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Remake Request: Shining The Holy Ark

Posted by Damien McFerran

Why Sega's Saturn dungeon crawler would be perfect for a 3DS remaster

While Shining Force continues to entertain players in some form or another with its own brand of deep tactical gameplay, it's worth remembering that the Shining line of games didn't begin life on a grid-based battlefield. The first instalment — Shining in the Darkness — was a first-person dungeon-crawler which owed a debt to the Atari ST classic Dungeon Master. It featured turn-based combat and established the iconic art style which was the trademark of the franchise until Camelot cooled its relationship with Sega and began working on Nintendo platforms, where it created the Golden Sun series of RPG titles.

Shining in the Darkness would spawn Shining Force, which proved to be even more successful. Despite this, Sega and Camelot decided to develop a direct sequel on the 32-bit Saturn console, and in 1996 Shining the Holy Ark was launched. The game takes the pre-rendered visual style seen in Shining Wisdom — Camelot's attempt to take the series into Zelda-style realms — and refine it. The use of CGI sprites — a common sight during the mid-90s — wasn't without its drawbacks and Holy Ark does occasionally look a little rough around the edges, but Camelot would stand by the approach right up until the release of Golden Sun: The Lost Age on the Game Boy Advance in 2002.

The sprites may be a little inconsistent, but the 3D backgrounds are a little more appealing. Holy Ark takes place in several varied environments, ranging from dark forests to gloomy underground caves. The different locations make the game feel fresh and exciting, and the already striking atmosphere is accentuated greatly by Motoi Sakuraba's (Shining Force III, Namco's Tales series) excellent soundtrack. The subtle tunes which accompany the exploratory sections build up the tension perfectly, making the quaint music which plays when you're in the relatively safety of a town all the more relaxing. Then there's the infectiously rousing battle theme, which has to rank as one of the best in any RPG.

Despite its reliance on tried-and-tested turn-based combat mechanics, Holy Ark is still as playable and enjoyable today as it has ever been. There's more interaction with non-player characters than there was in Shining in the Darkness, with several towns and villages to explore. Another unique feature is the use of "pixies" which can be deployed the moment a battle commences, dealing out instant damage to enemies. These are hidden throughout the game and can dramatically change your battle tactics if used effectively.

While Shining Force has survived Camelot's departure and continues to see new entries in its native Japan (the last was Shining Ark on the PSP, released early last year), Sega has all but forgotten about the first-person sub-series. The void left by Camelot has resulted in several different developers becoming involved, and as a result there has been little in the way of continuity or direction. Remastering Holy Ark would be the ideal way to get back to the roots of Shining and convince western players to care about the franchise again. The game's visuals would look fantastic on the 3DS; those 3D dungeons would translate perfectly to the console's auto-stereoscopic display and the touch screen could be used to assign commands and interact with your inventory.

Porting the game wouldn't be an easy task — the Saturn is a notoriously difficult system to emulate — so whoever took on the task may need to build it from the ground up. However, the effort would result in a solid addition to the 3DS library of RPGs and could even pave the way for other remastered Saturn releases. Like Nintendo, Sega has a back catalogue packed with classics and it's high time that it started to exploit some of the gems from its illustrious 32-bit period.

Do you have fond memories of Shining the Holy Ark? Or is this a game you'd previously not heard of? Share your thoughts on a possible re-release by posting a comment below.

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User Comments (42)

NovaDrama

#1

NovaDrama said:

If Nintendo bought out Sega then they can just have Camelot come back and redo the entire Shining series for Nintendo systems only! Ah but that could only happen in a perfect world...

KimimiStaff

#2

Kimimi said:

Oh you're cruel Damien! I was content with the Saturn version but now you've brought it up a 3DS remake would be perfect and something I'd pay stupid amounts importing a fancy limited edition of D:

unrandomsam

#3

unrandomsam said:

I was kind of hoping the parallex would be at Shinobi X or Astal type quality with the M2 remakes of e.g Shinobi III. (They did make some changes the background I think like that would look brilliant on the 3DS.)

Israel_Cesar

#4

Israel_Cesar said:

This game is perfect, a trully masterpiece! if they ever make a remake or a port of it i will surely buy it!

warlocknem

#5

warlocknem said:

Does anyone remember Beyond the Beyond? I thought that was a fun RPG during the early years of the Playstation. Yes it wasn't one of Camelot's greatest moments but I would love to see that world revisited. I am a big fan of their efforts with the Shining series though and would think a remake on 3DS would be awesome.

