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Video Game / Shining the Holy Ark

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Shining The Holy Ark was the ninth installment of the Shining Series but the gameplay shares more in common with the original Shining in the Darkness than any other title in the franchise. It was a first person Dungeon Crawler rather than a strategy game. It’s also an indirect prequel to Shining Force III; several characters reappear in that game, and the continuing conflict between Spirits and Vandals is central to its plot.

In game three mercenaries Arthur, Melody and Forte are tasked with hunting down a ninja called Rodi who has holed up in an abandoned mine. When the group finally catch up to the ninja, a space-ship smashes through the roof mortally wounding everybody involved. In order to save their lives the Spirits inside the ship possess Arthur, Melody and Rodi. While still retaining their free will they gain additional skills. During this however Forte gets possessed by an evil spirit and goes missing.

Arthur, Melody and Rodi decide to temporally combine forces in order to escape the deadly mine, find Forte and find out just what is going on with these mysterious Spirits. Along the way they uncover an evil plot to revive a powerful Vandal that would doom the world to an age of darkness.

To help them out they meet up with female paladin Lisa, dragonman Basso, female ninja Akane, and the half-wolf ninja Doyle.

Shining of the Holy Ark Contains the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Under the castle is a labyrinthine mess of canals with multiple levels, vaulted ceilings and an entire ecosystem of monsters. All just underneath the castle.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can only have four people in a battle at a time. Slightly subverted in that you can switich in and out party members but that just means you've got potentially four people doing nothing in the background watching your selected party members fight to the death.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Soul Steal spell. Granted it can instantly kill monsters, its success rate is quite low (meaning it's faster to just kill them conventionally) and doesn't work on bosses.
  • Bring It: The Wraith (the first boss of the game) curls its finger towards itself after emerging from the ground.
  • Cardboard Prison: In so much that Doyle can somehow teleport inside, easily pick the lock and then prisoners can climb into the well to escape (although there are stone doors down there that Doyle leaves them the key for).
  • Chest Monster: Quite a nasty one too; the Chest Ghost has Soul Steal and has a habit of killing Basso in an area where you really need him.
  • Climax Boss: The fight against Rilix, complete with unique music.
  • Color-Coded Stones: One dungeon has the player collecting different coloured gem stones to use in a Soup Cans puzzle. The only way to figure out what gem went where was were was if you knew what the stock colours of the gems where.
  • Court Mage: Rilix is this to the King after ousting Sabato.
  • Cursed Item:
    • Some equipment give trade-offs on the stats they offer, reducing some while raising others. They also inflict the wearer with the 'Cursed' status, complete with a sinister motif when first equipped. Cursed characters, identified when their name is dark blue, occasionally get immobilised and lose their turn and often get hurt when they do attack. It's usually not worth the bother.
    • However, some of the endgame cursed weapons do have useful side-effects... for example, the Demon Axe (used by Basso) perplexes enemies, usually causing them to be unable to do anything for a few turns, the Demon Claw (used by Doyle) poisons enemies, causing them to take additional damage when they attack (often for much more than when hit conventionally), while the Demon Staff (used by Melody or Forte) straight up paralyses enemies, making them unable to move or attack for the rest of the encounter.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Galm, while we may not know his reasons he seems pretty neutral.
  • Defeat Means Playable: For all the characters, bar maybe Akane, but especially Rodi, as you do actually fight him directly.
  • Degraded Boss: The Evil Spirits make cameos throughout the game, and you finally fight them at the game's midpoint climax. They then appear in the final dungeon as regular mooks. With some slight changes to their spells, the Wraith reappears as the Reaper and the Time Warrior reappears as the Taros.
  • Demonic Possession: Forte and the King.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Galm admits to Elise that he's not sure if things went to plan, because he didn't expect two of the three Spirits to separate from their hosts.
  • Digitized Sprites: The characters and enemies are presented as prerendered computer-generated images overlaid on the polygonal backgrounds.
  • Double Meaning: The ancient site where the Holy Ark is located is known as Godspeak. It can be read as "God's Peak"/"Gods' Peak", since it's an incredibly consecrated temple inside a mountain, or "God Speak", where one can commune with Spirits sent by the mysterious Creator.
  • Dual Boss: The two Evil Spirits you fight near the climax of the game; it quickly gets a lot tougher when Rilix joins in (who was previously observing the fight from the background).
  • Dug Too Deep: According to the denizens of Desire Village, this is what happened to their mine that serves as the first and last dungeon. Miners, desiring wealth (it is in the name after all!) ended up breaching the walls of Godspeak, an ancient and holy temple where the titular Holy Ark is located, and the cave-ins and other natural (and supernatural) disasters that occurred afterwards (seen as punishment from the gods) forced the mine to be shut down and boarded up.
