I never thought there would be another Crash Bandicoot game for as long as I lived. When the series hit that weird mark of changing his appearance and added some creatures to possess and control, the dear orange marsupial had seen his end. But, much later, when Activision released the remastered trilogy, it made me happy and hopeful again, to see that interest in that icon was around, and not just around, but can still run with the big boys of gaming. It wouldn’t surprise me if Crash or Spyro became a hidden character in Smash Ultimate.
And from the ashes of series-being-reborn, is a resurgence of titles finding remastered life. MediEvil, Spyro, and Ratchet and Clank all saw glorious return-to-basics changes, with Pixar quality graphics, and storytelling, to flesh out the lack of from its early years ( B.T.W., the story of Spyro is a coming of age trial, just my head cannon).
Heck, with the Nintendo Switch, Mario, Link, Kirby, Donkey Kong, Star Fox and eventually Samus are seeing graphical updates, with new games that are making themselves the epitome of their franchise lately. Developers are currently taking a step back and looking at their ancient works to see what they can pull back and revitalize. So, its understandable why people are going crazy and reluctantly getting hopes up for their old favorites they thought were forgotten.
It even helps when said developers from twenty years ago are also interested and they verbally express interest. I bring all of this up to discuss my main idea. A while back, Hiroyuki Takahashi, head of Camelot Software Planning, said he would love to make a Shining Force IV.
What is a Shining Force?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
These… These are a Shining Force.
Back in the day (When I was born), this company called Camelot answered the call to produce an RPG to keep up with the Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, and now insane lose-your-unit-forever- craze, Fire Emblem sweeping the NES. What could someone do against three games setting the bar for superior RPG excellence? Should they keep development on their Phantasy Star series? (yes, obviously), would their efforts beat the likes of the NES? Or would it fall to the level of still well known games, but less popularity, like Ultima, or Crystalis?
Sega CD4, Camelot, Sonic! Software Planning. A small team dedicated to making what would be known as the Shining series.
The Shining series started as a dungeon crawler, with units taking turns to use weapons, spells, or items. But after that success it took a brand new route, and went to a strategic, role-playing turn by turn where you had a large (or small) field, multiple units, and grid based movement taking turns to use weapons, spells, or items.
“Okay, Chronic, every other game you mentioned has that!” I hear you saying. Let me finish!
The developers combined the dungeon crawling screen, and the grid-moving action into one, smooth cohesion where you had a bird’s eye view of all your units, and the enemies, and once they collided, it would switch to a more ‘intimate’ view where your character was fully stylized and moving, swing a sword, or firing a bow. It was in this moment that the characters came alive, and they were more than just a little 8-bit collection of miniature figures. Capes waving in the wind, their chest moving up and down from breathing, wings flapping, and feet shifting really added such a depth that the sprites of Fire Emblem kind of did, but not to this extent. So yes, Shining Force raised the bar on style and deliverance of action.
I mean look at the above pictures! I love the scene of the lava below, a magical-glass floor, cliffs on either side, and the sky- blue and innocent above- really shows the clash of light versus darkness in this moment. And for those of you who know this fight, then you know the kind of clash we went up against.
Many of the games, save for Shining in the Ark, and Shining Wisdom, kept this formula, for it twas not broken, and twas not needed to be fixed. Even the games that became portable, and then later ported and remastered had this fighting mechanic. You could even buy stronger weapons, revive lost comrades, and save your game at “bases” (that term would go from a literal base, to a complete town, to just one screen of a town). Some of the bigger games even had town and field exploration. Sonic! Software Planning loved putting in hidden things for people to find, and reward the careful observer, and greater reward the truly insane. You might find a chest only a flying character can reach, or search a barrel for the town exploration to be enhanced, OR if you manage to search a cave wall with no prompt or direction and find a bikini, you could! Or how about walking down the field to fight a wimpy boss, when all of a sudden BAM, rock-head-monsters spawn out of nowhere! Or skeletons with machine guns constantly appearing during the most pivotal fight, and standing on the spot keeps them at bay.
This is all a taste of the gaming experience they produced, I haven’t even went into the Promotion system, the character bonding system, secret characters, difficulty setting, secret naming option, or the Shining story!
Speaking of story, the Shining series kept a lot of their later installments in the same universe. There were branches, and there were time lapses, but for the biggest titles, you could find the mention of Darksol, and Dark Dragon, or follow the family tree of certain important characters.
Sadly, in 1997, when they were developing their widely considered Shining Force 3, the crew was dropped, as Sega focused their attention on the Dreamcast (hilarious, I know). The poor game probably has such a unique and interesting history and renown because of what happened to it, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if it had been completely released.
Well, after putting that behind them,
Sonic! Camelot became friends with Nintendo, and made them many sports games. But, they dipped their toes in RPG again and produced a fantastic series called Golden Sun.
So, it’s 2019, we have an unfinished Golden Sun series, an unfinished Shining in the Ark series, a sporadic Shining Force 3 game, and a myriad of titles stretched across every Sega platform ever crafted.
What are we as fans to do?
We need to tell them.
We need to get together and make one voice of what we want. First of all, a single place where we can get all of our Shining titles, including the missing gems: CD, Wisdom, Ark, and more importantly, working with those making an English patch to re-release Shining Force 3 as a whole.
Next, we need a conclusion to the Golden Sun series. The first two were so great, and the third title is good, but because there’s no immediate sequel, it is severely hurting us to not have a true ending.
And then after all of that, you can hit us with Shining Force IV. A return to Guardiana, a new Belzome, a new Devil, a hero becoming the villain, Camelot, we’ll leave the storytelling to you, because that’s what you’re great at. That one time we’re chasing a false king, and we’re pinched between masked enemies and a neutral territory force?
What about that other time when we have to fight our own father for the princess so we can collect her tears later?
Or that other time we spend an hour trying to cross a land-bridge because of one mechanical eye.
Or that time we’re washed up on shore with no weapons and we have to search through the wreckage to reclaim them?
The hero who doesn’t talk once, the entire game, only to say his party won’t die with him, as he teleports them to safety while he (allegedly) goes down with an ancient city?
A phoenix bird?
A baby dragon?
The sword Chaosbreaker?
Give us your best, because your best is filled with memorable moments from gameplay and story combined. Only Camelot can produce fantasy and sci-fi elements together unlike other RPG games. And there isn’t another game that is going to give us our fix.
Start a Kickstarter! An Indiegogo, or a Fig, we’ll give you our money!
Okay, that’s the end of my rant, but before I go I want to thank Shining Force Central for being the oldest and biggest site for Shining Force lovers. I have followed their work for years, and am super proud to know of them. Also, I am giving the links to all of the sites I used to evaluate where most people stand on what they want. Also the link to Shining Force Central, where you can see what awesome things they’re up to.
Shining Force Central: