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Shining Force III Reviews
Shining Force III Review (all three scenarios)By Casenor
Shining Force III Review - Casenor
The greatest RPG by Sega on the Saturn game system (argued by some to be the Greatest of all RPGs, in fact) is Shining Force 3. The critically acclaimed Strategy/Role-Playing Game is in a class of its own; with the traditional Shining Force battle system plus new features, amazing 3D graphics (well, for Saturn anyway) not to mention a very deep and complete storyline (finally!). The game is made up of 3 scenarios, each on a separate CD, and a total of 19 chapters. Gamers start from the first scenario playing Lord Synbios of the Republic, then Prince Medion of the opposite Imperial army in scenario 2, then finally, in scenario 3, the young mercenary Julian; who was caught up in the midst of the colossal conflict while seeking to avenge his father. The whole story happens in about 15 days, but you won't feel that: once you're hooked (and you will be, trust me) it'll be hundreds of hours and many, many days of great gaming. The integrity of the story is startling; the battles are thrilling but never just for the thrill, as in too many other RPGs; and the characters are simply adorable (well, most of them anyway - if you can adore the bad guy boss, that's great too.) All in all, this is a classic of its genre, and if you bought a Saturn just to play this game, you'd be getting more fun out of it than those who have a Saturn and 100 games for it but no ShF3.
Rating: 9.0 / 10
Despite arguments concerning whether ShF3 (or any of the ShF series, for that matter,) with its innovating combat system, could be labeled as an RPG, the 'peaceful' intervals are very much like that of any RPG. Players can walk around wonderfully detailed towns and converse with its inhabitants, buy and sell at shops, and search every corner for hidden treasure - from weapons to common items to rare ones that can be used to increase the efficiency of the force. Events happen along the way, revealing more of the plot. Extra bits like the hero's exaggerated reaction to empty closets (Oooooh!!!), yes - no questions from townsfolk, and 'bugging' shopkeepers into selling you better stuff make the normally flat moments that much yummier.

Battle, of course, plays a big part in the game. Most of the Shining Force series games utilise a strategy sort of combating, pitting 12 members of the force against a number of foes on various terrain. The parts relatively similar to other games are these: members of your force gain experience points by inflicting damage on enemy units or aiding fellow warriors with spells or items. When the experience points amount to a total of 100 a level is gained, bestowing the member with a random number of stat bonuses. Stats include hit points (HP), mana points (MP, available only to spell-casters), attack, defense, agility, movement, and luck, though the latter two can only be raised with special items. Stats are also affected by the weapon and accessory equipped on the character. New spells are also acquired by magic users through leveling, or by the equipping/using of certain items. And, of course, there are various sorts of baddies and bosses, with unique moves and spells to slaughter your fighters with.

But the different part, the part that earned the series the name of Strategy/Role-Playing Game (SRPG) is what makes combating so interesting. Gamers must also advance as they conquer: they need to negotiate difficult landscapes, devise instant strategies that will protect the force from all sorts of hazards, and be wary of ambushing foes. If you go about the battles in ShF with the I-hit-you-then-you-hit-me attitude of the Final Fantasy series, be prepared to hear your hero's dying gasps (Is… is this the end?) In SF teamwork is what makes your warriors and mages invincible to oncoming baddies; and the difference between a well-managed combo of attacking and healing is finishing a skirmish unscathed or shelling out 11 piles of gold to the priest that revives the fallen. This then leads to the fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link - with such a library of unique characters, how does one build the perfect force? Besides simply leveling and virtual Darwinism (It's the survival of the fittest; anyone want penguin fillets?), ShF3 offers us an even greater variety of methods: Four different levels of friendship between team members, which are gained by teamwork and add different bonuses during combat. Categories of weapon that are either superior or inferior to other categories, Magic resistance against 6 classes of sorcery, and three levels of skill to each single weapon type; with increased power and extra special moves as the levels get higher. All this is more make the simple slashing and killing a lot more attractive.

Scenario 1 - 9.0
Scenario 2 - 9.0
Scenario 3 - 9.0

The methods of battlingand exploring are consistent in all three scenarios. I gave the score of 9.0 because a few things are wanting, such as fresh looks to certain moves/spells and the special items that grant a special promotion (as seen in ShF2.) But I'm only being critical because this is a review; in truth Camelot has made attempts for something new in each scenario, and some will say that the special promotion idea was abandoned due to the second (Innovator) promotion in scenario 3. All in all, the gameplay is among the best of the scores of RPGs out there.

