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The game opens in the Kingdom of Guardiana, in the land of Rune. The protagonist is a swordsman named Max. He is the apprentice of the famed knight Varios, who is called upon when a force from Runefaust is seen at the Gates of Guardiana. Varios chooses to send Max to investigate, so as not to scare the townsfolk with a large force. At this point, Max is joined by five other characters. Once they exit Guardiana, the adventure begins. It is also Max's job to recruit as many members to the Force as possible as they fight the hordes of Runefaust. The game is divided into chapters, each chapter covering a different part of the war.
The armies of Runefaust are commanded by Dark Dragon, an evil beast that was sealed away in an alternate dimension a thousand years ago. When Dark Dragon is defeated, he is resealed in another dimension. As Dark Dragon’s castle begins to crumble, Max teleports his army to safety, while he stays behind. The other characters watch as the castle sinks back into the water, and Max is presumed dead.
The Shining Force
There are 30 recruitable members of the Shining Force, but only 12 of them can be used at a time, and most are not required (some are even secret). This section contains background information for these characters, but it should be noted that most of this information is presented only on the GBA remake, Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon, so players of the original game probably won't be familiar with it.
- MAX (Swordsman / Hero). The leader of the Shining Force. Found suffering from amnesia as a child, he was raised by the knight Varios to become a soldier of Guardiana. His background and personality are expanded upon considerably in the GBA remake; in the original game, he didn't even speak, except on very rare occasions. Max wields a sword in combat, and he also possess some considerable magical power. He is also the only one able to use some of the game's relics. Max can be named any name you want at the beginning of the game.
- LUKE (Warrior / Gladiator). Luke is a young dwarven fighter of the Guardiana army. He admires the older dwarven warrior Gort. As a dwarf, Luke fights with an axe, and possesses excellent attack and defense, although he is somewhat slow.
- KEN (Knight / Paladin). Ken is a centaur, and another of the young fighters of the Guardiana army. He is son of Thomas, who was, according to him, a great warrior and commander from Guardiana. Knights are centaurs with balanced attributes, and who fight with either lances or spears. Their aptitudes vary from character to character, but they have excellent speed on plain terrains.
- TAO (Mage / Wizardess). Tao is a young elven mage working for the Guardiana army. She served in the castle as a maid before becoming a mage - a wielder of offensive magic. Her parents were also mages, and were killed by the monster Cerberus. If you keep her in all the battles and keep her level high, a romantic relationship between her and Max will be implied when the game ends.
- HANS (Archer / Bow Master). Hans is an elven archer in service of the Guardiana army. As a hobby, he likes to draw cards to tell other people's future. Archers are able to attack enemies from distance, but they can't attack adjacent enemies.
- LOWE (Healer / Vicar). Max's childhood friend and a healer in service of the Guardiana army. His hobbies are eating and unsuccessfully flirting with women. A healer, Lowe is a primary user of healing and support magic.
- GONG (Monk / Master Monk). Gong is one of the Ancient Warriors who fought Runefaust, and will aid Max if he is talked to in the hut beside the Western Ancient Gate. As a monk, Gong has some ability of fighting physically (with his bare fists) and also wields healing and support magic.
- MAE (Knight / Paladin). Mae is the daughter of Max's mentor Lord Varios. She resented Max until the day Kane killed her father. Since then, Mae acknowledged Max as a worthy student of her father. There is some debate over whether she actually loved Max or whether she came to accept him as a friend or perhaps brother-figure, since Varios was like a father to Max.
- GORT (Warrior / Gladiator). Gort is an old dwarf who will join the party if he is talked to in the pub, after the Runefaust Invasion. He seems to be far more experienced than Luke, having fought in many important battles.
- KHRIS (Healer / Vicar). Khris is the princess' caretaker in Alterone. After Kane imprisoned Max, she released Max and joins the Shining Force. She lived most of her life in a monastery.
- ANRI (Mage / Wizardess). Anri is the beloved daughter of King Guardiana and resided in Manarina as a student mage. When she learned that Kane killed her father, she joins the Shining Force. She lacks self-confidence, probably because she always led an isolated life in the castle. Her favorite hobby is drawing pictures. She is not fond of hens.
- ARTHUR (Knight / Paladin). Arthur was a great knight who retired in Manarina as a mere laundryman. After Max gave him the fighting spirit, he joins the Shining Force. He seems to travel a lot and has a great deal of "trivia" knowledge. Having stayed in Manarina allowed him to learn some limited offensive magic, unlike other knights.
- AMON (Birdman / Sky Warrior). Amon is the wife of Balbaroy who was trapped at the Shade Abbey's Chapel of Light. After dispatching the undead monsters and saving Balbaroy, Amon decides to tag along and lead the Force to Uranbatol. She possesses a lot of knowledge about birdmen's "spells", which are actually more like superstitions. As a birdman, Amon is an agile but otherwise balanced warrior who wield swords in combat.
- BALBAROY (Birdman / Sky Warrior). Balbaroy is Amon's husband, who's trapped at the Shade Abbey's Chapel of Light. After being dispelled of his cursed state, Balbaroy joins the Shining Force to Uranbatol.
