Wednesday, May 4

Shining Example

The following parable from the Book of Dutch pertains to leadership in gaming, and it has modern applications.

Back in the early nineties, my brothers and I nearly finished Shining Force on a weekly rental. I say nearly, because we made it to the second last battle and couldn't prevail. Why? Because the hero, the user-named leader, was too weak.

In the first battle, our hero died and our band of rogues respawned back in the town of Guardiana. We learned the golden rule of Shining Force: if the central character falls, then the battle ends in failure. From that point we decided that our main man would no longer engage the enemy unless absolutely necessary (or unless we had softened up a few enemies to low health). It was an arduous task. As the game progressed, our AI opponents caught on to our plan, and decided to ignore the army altogether to dispatch the hero. Both mounted and flying enemies would bypass our movement-impaired force and brought about failure all too often.

We then adapted the strategy, so that the hero would be accompanied by a small group of able defenders. This plan was also flawed in that enemies with ranged attacks could bypass the escort. It also meant that vital support was being withheld from engagements with stronger opponents. Still, we persevered and we came face to face with Darksol himself. Alas, the ultimate, and not immediately-noticeable flaw in our plan came to light: Darksol was accompanied by a massive army which quickly overwhelmed any group tasked with defending our pathetic hero. On our best attempt, we actually dealt damage to Darksol (little did we know Dark Dragon would have been waiting for us if we had prevailed anyway).

About a year later, we returned to Shining Force; lessons learned and equipped with Madonna's greatest hits album, The Immaculate Collection. We removed the cotton wool from our hero and exposed him to the horrors of battle. He emerged as the strongest, best-equipped combatant under our command. We promptly defeated Darksol and even made surprisingly-light work of the Dark Dragon.

The moral is simple: a strong, calculated leader makes for a stronger team.

Nowhere is this statement more obvious than in a Capture the Leader match in the Gears of War 3 beta. If you find a teammate down on confidence and ability in your ranks, they will fail as the head of the group; no matter how much strategy they spout at you over their crackly headset. Conversely, an unbeatable thug in TDM will more than likely be subject to their own hubris in a CTL match as they try to be the one man army that they normally would be in their preferred match type. What you need is someone who is willing to run with the team, but also able to pick their battles. It has been truly hilarious watching some leaders waltz into a crowded courtyard, full of combatants armed with shotguns. "I got this," they'll say, only to be ripped apart and then criticize you for not having their back.

I'm not saying that I'm a sure thing when I'm in control, but I won't condemn you on account of me fighting like a blind jackass. I'll more than likely have a good laugh and hope that no one on my side has a mic so as to avoid direct derision of my flimsy strategy.

While everyone on this map has bunny hats on, this video does follow the COG leader. Players were issued bunny hats again on this past Sunday afternoon. I'm glad that I didn't end up missing out on the Easter-themed madness.

Are there any life lessons that you've learned from the 16-Bit era? What's your favourite game from the age of the SNES and Mega Drive?

Dutch Note: Kotaku AU is reporting that a new entry in the Shining series may be in the works. While I've only played Shining Force and its brilliant sequel through to completion, I would be pretty keen to engage with a new instalment in this venerable series.


  1. Alex the Kidd taught me many things. From a time where there was no such thing as a "save game" option or "continues", you had to slog it out from start to finish to beat it.

    The only way to truly master the game and feel like a BAWSE while doing it was repetition, so as to learn the best strategies for timing jumps and attacks.

    Therefore, it taught me two things:

    1) If at first you don't succeed, try and try again; and
    2) Repetition is the key to perfection. The more you do something, the better you get at it.

  2. Got Alex Kidd in Miracle World for the Virtual Console. I vote we jump on that this weekend.

    That game is brutality incarnate. The only game more brutal in my opinion is The Ninja.

  3. The Ninja was brutal man. Alex the Kidd in Miracle World just repeatedly stomped on you, breaking your heart over and over. But at least there was a massive sense of achievement when you finally beat it.

    Also, I have been getting right into ME2 since the PSN shutdown. I am absolutely loving it. I can't believe I hadn't given it much of a look in before now!

  4. Yeah I was a bit the same. It took a fair while to sink its hooks in, but when it did: it was all over.

  5. I am obsessed with it at the moment. I can't stop playing it.

    I actually had a dream about it the other night. A little disturbing to say the least.