|"Why read about a game when you could play it? So playing it is easier, of course!"|
- Mr. Dark
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In a kingdom known as Thornwood, the king's daughter, Princess Jessa, is requesting that she can spend time in the local Shrine. The king summons Mortred, his most loyal knight, to escort her there, but unfortunately both of them disappear.
Once the player starts a new game (after inputing their name and what message speed they wish for the game) and visits with king Drake and his counsel, the player is given money to equip themselves for battle, but upon returning to the palace, a mysterious figure known as Dark Sol appears out of nowhere, stating he has Jessa and will not return her until Drake hands the kingdom over to Sol and then flees.
It is the player's duty (as it was their idea in the first place) to find and return Mortred (their father) and Jessa and to defeat Dark Sol.
The game was created by Climax and distributed by Sega. It was released for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive in 1991.
There are three gameplay aspects, which the player can access these by using the Thornwood map. One aspect is dialogue with Drake and his counsel (along with other characters in other parts of the game), who will give the player tips as they embark on their quest. Another aspect of the gameplay involves taking care of the in-game characters, which can be done in the Village. There the player can:
- Save their game in the Shrine, as well as cure members of various maladies (paralysis) or even be resurrected in case any member of the team dies
- Regain all hit and magic points by taking a room in the Tavern for the night
- Buy and sell back various weapons, armor and other items to do battle, keep up players' health, return to the Village in case of an emergency, and more
The last and most common aspect of the game involves battle, as Shining in the Darkness is a turn-based role playing game, where the player/team will be attacked at random times in the Labyrinth by creatures. The player(s) can attempt to run, use an item or magic against the creatures, defend themselves rather than attack, or fight. After every successful melee, characters will earn gold and experience points; if the player or entire team becomes paralyzed or dies, the game will continue in the Shrine, as a Valkyrie delivers the players' (or their teams') remains there, which the holy man there will bring anyone back to life.
This is where all of the action takes place, as the player randomly runs into groups of creatures and engages in battle with them in the maze. Occasionally one of the creatures will drop an item after a battle, along with there being several treasure chests to open and items to collect from them as well.
If the player gets far enough into the Labyrinth, they will encounter a Kaiserkrab, a big, powerful boss that, if defeated, the player will find it had a Royal Tiara in its possession.
The next time the player visits the king and his staff after defeating the Kaiserkrab, Drake will tell of how he gave the Tiara to Jessa on her 12th birthday. It will then be explained to the player that the Labyrinth was used as a training ground for knights. In order for the player to enter the Labyrinth Proper, he must first face the four trials of Strength, Wisdom, Courage and Truth, as the player is then given a Dwarf Key in order to unlock the first trial in the Labyrinth, which, in its entry passageway, has another Kaiserkrab, some new monsters, and the entrance to the Cave of Strength.
Also, the player is urged to form a team before entrance to the above, which game characters of Milo Brax will appear in the Shrine and Pyra Myst will be found outside the Tavern (both of which are magic users and friends of the player), which will then form the rest of the team. They start off being weak, but like the player, when they begin winning battles, their experience, strength, hit and magic points, etc. increase over time.
Cave of StrengthEdit
This Cave/trial has not only a new host of creatures not found in the Labyrinth, but also some of which have special attacks that can damage the player's party via flame or ice blasts, cause magic users' magic points to be lost, they can poison party members, paralyze them, or cause them to fall asleep and not be able to attack, slow a player's attacks, call for other creatures' help during a melee, or they can heal each other or other creatures during an attack round, taking longer for the party to kill those creatures in the process. (Note: the only creature with a special ability in the Labyrinth is the Killerbee, which they could poison a player, which, if untreated, with every few steps the player took they would lose hit points.) There are also sections of the floor that are cut out, which the party could fall through and have to make their way out from the floor below.
If the player gets far enough into the Cave of Strength, they should find a passageway where, once they reach the end, they will be transported back near the Strength entrance, and a new passageway will open for the Cave of Courage there.
Also, a character known as Gila will probably be found as well, who had bumped into Pyra earlier (right before she had joined with the player's group). He at first claimed he was a mercenary hired to find the princess, although after the party finds him and escapes from the Cave of Strength, he then admits he was actually after an artifact called the Orb of Truth. Until the party leaves the Cave of Strength, he will occasionally join in combat melees that the players get into, but parts ways after the Strength trial is completed.
