This is the year to celebrate the work of the outstanding Final Fantasy VII, this seminal Playstation exclusive shook the gaming community with it’s visuals, storytelling and vastness. Epic been too small a word, three discs crammed full of excitement, derring-do, romance and woe. So to mark the twentieth anniversary of this behemoth I shall dedicate this post to Shining Force Three on the Sega Saturn.
Sega’s flagship console was flagging in the sales department; poor advertising, lack of third party support and no genuine Sonic release. The hedgehogs adventures limited to a experimental racing game and a well received but pedestrian 3D effort. Into this barren wilderness stepped one of the last great games for this entertaining but doomed system.
Camelot’s offering captivated audiences worldwide and won many a plaudits in process despite the main character being near enough catatonic.
The well established turn based strategy series had delighted fans for near enough five years now and the third instalment was no disappointment. With secret characters strewn throughout, mid level bosses capable of vandalising your peace of mind and more misleading barrels than you could shake a stick at this Saturn exclusive was to go down in the annals of history.
The story was unimportant: evil bad-must be stopped, up steps a hero, some sorta quest, end game. You know the usual fare, nothing special but nothing to detract from the main event. The battles!! Set amid gloriously rendered landscapes and picturesque locales the strategic games of the high and mighty were a beauty to behold, capturing the turn based antics of a game of chess and the dramatic cut scenes of the electronic age. They unfolded across the screen causing the player to revaluate their tactics on the fly; potential allies to be rescued, loathsome enemies to be vanquished, terrine to traverse and trains to catch.
As per the norm the towns and villages offered sanctum to the weary and downtrodden traveller, some more of the narrative was laid down and aimless wandering about was the order of the day. Potions, weapons, elixirs and other sundries were to be found amongst the hustle and bustle but the call to arms was ever in ones mind. Out the gates and on to the world map for another adventure.
The battle grid tested the players intuition and nous, foes lying in wait ready to bushwhack any unsuspecting practitioners of the art of war, chasms into the howling abyss threated to claim any traveller foolhardy enough to venture close and graveyards littered with the undead encapsulated the misery of the event. The choice to send your more mobile troops to the front while leaving the laggards eating your dust was a gamble to take, magic confined to a single pure burst of power or an explosive spray to maximize casualties, defend/attack or just run in a circle to confound the enemies, the options mounted as the game progressed.
Sadly Europe and the good ‘ol U.S of A was not the market for Sega’s doomed machine, while Synbios and co breathed some life into the dying lungs of the 32 bit marvel it was only prolonging the inevitable. However to rub salt in the wound the Japanese market received Shining Force 3 parts two and three but unless you have an emulator and a hidden talent for foreign languages it remains unlikely you will ever find out if Julian ever fulfilled his revenge fuelled quest.
One question still remains: Did anyone ever get Penn on their side?