Two groups, the Noswald Empire and the Fyrlandt, have been at odds for over a hundred years. Things have never been an all-out war but the two countries are constantly battling it out for just the good of their own people. Oddly enough the battle here and there spills into the streets, and usually ends up killing a few civilians. What could possibly stop this? A magical sword called the Shining Force. Many adventurers look for it, but generally to feel powerful or respected. One group of people band together in search of the sword, and as luck would have it one of it able to draw it. As luck would have it, it happens to be a child warrior. Pulling the sword from the ground activated a massive place called the Geo-Fortress where they immediately call their home. The problem is that they must defend it from the greatest evil in the world, which is not the two empires, rather the dark force of Malxatra.
The battle system ends up being slightly like Gauntlet Legends, where it was a top down view with swarming enemies. Many of these enemies have different classes, and were often generated from other creatures. Rather than being able to play as four different people, you have the choice between playing a boy or a girl, but their fighting styles vary radically. Toma, the boy, is quite good at physical attacks, while the female, Cyrille, is excellent with magic. You may also find by alternating between the different characters that situations will become easier, but the main reason may be to keep them somewhat similarly levelled. Of course there are many other characters as well, but those are the two main playable characters. Some of the general characters -- what I call sidekicks -- include a robot, a werewolf, an elven archer, and a virtuous knight. Of course not all of them will be your cup of tea, but you can always switch them around and employ two of them on your team.
The main difference in combat it the type of damage, which range from physical to magical. Physical attacks can be very important over magical attacks since they often knock creatures off of their feet preventing them from fighting back. I generally preferred these over magical attacks since you never needed to worry about using up your magic bar. Magical attacks are generally much more flashy though, but targets will obviously still try and attack you in the midst of casting. Perhaps the most amusing part about using Cyrille though were her melee attacks that involved attacking people with a book, verses Toma that would always have a giant weapon. There are a few abilities that each of them has beyond just magical attacks, generally which you get later on in the game. Some can also be used to destroy some walls or blocked trails so that you may use an alternative path. Generally though the combat is a simple button mash, but it still is quite enjoyable.
The game features an intricate and balanced weapon system that sports plenty of depth and each of the weapons features benefits to using them, which may include bonuses to defeating specific types of enemies. This becomes an expanded RPG because people have the option of levelling up their weapons along with their characters to maximize their damage. With the levelling system that is provided for players there is the option of levelling up specific abilities as you see fit to model your characters into the perfect warriors depending on the situation. There are plenty of different abilities to choose from and many of them have sectioned bars to level up. Generally once you have filled those segmented bars by using experience they often open up a following skill with similar benefits. These level-ups come from a material known as Mythril, and you will often receive from defeating enemies, or from destroying giant Mythril crystals so that they may be harvested in smaller chunks.
Graphically the game is most enjoyable, and it was designed with cell shading, so the environments look intricate and feel alive. Every time you swap pieces of armour on your main characters it will reflect on their onscreen avatar. This is awesome to see since it adds another level of interest to this game because the characters feel a bit like interactive dress-up dolls. Another interesting feature about the graphics is that the screen often gets filled up with creatures, which can feel a bit arduous at times depending on how well your characters are levelled. The game may slow down because of it though, but that is a sacrifice that must be made.
On the same coin though the sound is only adequate. There is nothing to complain about in the game, since it does its job well enough to resist probing. It is fairly impressive that they have most of the lines with voice over, excluding random people on the street. Sometimes it can be a little annoying, like with the main shop keep, but those characters are few and far between. It would be less of a problem with the shop keep forces you to visit him often because the game over saturates the field with extra weapons to trade in. Of course you could always just leave the extra weapons on the field, but that would not satisfy my capitalistic needs in a game.
In the end, the game is a light-hearted gameplay fun at its best. Anyone should be able to find some sort of enjoyment in the game, but I will admit that it is not the best one out there. The storyline is interesting, but there will be long bouts of dungeon crawling that will slow your progression. Combat is fun, which comes in different battle styles where sometimes you will need to level up and defend your base. The main base also has a few abilities that can make the game a bit easier, like using radar to find items. There are certainly plenty of worse games out there, but this one feels only a bit above average. I would have hoped that they included more playable characters than the main two, but perhaps that will be possible in the next Shining Force game. In the end, Captain Gordon gives Shining Force EXA a B-.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? CaptainGordonEdward@Gmail.com