Rating: 9/10

Rating: 7.5 / 10
For a Saturn game the graphics of SF3 are very, very good. Besides the brilliantly animated intro movies, we can find a trove of great artwork during gameplay. Details like the tiny movements of the characters, plus very nicely done portraits (before the Innovator promotion, anyway) are quite remarkable. Being able to zoom in and out and spin the camera 360 degrees also adds richness to the graphical work and the awesome special moves in battles are real eye-candies. When compared to other Saturn games like House of the Dead and Resident Evil (Biohazard), ShF3 is a masterpiece.

But there are flaws: Expressionless, almost painted-on, faces in the battle scenes. A lack of movie clips (we're greedy and want more!) And the yucky final promotion portraits - not all of them are bad, of course, but enough that even Camelot realized it and had some redone in the Premium Disc which was released after Scenario 3.

Scenario 1 - 8.0
Scenario 2 - 7.0
Scenario 3 - 7.5

It might seem funny that scenario 1 received the highest mark, but one look at the lazily done character portraits in scenario 2 (most obvious in the fact that promotion hardly changes the portraits) is enough. Scenario 3 got some back, but once again the final promotion looks minuses half a point. Battle-wise and background-wise there are hardly any changes from the first to the third disc.

Rating: 7.5/10

Rating: 7.0 / 10
The music is nice, better than average, but there are not very many pieces, especially in the first two scenarios. Scenario 3 offers a few more scores that liven things up. The voice acting, however, is quite good, though there really isn't much for each character. What we have is three or more battle-cries per character, ranging from the common 'Ikulaiyo!' of Japanese anime/games to cute but unintelligible lines (Gen-ji-ban-sai?), furious growls and howls to icily calm 'I don't hate you, but...' and 'Hikari...are!' Listening to the voices is a real treat, so much that you'd probably forget the music all together.

Scenario 1 - 7.0
Scenario 2 - 7.0
Scenario 3 - 7.0

Obviously Camelot didn't skimp on the audio talents: the voices are great all the way. Note that I am talking about the Japanese versions here; for US and UK versions my sole comment is, 'urgh!' If you can read a little Japanese or have great translations and guides, then my sincere advice to you is play the Japanese versions. Your ears will thank you.

Rating: 7.0/10

Rating: 10.0 / 10
Yes, very very fun. If you don't know why, you didn't read what I wrote. Get outta here!

Rating: 10/10

Rating: 9.5 / 10
Given the intense integrity of the whole plot and the fact that with three heroes and three point of views you can still follow the storyline very clearly, it's obvious that ShF3 has one of the best stories ever written for a video game. The only other game I can think of with such depth in its plot is Starcraft. I won't say too much about why the story is so good here, because I'd spoil it for future gamers, but I'll hint a bit: political backstabbing, plot within plot, a shadowy mastermind, and a turmoil spanning the width of two nations and unexplored wilderness. Not good enough for you? Come on, if you can get what FF10 is about and thought Phantasy Star 4 was nice tale, you just have to play Shining Force 3.

As for comparison, as all three scenarios are closely linked there's nothing to compare about them.

Rating: 9.5/10

Closing Note
Playing an RPG should always be more than watching pretty graphics and hearing cool music; it can also be deeper than falling for one of the characters or crying with them at sad parts. Shining Force 3 is just that - more and deeper. Having played FF5, 6, and 7 (with 6 and 7 being called the best of the FF series) Phantasy Star 4, Secret of Mana, Breath of Fire 1 & 2 (not to mention SF 1 & 2) and many other RPG and non-RPGs, I believe I am at least qualified to call ShF3 one, if not the best, game I've ever played. It's worth spending time and money over, for where else can you loot houses, combat all sorts of baddies, think up battle plans instantly, admire moves that will shame Street Fighters, hear top-grade voice-artists perform, fall in love, shudder at all the conspiracy, choose fight or flight, live and die and then live again, enjoy a game and, best of all, watch a wonderful story played out before you? Shining Force 3 is not just a game to get, it's THE game to get.
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