BigH88

#6

BigH88 said:

Never played nor heard of this series. Looks like my kind of game though. So I hope it happens.

unrandomsam

#8

unrandomsam said:

What is the most reasonable way to get a Region Free Saturn that outputs RGB with a UK Plug. (I know you can swap the power board from a UK one into a Jap one). But the Jap has a different pinout. Rather not use the Action Replay and have it just work according to what disk is put in. (Not bothered about anything to play burned disks).
A UK Saturn with a switchless mod for all regions would be great but most of the mod's look pretty difficult. (i.e an order of magnitude harder than SNES or Megadrive ones that I have done myself pretty easily).

Israel_Cesar

#10

Israel_Cesar said:

i really liked shenmue too, but not having the rest of the story made me dislike him a little over the years. shining was a complete experience at least, idk if i would play all over again without the final part, but shining in the holy ark was 10/10 and reaaly deserves a 3ds remake!

AtlanteanMan

#12

AtlanteanMan said:

I've been saying that a Nintendo/Sega full console partnership would hugely benefit both only both companies but the ENTIRE HOBBY for years now. Sony and Microsoft have had the billions to invest...through second-party development teams, primarily...in lots of great franchises, but their sheer redundancy (annual sequels and FPS/third-person hack n' slasher dominance) speaks to that money-centric mega-corporation mindset that has come to pervade every E3 and other games industry shows anymore. Sony and Microsoft are electronics and computer giants that happen to make games; Sega however, like Nintendo, was a videogame company from the get-go, and back in the day when those two went against each other, every gaming show centered around GAMES, GAMES, and LOTS of GAMES instead of eye candy-filled, trailer-dominated "stage demos" and the controller add-on flavor of the week.

When Sega dropped support of the Dreamcast and went third-party (as so many folks now say Nintendo should do...REMEMBER YOUR HISTORY, PEOPLE!!!), many figured "Oh boy, now I can get all those awesome Sega franchises on any console I choose!" Until we saw the parade of endless mediocre 3D Sonic titles and almost nothing else worth mentioning. Ironically my favorite game of this past console generation, Valkyria Chronicles, absolutely tanked here in the West...initially...because Sega didn't consider it worth the effort to market. Only passionate word-of-mouth helped to spread the word about Valkyria Chronicles and make it the cult favorite of so many PlayStation 3 owners, but by then Sega had already relegated the series to the PSP (portables are where game developers send franchises they deem "not good enough for consoles").

It never ceases to amaze me just how little love the Saturn gets; for whatever reason it's the one console Sega never seems to do or commission remakes for (outside of Daytona and maybe a couple of others). I hate to beat a dead horse, but again, much of that likely has to do with the visuals; the Saturn was a first-gen 3D model system whose architecture was always better suited to 2D games than its competitor, the PlayStation 1. Its 3D games, even some of the true greats like Panzer Dragoon Saga, tend to look pixelly and muddy (yes, I know, those of us who enjoyed them never played them for the eye candy to begin with).

But as the author stated here regarding Shining the Holy Ark, the Saturn would be a GOLD MINE for the 3DS or even modern consoles to draw from, either via HD remakes or direct sequels. Shining Force III, which was divided into three Scenarios, the last two of which never came to the US, is 190 hours' worth of AMAZING storyline and tactical strategic gameplay across incredibly varied 3D environments (seriously, SF I and II are great, but when you see just how creatively Camelot used 3D and the rotatable environments...not to mention battlefield mechanics and environments that could change mid-fight...WOW. And what you did/whom you killed or found/the choices you made affected the potential characters you could recruit for your army in the other Scenarios; there is NO WAY to get all of them through a single play-through!). If an HD remake it were released, say, for 3DS, whether the Scenarios were separate or sold as a complete package, it WOULD BE HAILED AS THE GREATEST TACTICAL SRPG TO EVER BE RELEASED, not to mention blow Fire Emblem's sales (great as THAT game is) out of the water.

But SF III is only the start. What about a remake/sequel for Dragon Force and its enormous value. It had 8 separate campaigns across a warring continent spanning over 20-30 hours each, with hundreds of generals to capture and command, each of THOSE whom can be given over a dozen different types of troops to command, and up to 100 on each side of the screen per battle...this was and still is AMAZING to watch in REAL TIME on the Saturn, with the generals building up meters for Street Fighter style fireballs or screen-spanning, army-devastating environmental attacks. The sheer depth is crazy; archers are mincemeat against everything against Harpies, which they can shoot down with ease; Dragons are death for everything against Samurai, which in turn are average against everything else. There are Monks, Beastmen, Soldiers, Cavalry, and more (even Zombies). Um, and who at Sega DOESN'T think this franchise would sell again? Fire 'em NOW!

