|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Neverland||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 20, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
We love RPGs - every one of us. There is a certain blend of magic and mystery to what is involved with an RPG and not just the "magic" of the games either. That same amount of mystery and magic can be found in the legendary tales of King Arthur and Camelot. Naturally, the legends of Arthur and the RPG seem like a perfect fit. Apparently, Sega has felt the same way; this is blatantly obvious in the Shining Force series. The latest offering in the series arrives on the PS2, called Shining Force EXA. In recent months, we have been berated with RPGs, good and bad. So where does the latest installment of the Shining Force franchise fall in the black and white world of good and bad?
The story will focus mainly on two characters that you will have the opportunity to control. First, there is Toma, a brash sword wielder who dreams of being king of the world no matter how unrealistic it is. Then there is Cyrille, a mage of sorts whose attitude at the beginning will make you either dislike her more than you do your siblings or intrigue you to find out why she is this way. Much like her attitude, her reasoning for searching for the Shining Force is a well kept mystery. Splitting from the traditional only one main playable character, EXA allows you to choose between Toma and Cyrille to play as. This lets you to decide on your capabilities during battles.
Joining you immediately will be the other half of your crew: Gadfort, a centaur, who wants the holy blade to become the greatest knight in existence; and Maebelle, a cute elfin archer, whose stomach rivals that of another anime favorite, Goku, seeking the blade to save her people. Their stories will unfold in a world that is shared by humans, demons, and beasts that is constantly devastated by war. The world is divided into two main kingdoms. The Northworld Empire is home to the human race and the demons rule the southern territory, Fireland.
Technically speaking, the game begins the instant you take control of Toma. This would be right since, like other installments to the series, you are searching for the Shining Force. However, this would be an inaccurate statement as well. Sure, you get to understand the mechanics of the game in a pseudo tutorial, but the beauty and depth to the story doesn't begin to unfold until after one of your characters draws the Shining Force from its resting spot. Once this is done, a magnificent fortress, call the Geo-Fortress, is awoken.
Like the previous Shining Force Neo, EXA doesn't sway away from the hack-n-slash formula that you either love or hate. Sega has kept several of the elements of Neo in the game, like the one button attack function. This simplicity, unfortunately, harms the experience of the game. It feels as if the strategic depth of the RPG has been removed entirely from Shining Force. For example, in addition to just hitting the x button repeatedly for attacks, if you hold the x button, you will do a charged attack, and if you time it just right and hold the x button for a second time, you will do a special attack that is more devastating than a normal attack. This will also cost you some of your MP that, much like your HP, will recharge slowly as you make your way through game.
How fast your HP and MP recharge is determined by your experience and weapons you have equipped. You can add to your skills list through the Arts system. There are two kind of Arts for you to explore. The Power Arts are character specific, and the Special Arts will allow you to add certain attributes to weapons and armor. These additions won't have to be activated since they are automatic once you discover them and use Mythril to learn them. You will also use the small chunks of Mythril you find to level up the attributes. However, just using the Arts won't level up you respective main characters enough. Do not get used to just playing with either of them. You will have to constantly switch out between the two in order to make sure that your Geo-Fortress doesn't fall into the hands of attacking monsters while you are out on a mission.