At the time of its release, Shining Force CD was a thoroughly strange game, mostly due to a number of external factors having more to do with the gaming industry at large and less to do with it in particular. Nearly 20 years ago, it was unheard of for a portable game (or collection of two games with extras) to be updated and rereleased on what was purported to be the cutting-edge console of its day, and that it would be comprehensively overhauled so that the graphics and music would be on par with (or exceed the standards of) most of its console-first brethren. Then, as now, it was far more common for the reverse to happen in order to expand the handheld device’s customer base through gimped me-toos aimed at exploiting consumer awareness of popular company icons. What’s even stranger is that the Shining Force series as a whole lacks that essential popular awareness—and the games in question being ported over even less so, given that the first of the two games in the collection never made it from Japanese shores and the second was a Game Gear release.
The lens of history reveals it as something of a necessity, even with the simultaneous release dates in Japan and America, as the Sega CD’s catalog was largely glutted with hordes of shoddy arcade ports, FMV interactive movies and collections of past hits on the Genesis. Full-bodied games developed exclusively for the system were a rarity, and strangely enough, tended largely to be RPGs as the increased storage size of the CD in comparison to carts left vast amounts of empty space most developers had no use for beyond CD-quality audio soundtracks. The age of polygons had yet to rear its triangular head, and it left the platform in a sort of sticky middle spot—and RPG fans with a relative bonanza of games in a short period of time.
But still, the decision to port the two Game Gear games is still an odd one, especially as the Sega CD neared the end of its functional life span as the first full generation of CD-based consoles was springing up around it. The “why” probably lies somewhere in the tangle of corporate in-fighting between the Japanese and American branches of Sega and the calamitous mishandling of the company during the late Genesis and Saturn periods, where the Japanese branch wanted some last gasp of content on the Sega CD as it pushed the Saturn out the door and the U.S. branch wanted some breathing room before it’s planned eventual rollout for the Saturn that didn’t quite happen as advertised.
Article by Andrew Bentley
GameSpite Journal 12: Shining Force CD