|Shining Force EXA (2007)
Available for: PlayStation 2
If you’re not interested in purchasing a PS3 now because of the ungodly price or lack of anything worth playing on the system, fear not. Games are still being continuously cranked out for your beloved PS2, making the best-selling system Sony’s biggest competition. Whoops. Ah well, to keep your PS2’s motor humming happily, Sega just released “Shining Force EXA,” the latest entry in an RPG series that actually made its debut way-back-when, on the Genesis console.
Sure, go ahead and chide Sega for keeping the home fires burning for really old titles that perhaps don’t deserve it. But one thing is certain -- this isn’t another Sonic game. (And God knows how bad the last few Sonic games have been, no matter what system you’ve played them on.) No, “Shining Force EXA” is a decent real-time RPG that’s a bit heavy on the button mashing, but not so much so that it detracts from the overall game. Plus, it’s a nice little title for those new to the whole RPG thing or younger players who can’t quite grasp the intricacies and depths of a “Final Fantasy” game.
Players control Toma, a goofy young swordsman who, along with a group of similar-minded friends, has recently discovered the hallowed sword Shining Force. Those who are able to extract the sword from its trap will have their wish granted. Of course, Toma successfully claims the sword and declares he wants to be king of the world. Yes, it’s all very King Arthuresque, and you’ll excuse the heavily borrowed ideas because they don’t really affect the game that much.
Players also control a mysterious and moody girl named Cyrille, whose motives aren’t quite clear. As in other RPGs, these two characters have strength in different aspects -- Toma is better with weapons while Cyrille is better at using her magic. Of course, both characters can use either or both, and level them up respectively, but you get the idea. What would a slightly basic dungeon crawler be without a dose of magic thrown in with the hack and slash component?
The attacking system is easy to learn, with simple combos acquired through the usual method of pressing the attack button in a certain fashion. When either of your characters is battling in a party, the buddy AI is not too shabby, though like most games that have this feature, it could be a bit better. As for the enemy AI, well that’s a different story. Nothing in this game is too terribly difficult to overcome. Most enemies can be dispensed with easily, and boss fights are a medium-sized difficulty at best. Still, you might be surprised when you do occasionally bite the dust in combat and have to give the battle another shot. Hey, at least it isn’t a complete walk in the park.
The worst thing about “Shining Force EXA” is definitely the voice work. Sega must have hired the local community center actor’s club, because this game has some of the most unintentionally funny and cringe-worthy readings heard in a long time. It literally sounds like the actors are reading lines off the pages rather than acting them out. You’ll soon find the seemingly endless bits of scrolling dialog to be a good reason to go out and hurt something. It’s that bad.
On the whole, though, this game is probably more fun than it ought to be. While predictable and not a very tough challenge for the seasoned RPG fan, “Shining Force EXA” remains surprisingly fresh with what it does have to offer. It’s no “Shadow Hearts,” but really, what is? It is, however, a decent and fun distraction that can certainly give players a nice break from their other games as a simple yet satisfying adventure, no matter how derivative.