SHINING FORCE : RESURRECTION OF DARK DRAGON / Atlus / GBA
Resurrection of the Dark Dragon is a fairly faithful remake of the first Shining Force game for the Sega Genesis, with a few changes and upgrades. Most of the game's art has been redrawn, there's a new translation with more dialogue, battles now have a bonus prize if you complete them within a certain amount of turns, there's a couple of new characters and new battles, and collectible cards that can be used by one of the new characters as a battle ability.
The first thing to talk about is the art, which is the only serious weak point of this upgrade. The overworld sprites look a bit better, and it could be argued that the character portraits have been somewhat improved. The battle graphics, however, just look kind of silly now, with a new low-detail style featuring distended and ugly characters and monsters.
The music is mostly replicated from the original, with no remixing and not a whole lot of upgrade in the sound samples used either. Fortunately, this was one of the few Genesis games with tolerable music to begin with.
There's a passel of three new characters that have their own scenarios mixed in with the regular battles. The daughter of Runefaust's king makes a break from their country to join the Shining Force, and her levels are played in between the main game's chapters, up until just after the battle against Elliot in Chapter 4 where she joins the main force. She's basically a Sage with an area healing spell and some really badass buffs, and can fight tolerably well if you keep her levels up. She comes with this insect ninja thing who seems pretty good in her scenarios, but is pretty weaksauce by the time he joins up with your main force.
The other new character is named Mawlock, and he's the complicated one. He's kind of a tank with pretty good defense and high HP, but he never promotes and can't attack for beans. His big specialty is the use of Cards, which you get from people and find lying about in bookshelves and treasure chests and such throughout the game. Mawlock can equip up to three cards in each battle, and they can each only be used once per battle (though they don't run out, you get them back for the next battle). With each card, Mawlock can choose to do one of three things - Copy, which gives Mawlock the statistics and some of the abilities of that character, Effect, which imparts a particular stat bonus on another character (for example, using Balbaroy's card on someone else makes them fly for the rest of the battle), and Image, which creates a shadow clone of the character with less HP than normal, but all the same strengths, spells and abilities they normally have (it should be noted that, while you can get cards from bosses and certain enemies, you can't Image them - only works on characters you already have).
The way that Mawlock and the new chick are inserted in the story is kind of clumsy and forced (they join up with the Shining Force in the most ridiculous story contrivance I've seen in awhile - Runefaust just happens to have some time/space bending teleportation machine hidden in some cave under their lands apparently). Purists may not like this addition, but personally I felt this game's story was pretty goofy and mediocre anyway and therefore nothing to take seriously, so all I care about is the impact on the fun of gameplay, and the cards and the new girl's battle abilities do add a bit of new life to the old game.
Unfortunately this means that the game also may lose any difficulty it previously had if you play it a certain way. Shining Force was a pretty simple SRPG, and the fifteen-year-old enemy AI hasn't really been improved at all. They still basically just stand still or creep along one or two squares, rushing out only to attack either your main character or the character with the lowest HP that they can reach. Battles are basically cake due to the oldschool predictability plus new infusions of power - unless you do what I did, and abuse the broken characters like Domingo and get their levels to shoot way over everyone else's, since the enemy levels in each map are based on the highest characters of your party (active or not) you can make a stiff challenge for yourself if you care to.
This is a game that has certainly been surpassed by other strategy RPGs in the many moons since it was released, but it's still a pretty good time and the new elements give it some new life despite the general downgrade in graphics.