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Sega Saturn
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Shining The Holy Ark - Sega

by Dmitri Lenna (dmitheon@ix.netcom.com)

Lowdown:

    Well I'm about 11 hours into the game and in Enrich village for anyone who's played the game. For background purposes this is my first foray into the Shining series. My last RPG before this was Phantasy Star 4. I do consider myself an RPG fan, I'm just a picky one.
This took a while to grow on me. All the characters are rendered, which is fine for all the main characters since someone actually took the time to do a nice job on them. The townsfolk however are some generic it sometime gets hard to tell men from women.

Where this game really shines graphically is the use of pre-rendered FMV. It's used sparing after you get through the opening, but it's use is very effective. It generally used for important interaction for characters and for the arrival of a boss. It's this that adds elements of excitement to the gameplay. Also the spells really look nice. Ever since Final Fantasy 2 I've admired Square's work with spells. It seems that someone at Sega was paying attention, graphically anyway (more on that later). The pixelization, why is there some much of it? Overall, though that's about it. There's only been one time that I've seen bad polygon problems (clipping?). There is one room in the Aborigine Mansion that you can see the bottom of the door in the level above it coming down from the ceiling. The funny thing is you can only see if from certain spaces in the room. Also the game sometimes slows down when you use a pixie, and the movement slows down in Endrich village.

The music is really fitting. It's mostly a combination of synch-classical and just plain synch. It is a little repetitive, but I don't mind. The sound effects are plentiful and really add to the atmosphere. Atmosphere (for me anyway) is absolutely key to any great game. The sounds effects are realistic, and used well. When you're moving the top off a stone sarcophagus it really sounds like you're moving a heavy stone slab. And I love the death screams for the monsters. They are truly blood curdling.

I want a little more variety in the monster noises. They all use the same sample, and vary the pitch, tone and length of it. Also I was hoping for at least some spoken dialog. So far, I've found none. It would make the game utterly enthralling If done right. (Yes it can be done right. Y's Book I & II. Enough said).

The play mechanics took about an hour to truly get conformable with. After that, it became second nature. All menus are diamond shaped and have four items. Each one is selectable immediately by simply pressing the direction associated. Easy and incredibly fast. (This obviously does not apply to Magic or Item lists which obviously have more than four items :) I'm also fond of the "Just hold down C" to get the standard attack. I was hoping for some Phantasy Star 4 style macros.

Dungeons are 3D style. I've loved this style since Phantasy Star 1. Some people don't care for it, but with the easy access map, it's pretty nice. I do wish there was a way to move with the map up.

Load Time? After playing this game I'm beginning to wonder if it's myth perpetrated by lazy programmers. Seriously though, load time is almost nil through out the game. Random encounters have no loading time. I think this is will ruin me for Albert Odyssey. Sorry Vic.

Magic is not as big a factor as I'd like. Every new spell more or less replaces the old ones, rendering them obsolete. The upgrades in spell level in StHA always render the lower level pointless. Why cast Hell Blast level one once you have two? Two does more damage and only costs 1 or 2 more Magic Points. Heck you have 104 of 'em what's one extra? Also, as far as I can tell, the elements have little impact on enemies. Nothing is seems to be damaged more by one elements than one. Lightening vs Elemental.

It's all just pretty graphics and damage. I prefer Square's magic system for Final Fantasy. Where ice is separate than fire, and a lower level version of a spell is still useful when you get a higher version of the spell.

The storyline is really odd. Alot happens at the beginning (read first 5 minutes), and after that it's kinda slow, for about 4 or 5 hours, after that things pick up again. The characters are a bit one dimensional. I was really hoping for characters that maybe felt some emotion.

-Dmitri




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