Cave of CourageEdit
Upon a visit with the king's staff after the party has passed the Strength trial, one of the staff will tell of how this area instills fear in magic users, which indeed several of the corridors around and inside the Cave of Courage will be filled with areas on the floor that will deduct magic points from Myst and Brax with every step they take over those sections. The area also appears to only be one corridor that loops around until the player uses the Dwarf's Key in order to open several doors that then lead to mazes.
Along with there (mostly) being a new, more powerful slew of monsters in this area, there are also a couple of unusual bosses to be found as well, one of which starts off as a giant egg that will then hatch into a giant tortoise monster when approached by the party. There are also two levels to this Cave/trial, which the party will have to ascend and descend stairways in order to access both levels, as well as an Orb of Truth that must be found, which will unlock the secret to the next area of the Cave of Truth.
Cave of TruthEdit
This can be opened up by using the Orb of Truth in a certain area in the Labyrinth (not far from the entrance), exposing a demon in a wall (which was mentioned by one of Drake's counsel once the Trial of Courage was passed). The area that leads to the Cave of Truth is actually fairly large, being an extension of the Labyrinth.
Again, there are creatures' special abilities that could paralyze party members and all. However, one creature can also duplicate itself, one mini-boss could unleash the Desoul attack (which could instantly kill a party member), while another, if there are more than one onscreen at a time, will join together and make one massive attack on a player, causing them to lose many hit points in the process.
The floor areas that drain magic points return, and there are also several areas with a mechanism that spins the party around into a new corridor. These mechanisms will cause the party to spin 3/4 of the way around a corridor intersection, so if the Shining party wants access to a certain corridor, they will have to keep on re-entering these mechanisms up to several times until they emerge in the corridor that they need to take to continue their quest.
The Cave also lives up to its name (and as one of Drake's counsel warns, some things are not what they seem), due to there being a static screen at the end of the previous two caves asking the player if they wish to acquire the power that they came in for (Strength, Truth, etc.), then they can step forward. However, the first one of these areas that the team arrives at turns out to not be the exit. Also, Princess Jessa seems to be found at first (which an item known as a False Idol will be required to free her), but again, it turns out to be a ruse: it is actually a mini-boss shape-shifter creature that the team will have to defeat instead.
A Rune Key also needs to be located, which is required in order to unlock the Cave of Wisdom.
Cave of WisdomEdit
This Cave has the longest entryway yet, as the party has to travel back through the entire Labyrinth in order to access it (unless the player knows of a shortcut to it). It also has two levels, and as one of Drake's counsel warned, it is full of traps that will cause the team to fall through several sections of the floor, although maps can be found to show the trap locations.
One creature has two special attacks, one of which will affect each member if unleashed, while a second magic attack can slow a player's attack abilities as well. Another creature can snare party members in a web, which they could lose at least one attack turn because they are unable to move until they can free themselves from the webbing.
A character named Dai is also found in this Cave, which a local that hangs out in the Tavern in the Village had stated that he had gone into the Labyrinth and was feared to be dead.
Again, the player needs to either go through the entire Labyrinth or take a shortcut in order to access this final area. The Proper has five levels, which certain areas can only be ascended with a Mystic Rope that must be located. The party can ascend several areas where there are holes in the ceiling, leading to some interesting weapons, armor and items. However, these are usually guarded with fiercely powerful creatures. The floor mechanisms which spin the party members around like in the Cave of Truth also make a return, and there are several areas where if the player takes a wrong path, it will return them to an earlier part of the Proper. However, later during a visit with Drake and his counsel, a new figure will appear, giving the player a Medallion, stating that if half of it is left in a gold fountain (that is seen in a few areas of the Proper), the player can be transported back to that area. It was also reported that Melvyl, one of the king's counsel, had disappeared. Unfortunately upon further visit with Drake and counsel, they not only reveal that he is Dark Sol, but he also pays the party a visit in the Tavern, asking the player to join with him. Once the player refuses (which is automatic), Sol mocks him for it and disappears.
The true meaning of the Labyrinth is also revealed during a session with counsel, as it was really for the forces of light and dark. Dark Sol's intent was to acquire all of the dark powers. The team is also informed that there are four special weapons that can be used against Dark Sol that only a true knight can use, which he also appears again -- in the throne room -- telling the king to leave and that he'll be waiting for the player in the Labyrinth.
