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Behind The Scenes – Shining Force

Features
Uncategorised
30 Mar 2010

Join us as we meet Hiroyuki Takahashi, president of Camelot and mastermind behind the Nineties vintage Shining Force games, in a dungeon in deepest Shinjuku

It shouldn’t have been this complicated. From the outside looking in, Shining Force throughout the Nineties represented everything that was great about Sega: a ‘big’ Sega property and a unique calling card for the Mega Drive and Saturn, it delivered some of the finest deep tactical role-playing of the decade. Yet while the series’ course through to Shining Force III led mesmerised players to a vast Holy Land of blissful RPG perfection, Sega’s treatment of the games and their second-party developer, Camelot, only went from bad to rotten.

Behind The Scenes - Shining ForcePrior to collaborating with Sega on the development of 1991’s preparatory dungeon-crawler Shining In The Darkness, Hiroyuki Takahashi had been in employment at Enix, working on the Dragon Quest series of games and in particular making a significant contribution to the production of Dragon Quest IV. After that, he left Square Enix, went independent, formed his own company and soon began work on Shining In The Darkness. As Takahashi clarifies, “I was never an employee of Sega, but from Darkness on I worked as game designer and team leader on the Shining Force series. My younger brother Shugo wasn’t a Sega employee, either.”
Behind The Scenes - Shining Force
If it sounds like Takahashi’s keen to distance himself from Sega it’s because he is. There’s a whole litany of hurt to relate, but for a start consider this: for each of the three Shining Mega Drive games, Sega gave Takahashi’s team the bare minimum funding offered to out-of-house developers. Shining In The Darkness was a success, but apparently not enough to merit a raise for the development of Shining Force; and although Shining Force was a hit, there was still no raise forthcoming when it came time for a sequel to be built. There is more, but in the interests of chronology let’s return to the story of the series’ conception.

Shining Force was launched in March 1992. “At that time, the games industry’s way of thinking about role-playing games put the emphasis squarely on telling an interesting story,” Takahashi laments. “That was apparently the purpose of role-playing games – just to tell a good story. However, I’ve always believed that engaging battles are the most crucial factor in an RPG. Even today, you see many role-playing games that are designed according to a philosophy where battles are just a bonus and the story is the main thing. I could never accept that and I wouldn’t go along with it. RPG players spend such a great amount of their time in battle that there’s no way a battle system should be treated merely as something that’s tacked onto a good story.”

As it transpires, a relatively obscure Japanese PC game called Silver Ghost, released by Kure Software Koubou in 1988, exerted an influence on the design of Shining Force. “Prior to Silver Ghost,” Takahashi explains, “I didn’t like tactical simulation games at all – they gave players too much time to think…  their tempo was all over the place. But Silver Ghost was different: it was a simulation action type of game where you had to direct, oversee and command multiple characters; it was the title that convinced me simulation games didn’t have to be crap.”

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  • Mazen

    Then why did they name his team Sonic Software planing? I think Sega did respect his team alot! there is something missing here.

  • GTMAsh

    That's a rather complicated issue. The Takahashi Brothers were known as Team Sonic while briefly employed by Sega in the Mega Drive days, despite the fact that they never worked on a Sonic game. When they left they founded Camelot Software Planning, which went by the name of Sonic Software Planning only when working on Sega titles. Even on the Saturn, however, the Camelot name was being used, indicating a wish to move away from a literal connection with the Sega studios.

    For all intents and purposes, though, we can assume that the relationship between the Takahashis and Sega was perfectly ok until the time at which the Saturn was clearly dieing and the Dreamcast was being planner – Somewhere around 96/97 when Shining Force III was in development.

  • cap

    Sonic Could simply mean fast

  • bb

    When I was younger I was a loyal sega fan.I would even argue with my friends who liked the SNES better. I really belive this article. Even when shinning force Neo came out and everyone complained, they still brought out EXA the same way. Sega is focused too much on profit and not Customer Service. That why they will fail and continue to fail. This industry is not like any other industry. I MEAN ARE THEY RETARDED GIVE THE PEOPLE (WHO PAY FOR THESE GAMES) WHAT THEY WANT. AND THAT IS A CAMELOT CREATED SSF4

  • Kasetaishu

    Shining Force will continue to Burn inside our Heart!

    I believe everyone does.

    Personally, Shining Force should have supports, movies and advertisement like Final Fantasy has.
    I believe if they Really Remake Shining Force III into better graphic like what FF is, it will be a GREAT Hit. Because SF3 storyline is the BEST!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Quetzalcoath Eden Ramirez

    It is simply the best RPG game I ever played, no FF, no DQ, just SF
    I am still waiting that something strange happens in Sega and they decide to release a remake and a new SF4, like the 4 in Sonic ….

  • Guest

    Well Sega fucked themselves over then. They deserved to break down if they treated hardworking idealists, true artists, like the Shining Force team like they did.

  • thecrazymob

    for me shining force 1-3 were the best games that i played a child.
    this is so nice to get to know the mind behind this masterpiece.
    thank you for everything :)

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  • Ferrus

    Panzer Dragoon Saga and Shining Force 3 were two of the greatest games ever released, smothered from their true glory by the mess that was Sega at the time. Sad. So sad. The article reminds me of why I was once such a video games junkie and now haven’t played them seriously for years. Anything resembling this kind of artistic glory has been driven out.