Shining Force is a turn-based tactical RPG initially released for the Sega Genesis. The game was later ported to PC, iOS, and the Wii Virtual Console; a remake, which was titled Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon, was released for the Game Boy Advance.
The game was the brain-child of Hiroyuki Takahashi, who left working on the Dragon Quest franchise in 1991 to form his own company Camelot. His previous effort, Shining in the Darkness, laid the groundwork for some of the series' ideas.
Takahashi's goal in entering the RPG space was to focus on interesting battle mechanics more than simply creating a compelling narrative, which was the focus of many popular contemporary RPGs. He has revealed that the PC game Silver Ghost had a significant influence on the development of Shining Force.
The game is set 1000 years after Dark Dragon, a malevolent three-headed dragon, was banished to another dimension.
The player controls the protagonist (canonically named Max) and his army, with the intention of preventing the dragon from being resurrected by Darksol, The Lord of Darkness.
Shining Force is a turn based Tactical RPG in which the player controls multiple units on a grid based battlefield. Units range from melee fighters to ranged combatants, magic users, and flying birdmen, each with different movement ranges. Battles take place at scripted points throughout the game, on both the world map and field map locations. Instead of grinding random battles, one leveling tactic involves having the main character die multiple times during a battle. Alternatively, the main character has the spell Egress, which is a retreat spell for entire team. Either way, all team members keep their experience even if they are killed in battle or even if they retreat via the egress spell.
Unlike some other Tactical RPGs, Shining Force features extensive field map exploration through a variety of towns and other locations. Over the course of the game the player will meet a wide cast of characters, many of whom can be recruited to the players party. Most characters are required additions, but there are also additional characters who can be met at various points in the adventure. There is a limit to the number of units taking part in a battle, however there are many more to be found in the game. Units are held in a headquarters which is an available area in every town. Inside of the headquarters the player can engage in conversations with all his units, which change according to the games events, and the units that make up the current battle party can be selected. Equipment and Items can be purchased at shops in towns for each unit.
Once units that reach level 10, they can be promoted, which changes their appearance and abilities. Promoted characters reset to level 1. The player can promote any unit between level 10 and 20, with the benefit of waiting allowing the unit to become ultimately stronger.
The protagonist, canonically named Max, can only wield swords and he automatically has the spell Egress, which lets the entire party escape from battle. He is a very powerful character, but if he dies, the party surrenders. He is also the only character who can wield the powerful Chaos Breaker.
Lowe is the protagonist's best friend and he automatically joins at beginning of game. He automatically starts with the Heal spell, and he eventually learns Detox, Dispel, and Quick. He is a good starting character but has trouble keeping up with the party as the game progresses. He becomes a Vicar after his promotion.
Gong is waiting at a house outside of the first battle of the game. He is the strongest of all the healers in the game, but he is limited in combat when compared to the stronger characters on the Shining Force. He only learns two spells: Heal and Aura (he can only learn Aura level 1).
Khris, the deer-kin, automatically joins the party after freeing the protagonist from prison in Chapter 1. She is much like the other healers, but she does learn some powerful spells early in the game. She starts with Heal and eventually she learns Slow, Quick, and Aura (she only learns Aura level 2). She becomes a Vicar after her promotion.
Torasu joins the Force as players leave Prompt in search of the tower of the ancients. He is the most powerful healer in the game. He learns Heal, Detox, Shield, and Aura; he is the only character in the game to learn Aura level 4, which cures all party members wherever they are located. He becomes a Vicar after his promotion.
Ken joins the party after speaking with the king at the beginning of the game. He can use lances and spears, and he normally has a lot of HP. Ken starts out as a strong character, but much like many of the knights, he becomes weak around the middle of the game. He can be promoted to become a Paladin.
Mae joins the force after the king is killed in Chapter 1. Mae is great early in the game. She boasts an incredible amount of defense and she has average attack stats, but much like Ken, Mae becomes weak around the middle of the game. She can be promoted to become a Paladin.
Arthur is in Manarina, which is the same mage school where Anri is located in Chapter 2. He is on the upper floors of the school, and he is doing laundry. He joins the force if players talk to him after speaking with the Spirit of the Holy Spring. As well as melee attacks, he can also learn to cast Level 1 Blaze, Freeze, and Bolt.
Pelle is originally an enemy mercenary, but he joins the force after Runefaust attempts to murder him at the end of Chapter 3. He can use lances and spears, his stats level up more evenly than Mae and Ken.
Vankar joins after being fired from his initial role as a guard in Chapter 4. Like the other Knights, he can use lances, spears, and can be promoted to become a Paladin.
Earnest joins right before the fight in the Fortress of Balbazak. He is a revenge ridden centaur looking for vengeance on Balbazak. Like the other Knights, he can use lances, spears, and can be promoted to become a Paladin.
