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Old 04-09-2014, 01:08 PM
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Default Dissecting the anatomy of Shining Force: Let's discuss SRPG design

Alternative subtitle:
I think Dark Dragon is coming back. Will you help us? C'mon, it'll be an adventure!

This thread is moving the active discussion that starts around here about Shining force and SRPGs.

~~~

The talk about Vandal Hearts reminds me that I have this theory why Shining Force is so great, and why it is much better than Shining Force 2. I understand most people don't regard the original that highly, so the explanation is maybe meaningless for them.

Anyway, Shining Force seems to be solely designed around the individual micro ideas for each battle. It is as if the designers believed (correctly, in my view) that the central problem for a SRPG is 'if battles start to repeat, then the game will be boring'. They didn't approach the game with the idea that battles are filler for any other part of the game. They didn't approach the game with the idea that there is a "normal" battle you get to experience most of the time. Nothing is ever normal, it's always new. (Or so it wishes it could be. It does have similiar battles... e.g. two nearly identical ship battles, placed almost back to back)

In Shining Force's vocabulary, this means introducing new terrain features, new enemies, and new map layouts. Battles of different scopes, sizes, and intensities. After realizing this, I find it funny how retrospectives will never neglect to describe the game as being "not very complex". The modern SRPG certainly has complexity out the wazoo in their systems, but could play like 100 hours of chewing the same piece of fat.

Speaking of which, Shining Force is also by far the snappiest SRPG I've played. The plot moves quickly, the battles play quickly. People are complaining about the pacing of FFT, for instance, and I think how many times I've played Shining Force and would end my first session around the Laser Eye boss (10 or 11 battles, end of the 3rd chapter out of 8 chapters total).

If Chrono Trigger was a SRPG it would be Shining Force.

Last edited by dosboot; 04-11-2014 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 04-12-2014, 08:49 PM
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I have played very little Shining force, so I'm sort of talking out of my ass here, but here's my two cents bucks on SRPG design: one thing that bugs me about a lot of strategy RPGs is that they feel too abstract in terms of tactics. There's a big difference between the tactics of chess and the tactics of the actual battlefield. SRPGs, on the other hand, should be a bit more intuitive, right? Well... not incredibly, actually. I mean, I'm not a hardcore historical battle reenactor or anything like that, but I still have the mental association of spearmen in squads forming a wall of defense. In most of the SRPGs I've played, it doesn't work that way. Also, it just feels weird when enemy A runs right past ally B without ally B attempting to engage in combat. Where's my AoO? Wouldn't a soldier worth his salt try to engage an enemy who comes into range immediately regardless of whether his opponent attacks first, unless otherwise ordered?

I understand wanting to put gameplay and game balance before realism, but in many cases, an easy-to-pick-up, yet fluidly simulative experience can be a whole lot more fun than one carefully constructed to be balanced, and it's a lot easier to find realism within simulation than you think.

Last edited by Madmachine; 04-13-2014 at 10:18 AM.
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Old 04-12-2014, 09:01 PM
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My favorite strategy game is actually Live-A-Live's battle system, and I'd love to see a game that expands on it. It almost feels like chess with the well-defined attack ranges and constrained board, and it's a shame that the game never really does anything with it outside of the Wrestler chapter and Captain Square.
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Old 04-12-2014, 09:50 PM
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There is a slim chance you'd like Koudelka. I mean, it's aged terribly all combat happens on an 8x8 grid and polearms hit a knight-move away.
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Old 04-12-2014, 11:30 PM
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Interesting I always wanted to know how the Shining Force leveling works! It's actually a bit like the Wizardry HP growth system as in you roll out your total stats rather than the stat increases and then it will increase if the rolled value is higher than the current.
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Old 04-13-2014, 04:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Madmachine View Post
I have played very little Shining force, so I'm sort of talking out of my ass here, but here's my two cents bucks on SRPG design: one thing that bugs me about a lot of strategy RPGs is that they feel too abstract in terms of tactics. There's a big difference between the tactics of chess and the tactics of the actual battlefield. SRPGs, on the other hand, should be a bit more intuitive, right? Well... not incredibly, actually. I mean, I'm not a hardcore historical battle reenactor or anything like that, but I still have the mental association of spearmen in squads forming a wall of defense. In most of the SRPGs I've played, it doesn't work that way. Also, it just feels weird when enemy A runs right past ally B without ally B attempting to engage in combat. Where's my AoO? Wouldn't a soldier worth his salt try to engage an enemy who comes into range immediately regardless of whether his opponent attacks first, unless otherwise ordered?