- DIANE (Archer / Bow Master). Diane is the red-haired princess of Bustoke, who will join the party if the player chooses to agree to rescue the men from the Bustoke Quarry. She has knowledge about the many feral races that live in Bustoke, although none appear in-game with exception of Zylo.
- ZYLO (War Wolf / Wolf Baron). Zylo is the warwolf of Bustoke who went berserk after the Runefaust Invasion in their town. Since then he was locked away from civilization. After Max recovers Moon Stone from the quarry and the alchemist made the Lunar Dew, Zylo will have a full recovery and will join the Shining Force. Zylo prefers fighting than thinking, and usually don't have much to say when you speak to him. As a warwolf, Zylo fights unarmed, yet he is one of the most powerful members of the force given plenty of training.
- PELLE (Knight / Paladin). Pelle is a former Runefaust assassin, but after he saw Kane's evil deeds and was near death in the bridge to Pao, he resigned his post and joins the Shining Force after their victory against the Laser Eye.
- JOGURT (Yogurt). Jogurt is a rodent-like creature who, for an unknown reason, wears a helmet. He is completely useless in combat, and was included in the game merely for comic reasons. He joins you via a secret passage in the chapel of Pao. If he manages to defeat enough enemies, he might drop a surprise. In the GBA version, he is called Yogurt, like his species. He also makes an appearance in Shining Tears as the bizarre team ability of the main character Xion.
- KOKICHI (Wing Knight / Sky Lord). Kokichi is the loony inventor in Bustoke, who's making finishing touches on a winged backpack enabling him to fly. He won't join you unless Max had seen his flight demo in Bustoke. If you did, he'll join you after the wagons have left Pao. Kokichi wields lances and spears in combat.
- VANKAR (Knight / Paladin). Vankar is the famed bouncer of Pao but was fired because of sleeping in duty. He will join you after the Pao wagons have left. He is an easygoing guy who just likes to enjoy life.
- DOMINGO (Magic Creature). Domingo won't join you unless Max had the Domingo Egg from the Manarina robot and hatched that egg in the Item Shop in the second Pao. He looks like a flying jellyfish, and for some reason, has formidable magic ability. Although he uses full sentences in the original game, the only word he is able to speak in the remake is "Domingo!", but he seems to be able to communicate through mimics and by changing his body color.
- GUNTZ (Steam Knight / Steam Baron). Guntz is the armored assistant of a Rindo inventor called Dr. Crock. When the steam suit is finally fault-free, he joins Max's team in the second Pao. He wields lances and spears in combat. His steam suit gives him an extraordinary defense, but he is also very slow.
- EARNEST (Knight / Paladin). Earnest is the lone survivor of Balbazak's invasion of Uranbatol. He is consumed by vengeance for Balbazak after the massacre of his family. He will join you once Max reaches the inner fortress of Uranbatol.
- LYLE (Assault Knight / Strike Knight). Lyle is an assault knight, a centaur who fights with a cannon. He is among the only adults who resided in Rudo. He will join you once you speak to him in his lone room in the tower. He is also an apprentice of Dr. Crock, the one who invented Guntz's steam suit. Like archers, assault knights can attack from distance but are unable to attack adjacent enemies.
- BLEU (Dragon / Great Dragon). Bleu is the last descendant of the Sacred Dragons. He joins Max after he has been revived of his fighting spirit when he saved Karin in Dragonia. As a dragon, Bleu is able to fly, plus has formidable stamina and defense.
- MUSASHI (Samurai). Musashi a samurai, and a hidden character from Prompt, who joins you once you locate the stone slab on the wall after King Kusuko imprisoned Max. He possesses a lot if wisdom and desire to fight evil. As a samurai, Musashi wields katanas in combat and has formidable attack and defense, but he is a tad slow too.
- ALEF (Mage / Wizardess). Alef is a vulpes, a werefox-like race, and she is one of Prompt's soldiers to attack the Ancient Tower. Yet, they could not still stop Darksol, so she and Torasu joins Max after the Ancient Tower battle.
- TORASU (Healer / Vicar). Torasu is one of Prompt's soldiers to attack the Ancient Tower. Yet, they could not still stop Darksol, so he and Alef joins Max after the Ancient Tower battle. He also knows a lot about the history of Prompt.
- ADAM (Robot / Cyborg). Adam is a Robot of Ancient technology who came from the past, together with Chaos. His purpose was simply to serve Max. Upon Max's victory over Chaos, Adam joins him to help him create the Sword of Legends. Adam also takes a primary role in the Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict sequel. As a robot, Adam is an unarmed combatant, and sometimes uses a laser ray attack. Unfortunately, he is also slow.
- HANZOU (Ninja). Hanzou is the hidden character from Runefaust, who joins you once you locate the shuriken hidden among the bushes of Runefaust city. As a ninja, Hanzou is an agile and strong warrior who fights with a sword, plus he is able to use some magic. His only drawback is his defense, which is somewhat lower than other physical combatants'.
Shining Force GBA Remake characters
These following characters are only available on the game remake for Game Boy Advance - Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon.