Luke joins the party after meeting the king in Chapter 1. As a warrior, Luke is strong melee character. He has high defense, high attack, and a large amount of HP. He is a solid character throughout the entire game. He excels in Chapter 5 if he is equipped with the Heat Axe, which is dropped by a Lizardman during battle. Once he is promoted he becomes a Gladiator. Warriors' movement is not prohibited by forests and mountains.
Gort can be found in a bar to the right of Guardania in Chapter 1, but he only joins the force after the city is left in ruins. Gort is generally accepted as the lesser of the two warriors because he lacks the HP growth of Luke. But since stat growth is randomized in Shining Force, he can become more powerful than Luke. He boasts both solid defence and attack. Once he is promoted he becomes a Gladiator, and he shares the Warrior movement bonus.
Tao joins the party after the player talks to the king in Guardania. She is a strong character in the first half of the game, and she learns the strong spell Blaze 4 during the earlier parts of the game. However, this spell is weaker than other spells. Another one of her strengths is her ability to cast boost, which can really help with levelling weaker characters. When she receives her promotion, she becomes a Wizard.
Anri joins in chapter 2 after players inform her that her father was killed. She is a more powerful mage than Tao, but she is less versatile. Her best spells are Freeze 4 and Bolt 2. She also learns Blaze 2 and Muddle. She also has high Defence. When she receives her promotion, she becomes a Wizard. A solid choice.
Domingo is a secret character. To get him, in the mage school of Manarina, there is a odd looking giant statue with large teeth. If players search it, then they will find a Domingo Egg. Upon arriving at Poa (the traveling town), after defeating Elliot in battle, Players must talk to the man to the right of the item salesman. He will hatch the Domingo Egg, which allows Domingo to join the Shining Force. Domingo is the only flying character that can use magic. Also, he is a tank/mage. He has a lot of HP, MP, and defence.
Alef the lynx-kin joins the Shining Force as players leave Prompt for Valley of the ancients. She is a 'glass cannon' at higher levels. She joins late in the game and she is not promoted. If she levels up far enough, she learns the strongest spell in the game, Bolt 4. The main problem is that Bolt 4 takes a large amount of MP to cast. When she receives her promotion, she becomes a Wizard.
Hans joins after players talk to the king in Guardania, at the beginning of the game. He has high speed, but deficient in HP, attack, and defense. He gets promoted to Bow Master.
Diane joins the force if players speak with her at the beginning of Chapter 3; she is in a house in Bustoke. She is more powerful than Hans, but less so than Lyle. She gets promoted to Bow Master.
Lyle can be found on top of a tower in Rudo in Chapter 6; he is the only centaur to also double as an archer. He has the movement of a Knight, and he outclasses Hans and Diane in almost every important stat. His initially joins the party at a low level, but because of his ability to keep his distance, he can safely level up.
Balbaroy is a Bird Warrior who joins the force after being saved from zombies in the Shade Abbey. He is Amon's friend.
Amon is a Bird Warrior who joins after being saved from zombies in the Shade Abbey. She is Balbaroy's friend.
Kokichi is a Flying Knight who must first be met in Bustoke; however, he joins in Pao only if players have previously talked to him in Bustoke.
Zylo is a Werewolf driven crazy by Runefaust. He joins after players cure his insanity with Lunar Dew in Bustoke.
Guntz is a Steam Knight who joins the Shining Foece in Pao (after defeating Elliot); however, he is first met in Rindo. He has high defense and attack attributes, but low movement speed. He gets promoted to Steam Baron.
Musashi, a Samurai, is a hidden character who joins the party by simply reading a hidden sign on a house in Prompt, and is one of the most powerful characters in the game.
Hanzou is a Ninja who joins the Shining Force after finding him hidden in the bushes of Runefaust.
Bleu is a dragon character first met in the city of Dragonia. He is the last living 'Great Dragon' in Dragonia. Initially, he is depicted as be cowardly, but later becomes courageous. He gets promoted to Great Dragon.
Adam is a mechanical man who joins the Shining Force in Metapha. Before promotion, his class is Robot; afterwards, it is Cyborg.
Jogurt the Yogurt is a joke character who only has 1 HP and is incapable of doing any more than 1 damage at a time in battle. If he does manage to defeat an enemy, he gains the Yogurt Ring, which, when equipped on another character, makes them look exactly like Jogurt, including his profile image. Players meet him in the same area that Gong is recruited; however, he does not join until much later.
In addition to the characters above, a few planned characters were cut from the final implementation stage. One of these is Shell (pictured), the first NPC players meet in the Mermaid village. Although she was cut as a playable character from the final version of the game, her character portrait was left in the code. This makes her one of the few NPCs in the game with a character portrait (Nova and the kings being the others). A lizardman was also supposedly planned as a playable character, but was scrapped before any implementation into the game.