I've recently played this remake, something like 12 years after playing the Megadrive version (and 22 years after seeing my father play it), so I'm quite likely to have a biased opinion, but I will try to remain objective. In fact, it's hard for me to decide which version is better, this remake has big pros and big cons. Pros of RotDD :
- Improved storytelling, and addition of backstory to Shining Force members. That has to be the biggest plus point of the remake. In LoGI, the story felt rushed and most characters were deprived of any kind of background and personality, they just joined you as soon as you met them and had 1 line they would repeat indefinitely in the headquarter (though, it's a very common feature of 90's games). In RotDD, we learn more about Max, Darksol, Cain and Dark Dragon, we know how all of this started, it's no longer just an evil who comes from nowhere. And I like how they gave playable characters personality, for instance Lowe only thinks about food, Tao tries to overcome quite a harsh backstory, Arthur has interest for pointless details, Kokichi spent his entire life trying to fly, Zylo doesn't like to talk (but at least he told me his favourite colour is black), etc... In the end you know better why they joined the Shining Force. I also like the addition of Narsha. I know that many don't like her, but I think the main problem they have with her is that she wasn't in the original game, as well as gameplay issues.
- Character of the same class can have slightly different battle sprites. I mean, Anri's battle sprite is no longer just a Tao's recolour, and you clearly recognize them in battle scenes (in LoGI, non-unique characters were almost unrecognisable). While characters of the same class still have similar sprites, there is differentiation other than colours. Except for knights because, well, there has to be the unoriginal class.
- Some UI improvement. Viewing your stats outside of battle, or buying new weapons, is a pain in LoGI, but much easier to do in RotDD. Neutral points of RoDD :
- Globally, graphics look improved compared to the LoGI, but somehow I still prefer the good old Megadrive graphics. The fact that the Megadrive has a higher resolution than the GBA probably influences me. Bad points of RoDD
- Having to select your character before moving. While I got used to it quickly, it's just an unnecessary change.
- Terrible French translation (no idea for other languages). Many grammar and syntax mistakes. And it seems the translators believed Alef was male, in the French version the adjectives etc are used in the masculine form when she speaks...
- Many good ideas gone wrong. To begin with, it was a nice thing to try to balance some characters (eg Bleu really needed a nerf, he was awesome in everything in the original game), but unbalancing others and adding totally overpowered new characters just makes all those efforts pointless. When Bleu was nerfed, some OP characters remained untouched or became still more OP, and pointless characters just remained as bad as before. In fact I find RotDD still more unbalanced than the original game.
- I don't like the new promotion mechanics. So when you promote, you are lvl 1 and have the same XP gain as a lvl 1 unpromoted. Why not. But I don't like it when after promotion, until about lvl 10 stat gains are insignificant (I kept gaining +1 HP or nothing at all, even when trying to reset the RNG, and this for every character, so it has to be intended that way). And the fact that casters learn their spell at fixed lvl that doesn't vary with promotion is weird, too. In the end, it's like instead of the game adding 10 to the shown level after promotion (what LoGI did), you have to manually grind these 10 lvl that will bring you no relevant stat growth or spell learning.
- I know they are secret characters, but Hanzou and Musachi have become monsters of opness. You get them at lvl 1 unpromoted and they have similar stats as your current Force members. And they have awesome stat gain when you lvl them up. Says a lot. They outshine every melee fighter (save Zuika if you use his special ability). In LoGI, they already were good, but not to that point, they were limited due to not having promotion. It's also weird that they added a promotion for these two but Domingo didn't get the same treatment.
- Gong is still pointless after promotion. He hardly ever gains Attack after promotion, so quickly enough he becomes worthless offensively. Meanwhile, all Vicars gained more Attack than him and with Holy Staff, they simply deal more damage than him. I thought the Master Monk should have more Attack then Vicars, but maybe I was mistaken ? In addition, due to his hybrid status, Gong has less MP than Vicars and a limited spell selection. In fact, after promotion, Gong is just a direct downgrade from Khris. Khris is better than Gong is every stat except HP and Defence, and has a better spell selection.
- Despite the introduction of more bows, Hans and Diane remain useless. Instead of buffing Hanzou and Musachi, maybe they should have thought more about archers. Still no reason to use them over Lyle.
- Maybe I was unlucky with level ups, but Adam is a joke in that version. In LoGI, he was very hard to train, but at least he eventually became a powerhouse. In RotDD, he is still such a pain to train, but in the end Zylo or Musachi have better stats than him anyway, making him totally useless.
