While the Sega Saturn had many great games, Shining Force III was largely the reason I picked up the console. Sure, there was Legend of Oasis, or NiGHTS into Dreams, but being a Shining Force fan, I needed this. Sadly, Shining Force III is one of the saddest, and weirdest tales in gaming history. This was Mass Effect, but two generations prior. Only, it never concluded.
The Saturn was cursed from word go. In March of 1998, Sega finally pulled the plug on the console, but not without releasing some of the best games the console has had. Panzer Dragoon Saga, widely considered a masterpiece came at the end of April, with Shining Force III following at the end of May. The game was broken into three parts, or scenarios. Each telling a story taking place at the same time, but from different perspectives with different characters. Sadly, gamers in North America and Europe one received part one.
Scenario one followed Synbios and his army as they try to prevent and become embroiled with a full scale war between two countries. Gameplay was similar to the other Force games. Tactical RPG battle system, using sprites and an angled perspective dropping into 3D models when an action was performed (attack, magic, etc.). In a way it was more of the same, which is exactly what I wanted. Two other characters made themselves known throughout the campaign, Medion and Julian.
Medion, the protagonist from Scenario 2, was on the opposite side of Synbios. Realizing there were outside forces at work, causing the war, Medion worked in tandem to Synbios. Julian joined Synbios for a time before being thrown over a waterfall and thought dead. He joins Medion in Scenario 2 before preventing the two groups, Synbios and Medion, from fighting at the end. He takes the lead in Scenario 3, leading all the troops against the true antagonist. Only by completing all three Scenarios did gamers see the true ending.
This was Mass Effect years before that game came into fruition. A story told in three parts were characters were carried through and decisions made counted towards the final conflict. In a way Shining Force III did it better. For example, in the first part, there was a character, Barnard, hidden and bounded in a backroom inn. Upon freeing him he would leave, only to join Medion in Scenario 2. Missing him early on would ensure he would not join your army later. Aside from that, only by completing all three parts, carrying the same save through, were gamers treated with the true ending. Gamers in Japan that is.
With the death rattle of the Saturn in the air, Sega didn’t bother to port Scenarios 2 and 3 outside of Japan. Shining Force III as it was, was incomplete. All the threads were there, choices with eventual payoffs, character manipulation for later use, and a cliffhanger ending. The official game was incomplete.
Not only was this the last true Shining Force game, it was the last developed by Camelot as well. The developer has gone on to create Mario Golf, Tennis, and Golden Sun for Nintendo. Sega’s released a few more Force games since on the PS2, but these were hollow shells of their former selves. Shining Force III was the last true Force game released, and remains incomplete outside of Japan. If only there was some sort of digital platform that would allow Sega to rerelease this and other Saturn gamers.
While Shining Force III will hold a special place in my heart, it will also forever remain incomplete. Until I play the fan translations.
Did you play Shining Force III? Were upset it was incomplete? Comment below!
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