I understand wanting to put gameplay and game balance before realism, but in many cases, an easy-to pic up, yet fluidly simulative experience can be a whole lot more fun than one carefully constructed to be balanced, and it's a lot easier to find realism within simulation than you think.
Rondo of Swords kind of pushes in this direction, at the cost of severely unbalancing the game and making it kind of unfun.
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Old 04-13-2014, 04:20 AM
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Shining Force 2's biggest flaw compared to 1 is that it slows down/adds grind to the gameplay and that makes it just about impossible for me to play it and not get frustrated after a point in the story.

It's a shame because it adds a lot of good elements, but it goes so heavy on the grind that it makes the game turn pretty bad in spite of the cool stuff they added to 2.
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Old 04-13-2014, 04:36 AM
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I've never played a Shining Force game but I've played my fair share of SRPGs. Fire Emblem Thracia 776 is almost my favourite game. Like, it's totally broken but it has a plethora of cool mechanics and the varied mission objectives are awesome and rare in this genre. The capturing, leadership, resource management and mounting are all really cool ideas that I wish were expanded on in later Fire Emblem games. My hope is that they remake Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 and keep all of the unique and interesting stuff but remove all of the crap (Why do stats cap at 20? Who thought this was a good idea?).
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Old 04-13-2014, 05:27 AM
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All this talk about Shining Force 1 makes me want to give it another shot! I never really got into it. I've played and beat SF2 around 3 or 4 times and it's one of my favorite games. When I got around to playing the original, I remember getting frustrated that some of my characters(your starting archer, specifically) got really piddly level ups, and in one case received NO stat increases on occasion.
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Old 04-13-2014, 05:33 AM
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thracia is my favorite fire emblem but that mission right at the beginning where the game tries to trick you into using rescue on a bunch of people right before walking into a super tough encounter against like 8 heavy knights is fucking vile
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Old 04-13-2014, 06:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProfessorS View Post
All this talk about Shining Force 1 makes me want to give it another shot! I never really got into it. I've played and beat SF2 around 3 or 4 times and it's one of my favorite games. When I got around to playing the original, I remember getting frustrated that some of my characters(your starting archer, specifically) got really piddly level ups, and in one case received NO stat increases on occasion.
Yeah, that archer is Hans. That's not the RNG, he levels into the joke of the Force for everyone. Themes like that tend to be pretty consistent because of the growth curves and leveling system.

It's weird, especially when you start replaying the game. With replays you always look forward to exploring the freedom of using different characters, but that can be tied to party strength. You might have to balance a team of ugly ducklings (members you normally didn't use much, and want to experiment with) with a bunch of majestic swans that are much more popular picks. I do like how it makes experiences much more portable though, where people can share and relate to other people's stories.

Last edited by dosboot; 04-13-2014 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 04-13-2014, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadrome View Post
My hope is that they remake Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 and keep all of the unique and interesting stuff but remove all of the crap (Why do stats cap at 20? Who thought this was a good idea?).
Well, it was pretty rushed and I guess balancing for lower stat caps (well, making it so it wouldn't be super easy at the end) is easier or something. My biggest problem is that mages' CON means nothing.
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Old 04-13-2014, 12:55 PM
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If X-COM (recent remake) is a strategy RPG, then X-COM is my favorite strategy RPG. The RPG elements to me come in the leveling up of the characters and the weapon and support item load outs.

It basically forces you to make smart tactical moves, and consider the terrain to advance. By the end of the game it teaches you how to play as a very tight-nit team with high efficiency.

My chief criticism of X-COM is that it takes a long time to level up your team. Especially randomly going for psi-opps members.

**
I've play some Final Fantasy Tactics, but I didn't really get into it. I found myself easily beating the random encounters and losing to the story mode. Mega spell effects and super hard bosses turned me off of the game. I don't use guides, so perhaps the bosses have exploitable weaknesses, but I was not enjoy my time with the game enough to finish it.

I would level the same complaint from X-COM to Final Fantasy Tactics. It takes a long time to level up your team.
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Old 04-14-2014, 02:28 PM
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Ok, so being at PAX all weekend with only spotty access to WiFi means I missed this thread entirely. Whoops!

A couple things I would like to get across with regards to Shining Force II:

I think Camelot was attempting to go bigger and better for everything in Shining Force II. I like that there are more battles. Why would more battles be a negative? This is a strategy RPG - what are you here for if you don't like battles? The story? Because it's not like either of the games does anything mind blowing in that department.

