The Shining Force series seems to be a really underground gaming thing. I’d think most discover these games through their childhood or by someone else that has played these games as a child themselves. I don’t really hear much people really liking Shining Force nor any clear hate for it. It’s just kind of there being glad it existed. The one thing I did know going into Shining Force, however, is that its a game much a kin to Fire Emblem. You get a certain amount of units, level them up, and use them throughout battles like chess. The only clear difference between the two is being able to resurrect your allies after they die, but there is more than resurrection that works for Shining Force. For the most part, Shining Force feels a bit more like an RPG, with more equipment for your allies, as well as getting spells along when you level up. Action in combat is also determined more on status, like being able to move before your opponent or simply being able to act before your opponent attacks you. The combat acts oddly as the turns are taken with the highest speed going first, but there is hardly any counter attacking during battles, as it’s more focused on turn based combat. It’s an odd mix of realistic turn taking, and still waiting on your opponent to hit you. Aside from these differences though, it’s still has addicting as Fire Emblem is, although I have to say it really suffers from a lot of the characters coming down to just units rather than characters you like. It’s very much more of an army of characters rather than individuals that you can come to love. Really this game is for people that love the aspect of tactical RPGs more than character driven stories.
As said before much of the mechanics are close to the tactical system of fire emblem, but the game throws in a few other tricks that sometimes make it harder than Fire Emblem would be. The game takes advantage of the idea of losing team members in combat, and makes for a lot of opportunity for your characters to die at any given moment. The biggest problem is the dreaded level 3 spells that, not only have ridiculous range, but overpowering strength as well. Throughout the second half of the game, the main goal of any map is either avoiding mages with level 3 spells or taking them down as soon as possible. Because if this problem remains unguarded, you are more than likely to lose half your team by a single spell cast. While this is actually considered to be more of a goof due to the western release, the fact that you have access to level 3 spells as well simply makes the game a lot more fun because it becomes far more challenging. The idea that the majority of your team could get wiped by one person brings something to the table that Fire Emblem never really could. It makes for a lot of tense moments of wondering if the mage(s) will move or not, and really sets the mode for this game. I mean, aside from level 3 spells, nothing else can really touch you, so it doesn’t get that challenging.
Sword of Hajya also offers a lot of content for a game gear game, and really that’s what helps make it one of the greatest game gear games out there. You are given about 24 battles to go through in 4 chapters with roughly 18 units to control. That was asking a lot for a handheld that barely had enough energy for 6hrs. The graphics also look amazing for the old handheld at the time, nearly matching what the NES could produce at the time; I bet a lot of younger kids really said this was a console experience on the go. The sounds were also great for this system, with a lot of the music for the game gear lacking surprisingly compared to the Game Boy, this game however didn’t suffer from this problem
Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya is my introduction into the Shining Series, one that is in the shadow of Fire Emblem series. But for a game from a series I barely hear of, it impressed me to see that it worked very hard to push the limits of the Game Gear with a lot of content, amazing graphics, and sound for the little system that could. Sword of Hajya may not be the best experience of the Shining Force series, but it’s one that I am glad to experience, even if level 3 spells are a menace to society.