It has been about seven years since Sega released a new Shining Force game. The wait is almost over though, as Sega prepares to release Shining Force NEO. We stopped by the Sega booth to play the game, and while it plays well for an action game, it is a far cry from the strategic battles and large-party battles of the classic Shining Force games.
We began the game in an outside environment where we fought several insects and other enemies. The battles all take place in real time, with a hack-and-slash-style combat system. You can assign magic and items to certain buttons with a flick of the right analog stick, making it easy to scroll through your inventory and spells while still moving around with the left analog stick. The spells we saw were the basic elemental attacks like blaze and ice. Some spells can be targeted, while others have an area effect that surrounds your character like a force field.
As we walked around slicing things up and collecting the items, we were assisted by a computer-controlled member of our party who generally stayed in the background firing arrows at enemies. You can have a party of up to three other AI-controlled characters at a time. The characters will level up and learn new abilities, but there are no class promotions like in previous Shining Force games.
The game looks about average for a modern action role-playing game, with bright and colorful environments and anime-style character design. The isometric perspective provided a complete view of the action, which was constant as enemies spawned from specific points until we killed our quota. Despite the constant battles, the game ran smoothly, even when there were more than a dozen enemies onscreen.
Overall Shining Force NEO feels much more like the recent Shining Tears than the games in the classic strategy role-playing series, but we'll bring you more details as we get closer to the release.