Bug! is another Saturn franchise whose 3D environments would look AMAZING on the 3DS. The Panzer Dragoon and PD Saga games would be given entirely new life on either 3DS but especially HD consoles (as evidenced by that beautiful track in Sonic: All-Stars Racing Transformed). Magic Knight RayEarth would give gamers a great top-down Action RPG that contains an EXCELLENT story. The SystemSoft-developed (but Sega-distributed in Japan) Daisenryaku/Iron Storm franchise would give hardcore Strategy gamers exactly what we've been so sorely missing on consoles since R.U.S.E. and they are TAILOR-MADE for that Wii U Gamepad and local multiplayer matches where you don't want your opponents to see your moves.

In closing, I have no idea whether Nintendo monitors forums like this (and their recent statement that consumer requests typically fall on deaf ears sure isn't promising), but a Nintendo/Sega partnership just makes plain sound business sense (and can you begin to imagine what a Smash Bros. game would look like with those two together!?). It's what their consumers WANT, and there used to be a time when the "consumer was always right". The industry and the hobby need that time to come again...and SOON.

Peach64

#13

Peach64 said:

I love this game so much. Back in the days before everyone was online and a games secrets were known before they even came out. I argued with a friend that I'd seen the wolf ninja as a party member in a magazine but they would not believe me. The day I found him on the game is still fresh in the memory hehe.

Morph

#14

Morph said:

Probably my second most played saturn game behind shining force 3, i would love a 3ds release of holy ark or the complete 3 scenarios of sf3. The new shining games since camelot stopped working with sega just arent the same, i'd love them to go into partnership again but i cant see it happening, so re-releases are probably the best we can hope for

Nintenjoe64

#15

Nintenjoe64 said:

@AtlanteanMan I think I'd settle for Saturn and Dreamcast virtual console. I owned a Saturn and DC (for the Saturn I used all my savings instead of getting a PS1 just because of Sega Rally and Euro 96). I found it a struggle to find any games but the ones I did get were great. Sega Rally, Panzer Dragoon, Fighters Megamix and MSR on VC would be enough for me.
If Nintendo bought Sega I bet we'd spend most of our time moaning that they keep releasing bad Sega games on VC and sitting on all the awesome 90s IP.

zionich

#16

zionich said:

My found memory of this game is pulling an all nighter trying to be one of the last fights.....net thing i knew i awoke, the boss was beaten, and i missed what happened..... had to try it again the next day lol.

This game has my vote.

Kaze_Memaryu

#17

Kaze_Memaryu said:

Okay, I honestly never knew about this at all! I thought Camelot was a Nintendo-exclusive developer...
The things you learn way too late - how did I miss out on this...?

DamoAdmin

#18

Damo said:

@Kaze_Memaryu I've never too late. Get a second hand Saturn and find a copy of the game on eBay - you can thank me later ;)

Mahe

#19

Mahe said:

This would be perfect. A Camelot, Sega and Nintendo co-operation, it makes too much sense.

therick112

#20

therick112 said:

I'd love to finally play the full Shining Force 3 game. Any new Shining Force game would be welcome including localization of the two GG games that didn't make it to NA, or Shining Force Feather would be swell.

OorWullie

#21

OorWullie said:

@Nintenjoe64 Great choice of games there man,MSR was superb.I got my Saturn at launch with Virtua Fighter,Daytona and Clockwork Knight but my best memories of it has to be playing my mates at Sega Rally and Euro 96.I lost a few jobs because of the latter haha

CanisWolfred

#22

CanisWolfred said:

This game could really use some tweaks, that's for sure. Actually, I really didn't like this game. I didn't play much, but what I did play was dull and poorly balanced. It was much too easy for a First Person Dungeon Crawler from what I played, and I think I noticed some easy exploits even early in. I also didn't like how towns were implimented at the time, but in retrospect, they actually did a better job of that than some other games of its type.

Again, I'd welcome a remake if they fix some of its flaws.

AcesHigh

#23

AcesHigh said:

Great game. But I'd rather take a Phantasy Star remake (I, II or IV) in a squirrel's heartbeat! I'd even be the highest supporter if they went to kickstarter!

