Shining Force III
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Shining Force III (シャイニング・フォースIII Shainingu Fōsu III) is a fantasy turn-based tactics role-playing video game designed for the Sega Saturn by Camelot Software Planning. It is a continuation of the Shining series. Comprising three separate but overlapping storylines, the Japanese version of Shining Force III was released in three volumes, known as: Scenario 1 | "God Warrior of the Kingdom" Scenario 2 | "Target: Child of God", and Scenario 3 | "Bulzome Rising". For players who collected all three volumes, Camelot Soft also issued a Premium Disc featuring artwork, a character model viewer, and additional extras.
|Shining Force III|
|Developer(s)||Camelot Software Planning|
|Genre(s)||Tactical role-playing game|
In North America and Europe, only Scenario 1 was released. The real ending to the game can only be viewed by completing all the games in the series.
Like earlier Force games in the Shining series, Shining Force III is a turn-based tactical role-playing game. Battles take place in square grids, and each unit occupies one square. Each unit can move up to a fixed amount of squares along the battlefield, determined by its Move statistic. Depending on its location relative to enemies and to allies, a unit can also perform one action: attack, cast a spell, use an item, or search the area. Some commands, such as equipping or dropping items, do not count as actions. The order of turns is determined by the unit's agility score and a random seed.
As is typical for an RPG, units become stronger by fighting enemies or by performing other actions in battle, such as healing allies. These actions give the units experience points (EXP), which allow them to gain levels.
Each character has a class, which defines a set of abilities for that unit and determines the spells and equipment they have access to. A character can be promoted to another class at any level between 10 or 20. Upon promotion the character's level resets to 1 and statistics are reduced by a fixed amount, although they begin higher if the character had been promoted at a higher level.
Battle goals for the player are fairly simple: kill all enemies, kill the enemies' leader, or advance to a town or landmark. The enemy side wins if they kill the player's leader (Synbios in Scenario 1, Prince Medion in Scenario 2 and Julian in Scenario 3), or if the player chooses to escape the battle by casting Return. Even if the player army is defeated, the player can recover allies and retry the battle. The Force keeps any experience that is obtained, regardless of the battle's outcome. Thus, there is no Game Over, and the player's army gets stronger even upon its defeat, although the leader's death results in the player losing half of their money.
Shining Force III also possesses an exploration mode that occurs outside of battle. This gameplay mode is essentially a Japanese-style traditional RPG, along the lines of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, although there are no labyrinths and few puzzles to solve. In this mode, the player's army is represented by its leader, who is able to walk around, interact with people, find treasure, buy equipment and items, outfit the army and choose which of the army's members will be used in battle.
Each Scenario has its own roster of playable characters, representing different races and classes. Each Force starts out small, but throughout the game more characters can be recruited, building the Forces up to considerable size.
