Does anyone remember Shining Wisdom for the Sega Saturn? No… Anyone?
Shining Wisdom was one of the launch titles for the wayward Sega machine. Unfortunately, it was also probably the least outwardly impressive, featuring 2D graphics that would’ve ranked about average on the previous 16-bit Genesis.
That’s not to say that the game was bad. Far from it, in fact. As most Sega fans will undoubtedly know, the Shining series was the company’s staple RPG franchise. The games included titles like Shining Force, Shining Force 2, Shining in the Darkness and Shining in the Holy Ark. The series was almost exclusively turn based and was mostly viewed as a low rent Final Fantasy.
Shining Wisdom was different, though. It eschewed the usual turn based shenanigans in favor of an action-adventure bent. Basically speaking, it was an unashamed ‘Link to the Past’ Zelda ripoff. But boy, it was a good one.
The game had the same uniqueness and thought put into it’s items and implementation as the Zelda titles; Stone boots that could break floor tiles made for some cunning dungeon beats and could also be utilized for slide kicking spindly-legged enemies. There was an ice power item that could freeze water, leading to a fondly remembered water dungeon puzzle. Not to mention the dreaded mirror labyrinth, where some of the walls were only illusions and your controls got inverted as well! Great stuff!
One area where Shining Wisdom really outshone (pun alert) Zelda was in the story department. The game had a fairly deep tale to tell about ancient demons, power orbs, mystical trees and the like. It had at least quadruple the amount of text boxes as ‘Link to the Past’ or ‘Ocarina of Time’. Unlike those games, the bosses of each dungeon were minions of the main villain Pazot (they were usually after whatever item you had just procured), and you always got to talk to them a few times before you finally fought them. It was a small touch, but it gave the ensuing beatdowns a much more satisfying edge. After all, we all like to close down arrogant, mouthy fuckers, don’t we?! *please don’t hit me*
On a personal note, Shining Wisdom was a ground zero game for me. Prior to playing it, I was totally into action games. Street Fighter II, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario, Super Metroid…. Those type of games were my bag. I had played Zelda and the like, but never really understood why people liked them so much. Shining Wisdom, however, completely blew me away and forever swerved my opinion about adventure games and RPGs. They remained my favorite types of game throughout most of the 32, 64 and 128 bit cycles. With my current love of Elder Scrolls, Yakuza and Mass Effect maybe that still hasn’t changed.
So thank you, Shining Wisdom. You were good!