I agree that every battle doesn't add some new mechanic in the second game, and it's one of the reasons I like it more than 1. Having some new, weird situation presented every single battle got a little tiring in the first game, to me. I think the second game presents new challenges to the player at a slower, more accessible curve. I'm perfectly okay with another desert battle, yo. Generally speaking, I think the difficulty curve in II is smoother than 1 (with the exception of the chess battle, holy crap).

Also, as to SFII being grindy - what? You actually bothered grinding your dudes out? I mean if you want every single possible character you get to be able to fight the last boss, sure, that would be tiring, but there is absolutely no reason to grind. The Egress spell is in both games, so you can grind in both anyway, so I kinda don't see why this is an issue for folks?

dosboot, with regards to your point about the "quest" pacing of II, I have to disagree. Sure, the second continent is enormous in II, but I like it that way. I really enjoy the exploration aspect of SFII. Being able to go around and look for stuff and backtrack if you want is pretty fun. It also makes getting back to Grans finally that more rewarding, in my mind, because it has been so long and things are pretty different there when you return.

To get to the 100% subjective part of my post, the graphics in II are such a vast improvement over the first game's I find it hard to look at. Everything looks misshapen to me, and the little character portraits are too simple, etc. etc. I like the music in II more, though the first game admittedly has pretty good music too.

I should also say that Shining Force II is my first RPG, of any type, as well, unless you count Crystalis on the NES. I have an overabundance of nostalgia for the game and am aware it's not as good as I feel it is. My cousin and I used to construct Lego towns based on the game and basically have little fanfic battles where the characters would move around on a grid (one space on the grid = one 2x2 area on the flat lego sheet). Characters would level up and we would have sheets of paper with HP and spells on it and since I was a little older than him I usually won. Also seeing the name "Bowie" always makes me think of the game before the singer, too.

McDohl, if you happen see this, I would still like to finish reading your LP of the game
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Old 04-14-2014, 03:30 PM
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It's bad because more isn't better. It's just more. If you're playing a strategy RPG and it isn't changing it up and forcing you to think then it's mindless. If you're playing your fourth similar battle in a row why do anything other than what worked the last three times? Also it gets samey. I struggle to remember anything that stood out among the many battles.

SF2 is still enjoyable. But I'll never love it like the first one.
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Old 04-17-2014, 02:26 PM
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Yeah, I know healers gain experience for healing, but they need someone to heal to get it, and if it's like SF2, the experience received changes based on how many hit points they heal. And generally, that's around 10 experience per heal, meaning they need to heal ten times to gain a level (or kill a guy, which can be tough since they generally don't do much damage).

Don't worry though - I'm gonna level them. I know I don't need to level everyone, and I probably won't, but since I've never beat the game before, I'm not sure who is good, average, or not worth leveling at all. That's why I'm trying to get everyone up to par because some of them might end up sucking.

It'd probably be easy to tell who might be worth leveling if the stat increases were somewhat consistent from the early levels to the later ones...!

Honestly though, most of this stuff is nitpicking. I'm enjoying the game quite a bit so far, and hopefully I beat it this time. It is making it painfully obvious how much I'd like another Shining Force game proper, though.
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:20 PM
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Don't make me sad. Every time SEGA announce another Shining game that doesn't end in "Force" a kitten dies.
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantoon View Post
Don't make me sad. Every time SEGA announce another Shining game that doesn't end in "Force" a kitten dies.
Shining Force Neo showed that even if it's named Force, it's just as bad if Camelot isn't involved. Better hope for Golden Sun Tactics.
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Old 04-20-2014, 11:32 AM
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How's the iOS port?
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Old 04-20-2014, 11:54 AM
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Zylo is amazing. So much so that in our household "zylo" was a verb meaning "to beat seven shades of shit out of somebody".

Glad you're enjoying it.
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Old 04-21-2014, 07:14 AM
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How's the iOS port?
I played it a couple years ago and loved it. As far as I could tell it's just a mega drive emulator with the rom, so you're using virtual d-pad and buttons. It's not a game that needs precision on the d-pad anyway, and for me it works better than finicky direct touch controls. I think it has automatic saving and resuming through the emulator, as well as the in game save.
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Old 04-24-2014, 06:21 AM
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(re: Luke)

He's supposed to be 'Lug' in the original Shining Force. Mistranslation~

Been enjoying this thread immensely! GBA Fire Emblem is my favorite SRPG series, but I have mad appreciation for the original Shining Force. And yeah, while do I like the min-max/hardcore character customization SRPG a la FFT and Disgaea to certain extent, I still prefer the leaner map-centric variant. Between its accessible difficulty, diverse units, inventive maps, and the Egress, I think SF1 is an ideal entry point for this sub-genre. The town portion of the game is largely superfluous, but it's not really damaging and I do appreciate some fluff every now and then.

