Shining in the Darkness

released on Mar 29, 1991

Dark Sol has vowed to reign over the enchanted Kingdom of Thornwood, and only you can stop him. Find the powerful Arms of Light and battle the deadly beasts that keep your people desperate and starving in this epic journey for peace. Roaming the dark Labyrinth, you'll seek out enemies and collect weapons, all of which will help you pass the test of the Ancients and become a shining knight. Get into the adventure with a stunning 3-D perspective, amazing cinematic views and fast-paced scrolling. You'll move from battle to battle, solving puzzles and discovering secret items in this engrossing struggle between good and evil.

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Not the best dungeon crawler, but the one I love. The atmosphere of Thornwood and The Labyrinth really works on me. Although this game is quite hard and needs a lot of grind to be beaten, I still enjoy playing it.

If you are going to play the shining series and don't know where to start, this is the starting point if you want to play them in release order. HOWEVER, I personally wouldn't reccomend this. This game is a dungeon crawler compared to the strategy RPG gameplay of the main shining force series, and while I think this is a rather solid dungeon crawler, I don't think it would make the best first impression for the series. The game centers around climbing a sole dungeon tower with a party of 3 lil hero dudes. Definitely get the graph paper out for this one, since the in game map isn't that helpful. If you like dungeon crawlers, this is honestly a solid one, but if you want to get into the shining series and think you have to play this one first, you don't. Just start with Shining Force!

i accidentally overrote a save i was trying to load when i was halfway through the game
and the worst part is the game wasnt even that good
the entire first third of the game or so feels genuinely unbalanced to a confusing degree. the first boss in the game is pretty much the hardest thing i encountered and it required a stupid amount of grinding, heading back to town to heal, grinding, etc. and each time you go back to the dungeon, you start from the same spot and have to navigate its maze (where everywhere looks the same) to get where you were. and once you do kill the boss and earn your party members, theyre at level one and you need to.... go back to grinding them, and more enemies will appear in fights, and they'll be the ones targeted, so they'll die and stop gaining xp until you revive them, so for the next few levels they'll basically need to defend until theyre at a high enough level where they can withstand the same crab boss
and then... its easy. once the allies are at a close enough level to yours, you can just brute force every battle, holding the same button, occasionally needing to leave the dungeon to heal. it is a tad annoying that you dont restore anything when you level up, as you'll go from a level 8 with 50hp and 20mp to a level 14 with 120hp and 50mp before you even need to leave the dungeon. hell before that second crab boss, money is fairly hard to get in good amounts, especially for 3 people, but then you can start making bank and earning all the good shit easily. i was level twenty-something (maybe 23-25?) when i lost my save, and i had completed 2 of the "trials (which is just navigate a more brown dungeon until you find a thing and maybe defeat a "boss") and the game had just lost all challenge that was once omnipresent. bosses i could just rush through, enemies began taking 1hp at a time (i wasnt even grinding intentionally, just trying to navigate the damn mazes) and i was just constantly getting interrupted by the same 5 enemy rotation every 2 steps, it made me lose track of where i was constantly. frankly losing my progress was probably a blessing, as i only kept wondering just why i was still playing this game
tl;dr its a frustratingly annoying, yet boring game with some cool designs here and there, but its got a jarring reverse spike in difficulty and the entire time i was thinking "i could be playing dragon quest"
just go play dragon quest instead

Only redeeming features are the fact that it spawned the Shining Force franchise (one of my fav SRPG series) and it's amazing that you can fight Darksol as final boss, since i really liked him in Shining Force 1 and it was a cool surprise to see him here. The monster art and effects are great for it's time. The dungeons themselves look boring, but there is not much you can really do with corridors anyway (that's why i don't like first person dungeon crawlers in general).
It's an old grindy relic. Play Shining Force instead!

Dungeon crawling's always pretty fun to me, unfortunately this one lacks both variety and challenge, making the proceedings feel a lot more like work than play. A shame, I enjoyed the setting/characters/etc.

I tend to tolerate a lot of bullshit in the pursuit of expanding my appreciation of videogame history and its range of experiences, but my limit is definitely put to the test when I am forced to watch my character die to a crab in one hit after countless hours of tedious grinding.
Shining in the Darkness for the most part is able to replicate much of the strengths of a genre that over the course of its existence has successfully shown the value of brutal difficulty and the reptillian pleasure of watching your party slowly avoiding immediate death for a few seconds more within endless illusory 3D brick walled corridors where each step can spell disaster, but it ends up stretching the concept far too thin for its own good.
Having an atrocious unfair amount of grinding and an aggravating high enemy encounter rate, its hard to find much enjoyment in a game that seems to value wasting your time with stat numbers over engaging and strategic decision making, and the random enemy encounters à-la JRPGs remove the cat and mouse appeal provided by the perceptible threats present in games like Dungeon Master.
While the simple joy of drawing your own grid map never loses its charm, you do so because the brown samey looking labyrinth devoid of landmarks and puzzle solving, admitedly effective at making you feel lost, lacks the variety to make the grind any less unbearable. Which is why I eventually gave in and installed a hack halfway through to remove the grinding.
But doing so was to kill game, as removing the grind means you are just left staring at lifeless corridors dealing with the little color provided by enemies and the few and far between NPC encounters. Maybe there's a reason why Shining in the Darkness does not share the adoration its spin off series Shining Force enjoys. Maybe its that freaking crab. Play Legend of Grimrock instead.