Hollywood! Adapt This: SHINING FORCE

     December 22, 2013


Love them or hate them, we’re living in an interesting era of Hollywood adaptations of popular properties.  Like I mentioned on last week’s installment of Hollywood! Adapt This!, adaptations are not being limited to one-off movies, but rather a newly created world that spans film, television and digital platforms.  We’re in the early days of this new approach so it will take a few years (and a few more forward-thinking individuals) before we know if it becomes a successful tactic, or simply a fun experiment.  Hopefully it’s the former so we can see more properties, like today’s suggestion, get a feature/TV/digital series treatment.  It’s with optimism that I say, Hollywood!  Adapt this: Shining Force.  Hit the jump for more.

shining-force-video-gameBefore we get into today’s topic, here’s a list of this past week’s adaptation news:

What It’s About

The turn-based tactical role-playing game Shining Force was released by Sega in 1992 and has been re-released in different iterations over the years with the most recent being 2010’s iOS version and 2011’s version on Steam.  It centered on the player’s character, a hero in training who is tasked with defeating the evil of the Devil King Darksol before he can resurrect the legendary Dark Dragon.  To do this, the player must recruit a team of allies in the form of knights, mages, healers, archers, flyers and maybe even a ninja and/or werewolf.

Shining Force is a turn-based tactics game, meaning the player controls each character in the protagonist’s team individually during battles.  Characters can move a finite number of spaces and then opt to either attack an enemy, use magic on enemies or allies, use an item or just stay put.  It’s a slow burn with out-dated graphics by today’s standards, which makes it both a fun nostalgic trip and a property ripe for re-introduction.

shining-forceHow Could / Why Should It Be Adapted?

One interesting note about Shining Force in its initial English-translation rollout is that much of the protagonist’s backstory was completely left out of the game.  This makes for interesting gameplay as the player is thrust into the game knowing literally nothing about their character except what they learn throughout the course of actually playing.  The mistranslation actually adds an unintentional mystery element to the game that, while confusing at times, can also be rewarding in its own right.  While future iterations of Shining Force attempted to fix this oversight, a new media adaptation can exploit it by folding in an all new origin story.

One major hurdle to overcome in any adaptation is balancing the introduction of the property to newcomers while paying fan service to longtime followers.  Shining Force, the English version of the game that is, worried less about fleshing out the individual characters beyond a couple of quirks and more about walking players through the actual story of the game.  While the protagonist meets more than two dozen characters over the course of the game, the playable ones are swapped out as needed, meaning they come and go depending on their skill set and the demands of a particular battle.  Could this gimmick actually work in a movie/TV adaptation?

Well now that properties are being adapted to exist across platforms, it’s possible that this revolving door approach could work wonders.  Rather than the burden of introducing multiple characters along with their cumbersome backstories and establishing their personalities in the hopes of connecting with audiences all at once, they can be metered in over time, showing up in brief glimpses of memorable scenes and quotable bits of dialogue.  As an example from Shining Force, the ninja character Hanzou shows up randomly in the game and must be found by the player because he’s hiding in a bush.  When discovered, he just pops up, says, “I’m Hanzou the ninja and I’m joining your team.” Boom.  Done.  It’s a stretch to think outside the linear structure that occurs in the vast majority of movies, but it could add a lot of fun and anticipation when audiences realize that quite literally any character could show up at any time.

shining-force-hanzouThe Final Word

The multi-platform model of adaptations is in its infancy, but I think it holds the key to successful adaptations of video game properties moving forward.  Right now, the approach is being applied mostly to comic book stories, which makes sense considering the vast universes of stories and characters therein.  Video games have proved a tough nut to crack because the viewing experiences, ie active vs passive, are so difficult to translate.  We’ll see if modern video games can break through the cinematic barrier with Need for Speed coming March 14, 2014, and big tests in the Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft adaptations following after.  My fingers remain crossed for the success of these films so that producers will start looking to older properties, like Shining Force, for multi-platform franchise adaptations.

Be sure to leave your comments below and tune in to Hollywood! Adapt This! next week when we tackle another property ripe for adaptation.

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