|Hayward||Elf||Archer||Can be recruited if spoken to; must be kept alive during first battle|
|Irene||Human||Monk||Can be recruited if spoken to; must be kept alive during first battle|
|Julian||Human||Swordsman||Main character of Scenario Three; only part of Synbios' Force for a short time|
|Eldar||Birdman||Bird Knight||Flying character; can be moved to areas other characters cannot access|
|Kahn||Human||Monk||Equipped with a magical orb that is crucial for defeating zombies without killing them|
|Noon||Elf||Sorcerer||Can be recruited if zombies are defeated with Kahn's orb instead of being killed|
|Penn||Penguin||Penguin||Must be hatched from an egg|
|Ratchet||Goblin||Steam Knight||Found in haunted mansion, but does not join until much later|
|Frank||Werewolf||Berserker||You have to physically push him to headquarters to get him to join you|
|Walz||Centaur||Archer||Cure her paralysis with an antidote and she will join|
|Rock||Beastman||Warrior||Will join you if Walz joined you|
|Barnard||Elf||Archer||If Synbios found and untied him in Scenario One, he will join Medion|
|Hazuki||Human||Ninja||Can be recruited if spoken to; must be kept alive during first battle|
|Hedoba||Elf||Sorceress||When encountering her in battle, do not kill her and she will join after the battle ends|
|Julian||Human||Swordsman||Main character of Scenario Three; only part of Medion's Force for a short time|
|Donhort||Centaur||Knight||Technically a non-player character in Scenario Two as he is part of Julian's Force in Scenario Three. Leaves Medion's Force when Julian leaves|
|Robby||Robot||Archer||Use Robby's Eye on Robby during Chapter 4 Ruins|
|Arthur||Centaur||Knight||Heavily implied to be the same Arthur from original Shining Force|
|Garosh||Human||Archer||If Synbios talked to him and allowed him to live in Scenario One, he will show up and join Medion|
|Jade||Human||Tank Gunner||Joins you if Garosh does not|
|Penko||Penguin||Penguin||Must be hatched from an egg|
|Papetts||Human||Beast Tamer||Can also be recruited in Scenario Three|
|Julian||Human||Swordsman||Only character playable in all three Scenarios|
|Donhort||Centaur||Knight||Joined Julian in previous Scenario|
|Edmund||Human||Commander||Will only be in the Force if playing without a save file from previous Scenarios or if Stella was killed in Scenario Two|
|Rollie||Unicorn||Unicorn||Jane will give Rollie to Julian if Julian allowed Jane to save Goliath in a previous battle|
|Thousand||Dragon||Dragon||Will join if Cyclops speaks to him during the battle|
|Honesty||Winged Centaur||Pegasus Knight|
|Produn||Human||Commander||Will join only if you spared Stella in Scenario Two|
|Pendolf||Penguin||Penguin||If Penn and Penko joined in previous Scenarios, speak to him and he will join|
|Spiriel||Human||Commander||Will join Julian if Synbios did not kill her in Scenario One|
|Jubei||Human||Samurai||Can be recruited if spoken to; must be kept alive during first battle|
|Primrose||Fairy||Fairy||Same Fairy who appears in loading screen for all three Scenarios|
|Marki||Human||Witch||Speak to her with Julian or Gracia during the battle|
|Turk||Leprechaun||Ogre Rider||Buy meat in Dormante, speak to Turk, then search the nearby well|
|Unoma||Human||Hermit||speak to him in Julian's HQ in Remotest|
|Papetts||Human||Beast Tamer||Can be recruited in Medion's team if Medion speaks to him in Remotest; this will only happen if he wasn't already recruited in Scenario Two|
|Jane||Human||Innovandal||Can be recruited during the final battle by having Gracia cast the Blessing spell upon her; her joining changes the game's ending|
Synbios' and Medion's Forces become playable again once the player reaches Remotest. All three Forces can be used to progress to the final battle.
Scenario 1, God Warrior of the Kingdom, features Synbios, a young lord from the Republic of Aspinia. Aspinia was once a part of the Empire of Destonia, but seceded after a war of independence spearheaded by some of the more democratic-minded nobles. They opposed Emperor Domaric's totalitarian policies, which disenfranchised a large number of people, creating a huge disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Tensions remained between Aspinia and Destonia after the secession, marked by occasional border disputes.
As the game begins, Synbios is part of a military force representing Aspinia at a peace conference in the neutral city of Saraband. Due to manipulation by outside forces - later discovered to be connected with a religious cult known as the "Bulzome Sect" - full-scale war breaks out again between Aspinia and Destonia. The majority of the game's storyline covers this conflict as well as Synbios and his team's fight against the Bulzome sect. Throughout the game Synbios has periodic encounters with Medion, Destonia's youngest prince, who also recognizes the truth behind the war. Although on opposite sides of the war, the two work together to identify the real threat. Medion's role is portrayed in more detail in Scenario 2.
