This month marks the 15 year anniversary of the release of Shining Force: The Resurrection of Dark Dragon on the GBA, itself a remake of the Sega title Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention.
Shining Force remains one of may favourite RPG experiences on any system, and I sank a ridiculous amount of hours into both this and its sequel. The turn-based battles alternated between being great fun skirmishes and frustratingly difficult epics, and the worlds themselves were steeped in high fantasy tropes and concepts.
It’s like Fire Emblem, only (whisper it!) better.
The anniversary comes at a pretty neat time for me. I had recently started playing through the first game anyway, and it reminded me of two things:
1.) How much I love the sheer breadth of characters in the series.
2.) How the series had been responsible for some of my earliest pieces of fan-fiction.
I’ve been meaning to write a few more video game inspired stories anyway, and so I thought, given the occasion, it would be fun to turn this goal into something of a project. Therefore I bring you said project, a series of short character pieces for every playable character in Shining Force and Shining Force 2—63 stories in total (unless my poor grasp of mathematics has let me down again). They’re not going to be stories that have been polished to within an inch of their lives, more just fun or serious snippets set before, during or after the game(s). But hopefully they’ll entertain none-the-less.
And so, let’s kick things off with the first story:
She was early. Again.
Alef slumped into her usual spot on the bench outside of the Manarina Magic School, her arms folded and eyes narrowed. The young foxling hated being early for this part of her daily routine—there were always just enough minutes before the bell for the yearning to begin overpowering her anger and frustration. She glared at the old clock tower looming over the school, and then at the school itself, pushing back against the horrible prickling sensation spreading beneath her amber fur.
Her bag lay beside her, taking up the reminder of the bench. For some reason she had packed her spellbooks, and the absence of an obvious reason why caused her further irritation. Alef began to chew aggressively at the clump of Rindo spice-tobacco in her mouth, and the warmth spreading into her cheeks became a welcome distraction. Her head swam momentarily, the colours of the bright spring morning becoming violently intense. Alef stared at the fluttering bunting lining the street for what felt like an hour, the wind shouting curses in her ears.
Then the bells began to chime, and churning rivers of students poured out from the doors of the school. Alef straightened at the noise before forcing her body to relax into the bench. She blinked away the effects of the spice-tobacco and then fixed her blue eyes on the passing crowds, hoping for someone to meet them. As always, the students were either frustratingly oblivious or frustratingly polite.
Alef huffed as the bulk of the students passed. Fruitcakes, the lot of them. They had to be, to be as ridiculously good at spellcraft as they all were. Wild magic tugged at her senses, needy and desperate. For a moment Alef indulged it, opening her hand and feeling the beginnings of a spell dance across her claws. The first one she had ever cast, a delight to her village but apparently simple and basic to Marina’s standards.
She closed her hand again, casting the half-formed spell into the wind.
It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t even approaching fair.
The foxling’s ears twitched as another set of footsteps pounded from the building, though she didn’t look up. Alef knew who it was; as always, it was the one person she didn’t want to make eye contact with.
“Alef, um… Hi.”
Alef growled through her teeth, but although the boots in the periphery of her vision shuffled they didn’t move away. After a minute she conceded defeat.
The girl shifted her weight, lower lip held between her teeth. Never before had Alef known someone to be so far removed from their namesake; Vain was a shaggy mess of a human, her brown hair curling in crazy arcs and her oversized clothes a patchwork of offensive colour schemes. Though by far the worst thing of all was her constant scent of books and ink.
“You weren’t in school today,” she said, as if that was a fact still worth mentioning.
Alef shrugged. Weird and awkward as she was, Vain was also the only person in the school she had considered worthy of being a friend. She deserved some sort of response.
The human’s satchel slipped from her shoulder to the floor with a bump. Books and papers attempted to escape, and Vain stooped to thrust them back in with an embarrassed mumble. Alef watched her, fur bristling. This was one of the school’s star pupils.
Vain’s nose wrinkled as she stood up. “Is that, uh, tobacco?”
“Rindo’s finest spice.” Alef smiled, enjoying the blush spreading across Vain’s face. The human clutched her satchel close.
“But that’s illegal.”
“I asked nicely.”
Vain chewed her lip again, looking momentarily lost. “I… I took extra notes,” she muttered with a shake of her head, “just in case you wanted to come…”
“Save it.” Alef narrowed her eyes. “I told you before, I’m good.”
Vain’s mouth opened, the blush darkening. Then she turned and strode away. Alef watched her go. She was just like the rest of them—any chance to rub her muzzle in the fact that they were all so much better than her. She didn’t need them, like she didn’t need the school. She should just go back to her home in the Bustoke forest, back to where she was the best at spellcraft and she didn’t need to spend every hour of the day studying like some loser to prove it.
So then why hadn’t she?
The tobacco began to taste funny. Alef spat it out, her eyes still fixed on Vain as she trailed ever further behind the other groups of students. Like her, the human had started at Manarina with high expectations, and just like her she had ended up at the bottom of the class. Why did the fruitcake stick at it so much?
After a moment, the growing ache in her stomach became too much to bear. Jumping up as if she had been the victim of a miscast bolt spell, Alef trotted off in pursuit.
“Vain! Hey, Vain! Wait up.”
The human turned around. Her expression was surprised and hopeful and half a dozen other things that made Alef’s own features harden in defiance. She folded her arms, her claws digging into flesh as she hugged herself.
“If it’ll make you feel better… Just for an hour, yeah?”
Vain’s smile was as slow moving and as brilliant as the sun, and for a moment Alef felt it penetrate the darkest parts of her soul.
And for that moment, it felt like she could belong.
Alef is a character in Shining Force. She’s a powerful mage who joins the force late in the game. A member of the foxling race, she’s spirited and keen, and in her youth went off the rails a little when she started studying at a prestigious magic school and realise she wasn’t as good at spellcraft as she had led herself to believe. That resonated with me at the time and, thanks largely to my day-job, still does.