- NARSHA (Shaman / Guru). Narsha is the daughter of King Ramladu. When her father turns to evil, she rebels against him and flees from the castle. As a brave and strong-willed woman, she is willing to confront her own father, although she hopes to find a way of redeeming him. She is a shaman, like her father, thus she is able to use powerful support magic, as well as fighting with a mace.
- MAWLOCK (Card Master). Mawlock is a wandering sage who collects cards to increase his knowledge and power. Despite his monstrous appearance, Mawlock is a nice person and willing to use his power to save the world. He possesses the unique Card ability. His personality might suggest he is somewhat annoyed by humans. In one instance he gets agitated that he has to repeat and explain things to people such as Ray and Narsha.
- ZUIKA (Assassin / Terminator). Showing up when it seems likely that Narsha will fail to escape the pursuing enemies, he quickly makes short work of all opponents. Being buglike in body structure, he is one of the greatest mysteries of the game. He fights unarmed, and once promoted to Terminator, he gains the ability of extraordinarily increasing his physical power when he is seriously wounded.
In addition, on the Shining Force GBA revival:
- Hanzou (Ninja) can now be promoted to Super Ninja
- Musashi (Samurai) can now be promoted to Sword Master.
- DARKSOL. The main antagonist of the game, Darksol, is a mysterious figure who arrives at the kingdom of Runefaust, and is quickly trusted by the King, Ramladu, and named commander of the kingdom armies. Soon, it's discovered that he intents to resurrect a terrible monster named Dark Dragon and use it to rule the world. His fists are immensely strong, and he can also use the Demon Breath attack (eyeball version).
- DARK DRAGON. The infamous monster known as Dark Dragon is responsible for the near destruction of an entire civilization in ancient times. It's able to use the Demon Breath (skull version), the most powerful area attack of the game. It possesses three heads, each one with different abilities (different magic in the original game, different types of breath in the GBA Remake).
- MARIONETTE. One of the animated dolls created by Mishaela to wipe out the Shining Force. Marionette can be considered the first "boss fight" of the game, as it's much more powerful than regular enemies, being able to use powerful offensive magic.
- ELLIOTT. Elliott is a member of the dragoman race, the last of his kind, and one of the Generals of the Runefaust Army. Unlike the other generals, Elliot is a kind person and fights for Runefaust due to loyalty rather than desire of conquering the world. He is an honorable combatant, a keen strategist, and a deadly swordsman. Elliot is also an inspirated in a character of the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu
- BALBAZAK. Another General of the Runefaust army. As a Dragon Master, he possesses enormous physical strength and skill with an axe, plus he always takes his Blue Dragon companion to fight alongside him. His weaknesses are his bad temper and cowardice.
- KANE. Another General of the Runefaust army, Kane is an honorable combatant like Elliot, but unlike him, he possesses no gentle heart. He is responsible for the death of Max's master, the knight Varios. He is always seen using a mask which brings terror on his enemies, and he wields the mighty Dark Sword in battle.
- MISHAELA. The witch Mishaela is Darksol's most trusted servant. She is malicious and cunning, but she is also overconfident, arrogant, and sometimes ignores Darksol's orders and prefers to solve things "her own way". Despite this, she is completely loyal to Darksol and willing to sacrifice her life for him. Her main weapon in combat is her offensive magic.
- CHAOS. Chaos is a humanoid robot created by the Ancients, thus sharing a common origin with Adam. Unfortunately, Chaos was re-programmed by Darksol to serve the villain's sinister purposes. His main ability, like Adam's, is his immense strength, defense, and durability.
- RAMLADU. The King of Runefaust ruled his land with peace and justice for many years, until the arrival of Darksol. He mysteriously started to change after that, becoming evil and seeking to invade and conquer other countries. Ramladu is a Shaman, thus is both a powerful healer a formidable combatant with a mace.
- COLOSSUS. Colossus is another creature created by the Ancients, composed of three giant heads capable of using magic. His original purpose was to protect Dark Dragon's seal. Like most of what's left of the Ancient civilization, Colossus is now controlled by Darksol.
- NOVA. Once a great warrior of Guardiana, Nova turned to be King Guardiana's advisor and a great military strategist. He also acts as an advisor to Max; you can talk to him to get tips for the next battle, and you can change your battle formation/equipment through him.
- VARIOS. The centaur Varios is Max's mentor, Mae's father, and one of the most honorable and loyal knights of Guardiana. When the Runefaust army invaded Guardiana, he confronted the Runefaust General Kane, but was killed by the might of Kane's Dark Sword.
- KANE UNMASKED. After the battle at Dragonia, Max defeats Kane and his mask breaks off. He becomes good and tries to save Max when DARKSOL comes to try to destroy them both. He disappears until Max get to PROMPT, where KANE is sleeping in a bed. Later, he gets killed by Darksol and his final wish is for Max to destroy DARKSOL.
In the GBA remake, when you beat him, he also reveals he is your brother. Also, before he dies, he shows Max your past; everything Max forgot was shown to him. His final line was before Max entered Runefaust castle. Darksol almost aquirred Max to join him when Kane attacked with a force of lightning and snapped Max out of it.