I've finished the original two/three times, and the GBA remake once. I think the remake has a lot more overpowered characters, but they're pretty hard to find/train without FAQ, so it evens out in the end. I always promote at 20 sans the healers, so the final stretch is an absolute cakewalk where I wreck stuff with the Elite Four of Musashi, Hanzo, Bleu and Domingo (*strangely enough, I remember Zylo being a lot less useful in the remake. Beyond his movement and large HP, his defense is non-existent and his damage output is nowhere near my top fighters that I eventually benched him). Might want to do some challenge run someday where I rand-org the units and lock myself into using only them.

I don't think grinding is ever necessary. I certainly didn't grind, except if you count carefully spoon-feeding Bleu with weakened enemies until he catch up with the party.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantoon View Post
Don't make me sad. Every time SEGA announce another Shining game that doesn't end in "Force" a kitten dies.
I once snatched Shining Soul because I think that was the GBA remake for SF. Goddamn that game was awful, and I only finished it out of spite.
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Old 04-24-2014, 06:30 AM
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Promoting at level 10 in SF1 is the equivalent of promoting at level 20 in SF2. So if you refight battles to promote far above level 10, and then level everyone up to level 10 again after that, you are grinding purely for its own sake. It's not because the game is designed for that much grinding.
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Old 04-24-2014, 06:37 AM
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It might just be how I played or bad luck, but I'd usually hit level 20 on most characters in 2 around that big Kraken battle. I'd just wait until you find equipment that unpromoted classes can't wear before you promote people. That's what I'm going to do when/if I get around to playing 2 in the near future.
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Old 04-24-2014, 06:38 AM
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Yeah Shining Soul is really horrible. I already don't really like games like Diablo but Shining Soul is a horrible game of a genre I don't like. I only got it because it's a Shining game... bleh. The game caused me to inform myself if it's even from the guys who made Shining Force and then I realized that I actually should be playing Camelot games instead. And then I loved Golden Sun. But that's another story.
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Old 04-24-2014, 06:47 AM
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Regarding grindy... I already said it but, SF1 and SF2 are quite different here. In SF1 you really can just promote at level 10 because after promotion your character get so strong so fast that the second half of the game is super easy even if you didn't wait until level 20 to promote. Basically the only hard part in SF1 is when you need to promote. And I guess it makes sense to grind a little there but if you promote one by one and just escape from battle you can't win, I don't really see it as grinding, but rather retrying.

SF2 isn't like that. You don't lose any stats at promotion, but the difficulty goes up as the game goes. In the end all the monster will have ?? attack (meaning more than 99) and you will take 80 damage from everything while you are having around 100 HP, whereas in SF1 you will end up with 40-60 HP or something and you will just receive 1 HP damage from all sources except magic.

SF1 candidate missions for grinding are all in the first half. Mainly it's just the circus, the abbey and whatever map you start promoting in (possible laser eye or the map after or maybe even the map before laser eye but that one is really annoying to level up in due to slow movement speed).

In SF2... hum well the kraken battle is probably the first really hard one. And then the chess battle! Man that's the hardest part of the game probably, you REALLY need to grind there unless you did all of the optional battles before. And then the second half of the game is just hard and grinding doesn't really help you because whether you have 100 HP and take 80 damage or have 103 HP and take 78 damage, you still die in two hits.
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:31 PM
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So the Sniper highlighted in this picture:

uploadfromtaptalk1397773723829.jpg

...Passed on his chance to attack Ken, there. Surrounded by the Shining Force, this dude was like, *shrug* I'll be alright, I'mma hang back

How awesome is the AI in this game again?
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:53 PM
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Okay so I haven't played any of the PS2 Shining games. Are any of them SRPGs? Are any of them good?
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:54 PM
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None are real SRPGs. No.

I guess Shining Tears is... acceptable, especially in multiplayer.

Edit: I guess Shining Force Feather gets closest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tm8wA7Ax4qw
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Old 04-17-2014, 04:08 PM
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Leveling up guys just so they are roughly equal to your existing Force is something I don't enjoy doing in SF1 either. I probably shouldn't talk about SF2 being designed to be more grindy as SF1 is probably (?) the worst entry when it comes to low level new recruits.

Whenever a random enemy unit goes down to 1 or 2 hp I consider saving that unit for a healer. That usually mitigates the problem if you can get your healers off the ground. Healers don't really need that many levels though to be effective, and mine are always far behind at the final battle.
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