AtlanteanMan

#25

AtlanteanMan said:

@therick112 (and anyone else interested in Shining Force III),

Since the late 1990s (yeah, ABOUT 15 WHOLE YEARS) an incredibly dedicated fan community named Shining Force Central have been hard at work on the Herculean task of English-translating ALL THREE SCENARIOS of Shining Force III for the Saturn into English. Character names, story text, the whole deal; I personally printed off the translated text boxes and the page count (keep in mind this was front AND back, double-sided) easily topped 400 pages. The patch itself is now on Version 15 and virtually complete; even on the V.10 or 11 patch I used for my own playthrough, everything was navigable and fully in English aside from a few bookshelves and minor stuff.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: You WILL need to purchase the JAPANESE versions of all three Saturn SF III Scenarios; you can do this through eBay or through an importer. While it'll be costly, I can say that I'd happily do it all over again; it's more than worth it if you love SRPGs and want to experience an incredible story and game mechanics like in no Shining Force game before or since.

Once you have those in hand, simply download the English Patch from here (and don't worry about any legality issues; Sega themselves are fully aware of SFC's efforts and have pretty much given their CONDITIONAL blessing, to my understanding...just DON'T reissue a translated copy elsewhere, ESPECIALLY for sale, or trust me there WILL BE legal issues):

http://sf3trans.shiningforcecentral.com/

All the instructions you'll need to make your English patch are included, and they're easy to follow.

Together these three Scenarios WILL take you at least 180-200 hours to complete if you want to see everything in one playthrough. And the final Boss fights (including a completely optional one with a 9-level dungeon that MUST be completed all at once to gain its most powerful items, but also can be repeatedly played to help train your weaker characters for the final fight) toward the end are truly epic in scale. The final battle involves ALL THREE armies (from each Scenario) on three separate and simultaneous battlefields; be prepared for the Boss fight here and in the optional dungeon to top 2 HOURS (oh, and that's with the same limitation of 4 items per character against some very nasty attacks...have fun!).

Reala

#27

Reala said:

wouldn't mind seeing a few ports of some of the obscure RPG's that appeared on saturn, not the most affordable console to collect for.

JonathanDunn

#28

JonathanDunn said:

Yep, my favourite game of all time - would be so perfect for a 3DS remake - as long as they keep the incredible original music! :)

unrandomsam

#30

unrandomsam said:

Far East of Eden Zero I would like a translated version of that.

Only Saturn stuff I know I want is the best version of Megaman X4 / Dungeon's and Dragons / Cotton 2 / Cotton Boomerang / other shmups / Metal Slug (Want to see how much better it is than the rest of the ports) / / Panzer Dragoon Saga / Street Fighter Alpha 3 / Some of the Sega Ages stuff / Sonic Jam / Panzer Dragoon 1 & 2 / Burning Rangers / Guardian Heroes.

(That is probably more stuff than on Wii U and 3DS combined).

unrandomsam

#31

unrandomsam said:

What has been remade from the Saturn :

Nights into Dreams (Best Sonic Team game period - Everywhere other than Nintendo).
Guardian Heroes (XBLA)
Radiant Silvergun (XBLA - Not sure if they used the Arcade Version or not so I don't think it counts).
Dungeons & Dragons (Don't think it counts Saturn version seems much better).

Any more ?

ReaperX30

#32

ReaperX30 said:

I love dungeon crawlers like this. Never played this one but if it came to the E-shop I'd buy it without hesitation.

ReaperX30

#34

ReaperX30 said:

I wish they would bring over the Japanese DS Wizardry games. They seemed pretty cool.

warlocknem

#36

warlocknem said:

@unrandomsam There is a remake of Nights into Dreams for the Wii. It was retitled Knights: Journey into Dreams. I used to own it and it was pretty fun.

warlocknem

#37

warlocknem said:

Albert Odyssey was a great RPG for the Saturn as well. Actually all of the RPGs that were translated and brought over to the U.S. were awesome I miss that system.

kurtasbestos

#39

kurtasbestos said:

Oh man I would LOVE to re-play this game in glorious THREE DEE!!! This game was like one giant teaser for the ridiculously awesome Shining Force III, but it was amazing and memorable in all its own ways. Just looking at those screenshots makes me want to go boot up my Saturn with this disc inside.

AtlanteanMan

#40

AtlanteanMan said:

One bit of trivia that may interest you guys: the "main" hero of Shining Force III (he leads his own army in Scenario 3 but also joins Synbios and Median's armies in Scenarios 1 and 2) is Julian, who is on the trail of the demons who murdered his parents when he was a boy...in Shining the Holy Ark. And yes, it's in there, tying the two threads together! Camelot was on a storytelling ROLL on the Saturn!

Windy

#42

Windy said:

A remake of Shining the Holy Ark could catapult it to the best RPG on the 3DS. It sure was my favorite RPG on the RPG poor Saturn. But what a great one. I would definitely revisit Shining the Holy. To this day still one of my favorites. Come to think of it....Shining in the darkness would be a nice game to give the 3d treatment also

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