party die while riding a raft down a river as strange creatures shoot darts at you from the bank, to finding secret trap door leading to cache of magical items. One of the better party based rogue-like I’ve played.

Thanks to both members for submitting their reviews.

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