Shin Force | Sega Genesis Review

Shin Force > Systems > Sega Genesis > Reviews

Shin Force ~ Genesis ~
Ragnacenty / Crusader of Centy / Soleil
Geoffrey Duke
16 Megabit
Import / Domestic
1994 (Japan)
1994 (USA)
Action / RPG
6 Button
     > Crusader of Centy, also known as Soleil in Europe (the same name as the main town in the game) and Ragnacenty in Japan, is the member of a dying breed of true Action/RPGs (originating from Zelda). As last generation Genesis games, Beyond Oasis, Crusader of Centy and Light Crusader really helped bolster the console's library of RPGs, which although far from small, wasn't quite as large as the range of RPGs available for its 16 bit competitor, the SNES. But that wasn't important to its success. What was important was quality over quantity. With games such as Shining Force 2 and Phantasy Star 4 on its side no one can deny that the Genesis was home to some of the best RPGs of its time. Most of its Japanese-born RPGs were thankfully translated and reached our shores more or less intact. The same cannot be said for the Saturn unfortunately with games such as Riglord Saga 2, Grandia and Dragon Force 2, among others, never seeing the light of day outside Japan all thanks to the anti-RPG stance Bernard Stolar (the head of Sega of America at the time) adopted much to the annoyance of many RPG fans.

     > When I call Crusader of Centy a true Action/RPG, by that I mean "old-school" Action/RPG; it contains a nice balance of combat, puzzles, platform hopping (which is basically leaping from one platform to another while trying to avoid falling to your death), talking and exploration. Most modern-day Action/RPGs focus too much on hacking and slashing through endless armies of fanged monsters drooling at the mouth for my liking. That's not to say that such games can't be fun (they can be very fun), but any true Action/RPG shouldn't revolve entirely around combat in my book, otherwise whether or not they are deserving of the name is open for debate. Thanks to Diablo's rise to fame and fortune, an army of clones (in which hacking and slashing your way through one army of evil after another is the name of the game) have descended upon us all, reshaping this RPG sub-genre into what it has become today (perhaps the term Action/RPG should be redefined as "hack 'n' slash", because that's what it has become synonymous with in this day and age).

     > As for the story, you play the role of a boy who has just turned fourteen. Refusing to break away from tradition, your mother gives you your father's sword on your fourteenth birthday to signify the transition from boyhood to manhood. Your next step is to pay a visit to the king before proving yourself in combat training in the perilous monster-infested areas outside the kingdom. Despite the simple premise, a twist early in the story sees your character's ability to speak with humans taken away from him (human speech becomes incomprehensible to him), and replaced with the ability to speak with animals... and monsters.

     > As expected from a last generation Genesis game, the game's graphics are quite colorful and everything is seen from a detailed top-down perspective. I can imagine people doubting that a Genesis game could ever be this colorful. I particularly liked how the clouds cast shadows as they pass overhead in the first town, though the boss encounters are where this game really shines with beautiful animated sprites (some unlike anything seen before) being paraded in front of you. How does a towering armored serpent wielding a huge sword and shield that float in the air as if they are being held by invisible arms sound to you (see the relevant image below)? There are some lovely parallel backdrops in the game, which struck me as worth praising, too, like the cloudscape swirling beneath you and lighting up with bursts of lightening while you're battling the armored serpent boss guardian I previously mentioned.
     > The controls themselves couldn't be more responsive. Your character starts only with the ability to swing his sword, but soon learns how to throw it in order to reach objects otherwise beyond his reach (like switches). You'll also learn how to jump, which should be a standard ability in all Action/RPGs, as jumping from (moving) platform to  platform never becomes a chore (I never tire of good old-fashioned platform hopping, especially when platforms have a nasty habit of disappearing or crumbling beneath your feet like they do in Landstalker). You'll also spend a lot of time dodging monsters and the all too familiar traps found in these types of games including spiked floors, floor surfaces that can't support your weight for very long, and conveyer belts. What separates this game from other Action/RPGs is that you can recruit the services of various animal companions, which you will meet on your journey, who individually protect you from harm and grant you new abilities or enhance old ones. The penguin animal companion will turn your sword into an ice blade, for instance, which allows you to freeze flowing lava when thrown at it. Adding the cheetah to your party will naturally cause you to run like the wind, giving you the extra speed needed to make long distance jumps, and combining the powers of two separate animals at once yields even more potent results. There's even an ally who hastens the speed of your sword swings. The path to the end is blocked by plenty of puzzles, some of which involve pushing (destructible) blocks into their proper place in addition to other problems (in the form of both puzzles and bosses) that can only be solved with the assistance of your animal companions, which means tracking them all down is a top priority. You can even hire animals to aid you on your quest to save the world from evil such as a cat who will resurrect you from the dead (cats are said to have nine lives, so I guess this one has decided to sell a few of hers). That is what makes this game so unique for its time!