- I simply hate the offensive magic nerf. Status spells and heals were buffed, which is fine. But offensive spells (Blaze, Freeze, Bolt) received a bad treatment I don't like. To begin with, I don't like how they "swapped" lvl 3 and 4. And I'm quite tolerant when I say swap. Lvl 3 RotDD spells are far less powerful than lvl 4 LoGI spells. And lvl 4 RotDD spells have increased cost compared to lvl 3 LoGI spells, while I don't think they are more powerful. It is like instead of lvl 1-2-3-4, it became lvl 1-2-2.5-3. Ok, Narsha has Boost, which helps, but actually I felt that lvl 3 Boost was absolutely necessary to make offensive magic relevant late game. In LoGI, you didn't need any other character to have optimal power. As if it wasn't enough, there is this damn magic resistance and spell immunities all throughout the game to really feel useless. My concern with magic resistance is that it feels out of place in a game where magic deals fixed damage anyway. I mean, Defence is balanced because Attack and Defence counter each other. But what counters magic resistance ? Boost ? Even boost is a fixed bonus, and it's the only way to increase spell damage. The elemental weakness/resistance of LoGI were enough. In RotDD, not only did they buff elemental resistance and even turned them into immunity in many cases, but they also added global magic resistance. It's simply too much for magic mechanism in this game.
Freeze is particularly bad. It is just a disaster in this version. It seems that everyone is resistant, if not immune, to Freeze, making RotDD's Anri pale in comparison with LoGI's Anri. Which saddens me since she is one of my favourite characters.
Tao is actually ok until Chapter 6, because she learns spells fast which is an advantage, and there aren't many enemies that are resistant to Blaze. Paradoxically, for a large part of the game, Tao ends dealing more damage than Anri despite having theoretically the worst offensive spell, only because everyone is resistant to Freeze, while there are many undeads that are weak to fire. After Chapter 6, Tao starts to fall off (even with Boost, she can't one shoot skeletons), but that was already the case in LoGI.
Bolt is still Bolt. The late game luxury that requires a lot of grinding to get. Bolt 4 is useful if you place it well (but you need Boost, or you will just waste your MP to leave enemies with 1 HP when other characters one shoot them anyway), even if it costs 25 MP, it's worth it if you one shoot 4 enemies with it. Bolt 3 however costs too much for what it does, I mean 20 MP to (hopefully) one shoot one enemy ? At that point of the game, other characters do that for 0 MP. While very costly (don't expect to use it more than twice), Bolt 4 at least can do its job and doesn't suffer from excessive elemental resistances like Freeze.
- Considering mages were nerfed, was it really necessary to give Max (already a very good character in LoGI) a spell that is actually better than mage spells ? Supernova, in addition to its high damage, isn't affected by elemental resistances, only by magical resistance (so as far as I know, no one is totally immune to it, even targets like Jets, immune to Blaze/Freeze/Bolt, are affected by Supernova). Consequently, Max can kill Jets with magic when mages can't. When the generalist is better than the specialist...
- The new characters are overpowered. I will start with Narsha. She is the most balanced on the list. I think she wouldn't be that OP by herself, the problem is that you can easily powerlevel her and you can combine her with Mawlock. If you remove Mawlock, make her buff spells give 1 XP instead of 48, and limit her Aura lvl to 3, she would still be good but not OP.
Then comes Zuika. His special ability is too much, because it's totally unmatched by other Force members, and that makes him better than any other pure melee fighter (except Musachi who has awesome stats). His combination with Mawlock makes him unstoppable, much more so than anyone else. It doesn't help that Zuika is nearly irrelevant to the story. While other characters gained a personality in this remake, Zuika just comes from nowhere, decides to follow Narsha, and then will never leave.
- Mawlock. I have to treat him in his own section. So much to be said. He is the epitome of what could have been a great idea, but just went terribly wrong. Mawlock is just game-breaking, everything is just too easy with him. Combine him and Narsha (for the Move spell), and you get a character with a 10+ move, 3+ attack range (with an archer, you can get an attack range of 5), who can fly and acts twice per turn. That's unstoppable, even if the enemy has 1 million HP and Attack, all you need is patience, the AI can't do anything against hit and run.
The sad part is that the card system is omnipresent in the game. I mean, there is a Card menu after all, even before you get Mawlock in the team. And even if you are not looking for them at all, you will find some cards every now and then. It is obvious it took a lot of time and work to implement the system, so it's quite a pity that as a result, it just breaks game balance and makes an already easy game even easier. Sure, you are not forced to pick Mawlock, but cards are so omnipresent that you get the feeling you are missing something if you don't. I think the card system is just too game-changing to be given to one character. It would make more sense if it was for instance Nova who used them (I think that would fit his role as a tactician), and to make it balanced, the enemy team should use a similar system.
And of course, Mawlock has to be that character who comes from nowhere and who is close to irrelevant to the story, he just tells you to find cards and then follows Narsha (and to think that Max was struggling to go to the other continent, and Mawlock just magically goes there).Globally
Yes, I have many bad points, but I have to admit I was a bit harsh, some of these points were already the case in LoGI and I tend to develop more the negative points than the positive ones.
I prefer the storytelling of the remake, but from a gameplay point of view, I preferred the original (more balanced, mages are much better, no Mawlock or Zuika, better promotion mechanics). The ideal game would be LoGI with the storytelling of the remake (ie the additional dialogues and cutscenes, and the presence of Narsha) and the slight UI improvements about viewing your stats and buying items.