Scenario 2, Target: Child of God, features Medion, Prince of Destonia, and youngest of three sons of Emperor Domaric. Although loyal to his father and his country, he senses that there are other forces at work beneath the tensions between Aspinia and Destonia. He attends the conference in Saraband on behalf of Destonia, along with his brothers Arrawnt and Mageron. As discovered in Scenario 1, much of this influence comes from the Bulzome sect, as well as collaborating separatist factions within both Destonia and Aspinia. Medion works parallel to Synbios of Aspinia, often disposing of rogue Aspinian elements to spare Synbios's force from fighting against its own countrymen. At the end of the game, Medion is forced to battle with Synbios' force when Julian steps in to stop them.
Scenario 3, Bulzome Rising, stars Julian, a mercenary who appears as a secondary character in both Scenario 1 and Scenario 2. He is for all intents and purposes the true main character of Shining Force III. His initial motivation as the story begins is to track down and kill Galm, one of, if not the, most powerful member of the Vandals, a powerful race of beings that existed over 1,000 years ago. Julian believes that Galm killed his father and is seeking revenge. This story arc is first introduced in an earlier Shining game, Shining the Holy Ark, in which Julian appears as a young boy who asks the party to search for his missing father.
Julian joins Synbios in the midst of his quest in Scenario 1, but after an encounter with Galm, he is tossed over a waterfall at the suspension bridge and believed by Synbios' army to be dead. He reappears in Scenario 2, apparently washing ashore at the site of a battle between Medion's army and the Bulzome Sect. Knowing the sect's ties to the Vandals, Julian agrees to fight alongside Medion. As it becomes clear that the sect is trying to kill Gracia, a child intended to become the next Innovator (A Shining Series figure equatable to a god), Julian takes on the task of protecting him and helping him realize his destiny.
Scenario 3 starts about 60% through scenario 2's story, and focuses primarily on battles against the Bulzome Sect and their allies in both Aspinia and Destonia. While scenarios 1 & 2 happen at roughly the same time, much of scenario 3 takes place after both, but there is some "overlap". Eventually Julian leads a three-party coalition consisting of the armies of both Synbios and Medion, to engage in the final conflict against Bulzome, a powerful Vandal long sealed in another dimension, and the true orchestrator of the conflict.
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In 1997, Sega produced a trial version of the game featuring several key differences, such as an unused level format, different voices for certain characters, and monsters that were removed from the retail version of the game. This demo was only available in Japan, and thus is a sought after item for retro gaming collectors and RPG collectors alike. With its key differences (such as a final level that is not featured in the final game) the Beta version was Sega's way of testing the market for one of its popular series. The differences from the finished game are very noticeable, such as:
- Magic for the main character, Synbios, is not included in this version. In the finished product his magic includes Return, which would bring the party back to a church for saving progress. As this was only a demo, though, there was no need for it to be included. His Spark magic can be obtained at level 9 in this version; however, the spell doesn't work, yet the icon and MP appears on the status screen.
- This particular version of the game's character voiceovers for their special attacks are only included for Synbios, Masqurin, Grace and Hayward. The other characters, Obright and Dantares, have no voiceover and as such their mouths move for when they attack but nothing is said.
- The various monsters included were in there to test out size and span of the monsters, such as Minotaur, Lich, Worm, Bat, and Lizard. This is an unusual grouping of monsters when compared to the finished version, as the player encounters them at different times and with different statistics to that which they have in the beta.
- An area that did not make it into the finished version of the game is known as Dwarf Valley Beta and is the original battle of Dwarf Valley. The level itself was a prototype of the Waterfall battle before Aspia in Scenario 1, as the virtually identical Suspension Bridge, waterfall and cliff area are included. However, the differences are that the land texture mappings have not been completely finished and the beginning and end areas of the level are different compared to the finished falls.
Next Generation reviewed the Saturn version of the game, rating it four stars out of five, and stated that "Like Saturn itself, Shining Force III will end up being an effort that was underproduced, underrated, but fun as hell."