     > You travel from one location to the next via an overworld map as a miniature version of yourself. When your path is blocked, navigating and fighting your way through a location or finding another way around it is the only way to go to reach new destinations. Large shiny golden apples cleverly hidden in areas permanently raise your health, and smaller apples help restore it. Your health also increases whenever a boss guardian (usually guarding the way out of an area or way forward to wherever you have to go next) is defeated, so searching for extra health is optional. Gold coins are earned by killing the enemies that constantly respawn everywhere (naturally) and are sometimes even hidden beneath grass (along with restorative apples), which can be trimmed down to size by swinging your sword.

     > The game's sound effects are surprisingly clear, on-board sound chip limitations notwithstanding. The music heard throughout the game also proves that the Genesis was far from incapable of generating tunes worthy of your ears. The game is full of catchy lighthearted melodies capable of soothing even the most savage of beasts, and also found room for a few fast-paced tracks to send adrenaline rushing to your heart. Each tune sounds appropriate for each location.
     > This game has some Christian overtones which I found quite endearing to say the least. Fighting your way up the Tower of Babel (after learning that the builders have lost their ability to communicate with one another) to Heaven itself through puzzles, monsters and traps with the aid of a few talkative animal companions should be your first glaring clue. If a game in which you encounter God in one form or another who teaches the main character a lesson in morality (concerning the true face of evil) is enough to drive you over the brink of insanity, then find yourself another RPG. I didn't like the we-don't-need-gods-to-survive storyline running throughout Grandia 2, but that doesn't mean I still didn't like the game as a whole (or didn't find any of the characters likable like the free-spirited Milennia). You even travel back in time to the distant past to set the stage for the future. Discovering who the warrior statue in the main character's town was built in honor of was an unexpected twist. There really is nothing like a good story to fuel the imagination.

     > It seems that there are a few subtle differences between the American and European versions of this game. The name for Heaven in the European English version, "Saint Heaven", was renamed "Place of Peace" in its American counterpart. I can't understand what motivated the American publisher (Atlus) to change the name for the American version; the different name isn't fooling anyone. Spoiler warning: there's also a puzzle in Heaven requiring the presence of an animal ally to open up a passage whose name is spelled out on invisible tiles that have to be walked over in mid-air (above a very long drop) to reveal. MAC is the name of this animal companion spelled out in the American version (your dog's name), and DOG is the name spelled out in the European version, which when reversed is GOD. Again I ask, why did Atlus feel that it was necessary to change the name when it would have been more than welcome?

Bottom Line
     > Only fans of "old-school" Action/RPGs in the same vein as Landstalker need apply. The only real problem with this game lies in the fact that it won't take RPG fans very long to complete (unlike the older Landstalker). Crusader of Centy/Soleil is a great Action/RPG that suffers from the age-old problem of being too short for its own good, yet is too fun to ignore. Just enjoy the ride and the sights you see along the way while it lasts. Also keep an eye out for Sonic's cameo appearance. I must admit, playing this game when it first came out feels like yesterday. Where's the harm in succumbing to nostalgia every once in a while by taking a brief detour down memory lane?
Overall: 9.0 | Graphics: 9.0 | Control: 9.2 | Sound: 8.8 | Fun: 9.0
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

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