As far as new creatures go in this area, one of them is a rerun of an enemy from the Cave of Truth where they not only can attack as one strong unit, but they will also cause severe damage to everyone in the party this time around, draining many of their hit points. Also, one of the mini-bosses of the Proper can explode during combat, doing a lot of damage to the entire team. Another kind has a Desoul-type attack (where it can instantly kill a player), although the assault will be unleashed upon the entire team at once, rather than just against one player in particular, plus another creature can revive their own kind during battle, as well as another kind that gets two attacks per round.
Princess Jessa can finally be found near the end though, although as it turned out, Mortred was turned by a dark weapon and was serving Dark Sol and had to be killed in battle in order to free the Princess.
Once Dark Sol is found, he takes on a few forms before finally being defeated in battle. Upon leaving the Proper, the Labyrinth cannot be entered any more, and all shops in the Village are closed. All party members receive a promotion, as Myst's desire to study with the wizard who joined the counsel late in the game is granted, Brax is named as new counsel of Thorngard, and the player is made into a First Knight.
There are several characters that join up either temporarily or permanently with the player during the game.
After the player defeats the Kaiserkrab in the Labyrinth and brings the Royal Tiara to Drake, Brax appears in the Shrine the next time the player visits, which the holy man there mentions that he wants to join the team (as Drake and his counsel had suggested that the player should form one before starting the first of the Trials), so join he does.
Even though not a swordsman like the player's character, Brax can become fairly strong over time, and is a much stronger healer than Myst. He will also learn several magic spells.
This was one of the locals of the Tavern who, after a while, entered the Labyrinth, then went missing for a while. However, the Shining party will later find him in the Cave of Wisdom. Until they leave the Cave, occasionally Dai will enter an attack round and deal blows to enemy creatures.
Once the player defeats the Kaiserkrab in the Labyrinth, brings the Royal Tiara to Drake and then visits the Tavern, Gila makes his appearance known when he bumps into (or vice versa) Myst right outside the Tavern. At first he looks down at the "kids" (the Shining party) until he is saved from them later in the Cave of Strength, then occasionally helps out in battles until the group exits the Cave.
After exiting the Cave and the Shining party spends the night in the Tavern, Gila admits that he was actually not a mercenary hired to find the Princess after all like he first implied to Myst, that he was after the Orb of Truth artifact. He then parts ways from the group.
After the player defeats the Kaiserkrab in the Labyrinth, brings the Royal Tiara to Drake and then visits the Tavern, Myst is introduced when the Old Vik of the Tavern insults her by calling her a witch. She calls him out by confirming that the player does indeed need her help (the Old Vik would later say that the player was scraping "the bottom of the barrel" by letting her and Brax join up as a team), becoming a part of the team then.
Not being a swordsman like the player, Myst is physically weak (she can never carry a shield until the very last section of the game, making her vulnerable to attack) and usually needs the help of Brax in order to bring down an enemy in regards to hand combat, although in time she will learn many spells.
She is finally found in the last area of the game, in the Labyrinth Proper. She will join in melees before the Shining team exits the area, although she barely does any damage to any enemies though.
- For some reason there is no mention of the Screen magic power in the instructions. It is possible this was coded at the last moment and it was forgotten to be added later to the documentation.
- The first two areas, the Labyrinth and the Cave of Strength, have to be physically mapped. Usually by about the third area (the Cave of Courage), however, magic user Pyra Myst will have enough magic power and experience to use the View command in order to create an in-game map.
- Many of the creature graphics are reused during the game, just given a slightly altered appearance and name (as well as hit points, gold and experience they are worth when killed in battle). The "Darkbat", for example (one of several), debuts in the Labyrinth, but later becomes a "Dark Wing", which can be found in the Cave/Trial of Truth.
- When the party reaches the end of the Cave of Wisdom, once they return to the Village, a Trader will finally open up his tent for business (which was seen in the background when the player scrolled through all the buildings, but was never open before). His items are very expensive, although several of them will fill a void, as there are several items that Brax and Myst cannot use that are available from other shop owners, as the latter could only carry one kind of shield ever throughout the entire game up to this point (which he does have one she can finally use), along with him being able to repair and create items (should the character provide him with Mithril Ore to do so for the latter), which the other traders do not offer these services.
- This was the beginning of a large Shining series (which it was re-released years later on the Virtual Console as well), as it was later followed by the very revamped Shining Force and Shining Force II for the Sega Genesis, as well as many other games in the series appeared on various different platforms, such as the Shining Force CD on the Sega CD, Shining Force Gaiden, Shining Force Gaiden II: Sword of Hajya and Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict for the Game Gear, several Shining games for the Sega Saturn, GameBoy Advance, the PlayStation 2, and even mobile devices.