  • Every Japanese Sword is a Katana: All of the swords that can be used by Rodi and Akane are listed as "katana", even though such swords tended to be used by samurai rather than ninja. Some aren't even katana, such as the "broadsword" which is a Chinese curved blade more akin to a scimitar, and the Kusanagi, which is a tsurugi... a STRAIGHT sword.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The dog in the Town of Enrich growls as Elise approaches - she doesn't take too kindly to it.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The 'Squeaksandals' cause you to make squeaking sounds with every footstep!
  • Fairy Sexy: The Succubi and Incubi.
  • Faux First Person 3D: The gameplay is pretty much identical to this genre, although there's nothing faux about the 3D graphics.
  • First-Person Ghost: You know what Arthur looks like thanks to official art and level-up screens, but he never sees his own body in gameplay.
  • Fragile Speedster: Akane has relatively low HP and her attacks are mediocre at beast (although they can inflict some useful status effects on enemies), but she has the highest agility of all the characters and so almost always moves first, making her ideal for healing or casting support spells. If you manage to equip her with a Kusanagi, she can straight up assassinate enemies before anyone else can move!
  • Frictionless Ice: While traveling through the mountain pass. Thanks to all the holes that would lead drop you into the previous areas this was pretty tedious.
  • Glass Cannon: Forte, playing the classic Squishy Wizard. He has the most powerful area-attack spells in the game (bar Inferno), but has pitiful HP and melee defense.
  • The Good Chancellor: Sabato.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When you find an Incubus, he points to a very large erection underneath his tunic (which is easily mistaken for a crease) - such a blatantly sexual display shouldn't pass for a game that's rated 11+.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Finding all the Pixies. Some are hidden in very obnoxious places.
    • To recruit Doyle, you have to revisit Desire Village and check a suspicious looking tree, but only after defeating Rilix and speaking to the Head of Far East Village.
    • The stone puzzle in the South Shrine requires a guide or the use of simultaneous equations to solve.
  • Haunted House: The Aborigine Mansion is an absolutely massive house with many bedrooms, a chapel, a library, a large empty room with an equally-large clock and a maze of corridors lined with glowing sconces... and is almost entirely populated by ghosts!
  • Last Chance Hit Point: An odd one. Only the three characters that are possessed with spirits will automatically revive after being "killed" in battle, with a measly 1 HP. All the other characters required a trip to a church, items or spells.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Especially if you recruit him as early as possible, Doyle, a ninja berserker, has decent agility and HP and is an absolute beast once equipped with the Mithril Claw (either crafted from a Mithril Ingot or dropped by a monster in the final dungeon), easily outdamaging all of your other heavy hitters. He has very poor defence against magic and breath attacks though.
  • Metal Slime:
    • The Hattari monsters that first appear in the East Shrine. They have a habit of retreating, but killing one nets you 3,333 XP points, often enough to level your characters several times over.
    • Earlier in the game, you fight Strikerpods in Enrich Dungeon. They don't hit too hard, but they have a high chance of self-replicating. While this can cause the fight to drag out and slowly whittle you down, each replicated Strikerpod adds an extra 20 XP to the final reward, and it's not unheard of to exploit this mechanic and gain over 500 XP in a single encounter, once again enough to level your characters several times over (who are usually around level 5 or 6 at this time).
  • Mighty Glacier: Basso is has the lowest agility of all the characters and so almost always moves last, but he hits like a tank and is very heavily armoured.
  • Mithril: You can find Mithril Ore and Mithril Ingots on your travels and, for a fee, they can be crafted by the blacksmith in Desire Village into useful equipment.
  • Never Say "Die": The party members and the monsters you fight never die, they are just "exhausted." Averted at the very end, as Rilix does explicitly die, confirmed by Elise in the dialogue, while it's pretty obvious that Panzer dies too, although the only implication of this is him collapsing to the floor at the conclusion of the final boss, and then Akane kneeling in front of his grave during the credits.
  • Nominal Importance: A big clue as to the importance of characters early in the plot is if they have portraits or not. For example, in Desire Village, the only three with portraits are Basso, Lisa and the Halfling (later revealed to be Doyle) who all join your party later on at different times.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Who knew that algebra could be useful in solving the stone puzzle!
  • Optional Party Member: Doyle. Being hidden as a random tree in the starting village, most players would probably miss him.
  • Palette Swap: Some later enemies are reskins of earlier ones, but it's a bit more substantial than a palette swap because they are sprite-based and have noticeably different features (e.g. compare the Ifrit to the Hell Spiral). The closest example to a true palette swap would be the Evil Spirits; the ones that appear as regular monsters in the last dungeon have red crowns, whereas the boss versions have blue ones.
  • Random Encounters: The chance of meeting an enemy is random (although growing less and less likely the more overlevelled you are for an area) and can be minimised with the Suppress spell or increased with the Squeaksandals, but the exact locations on where these encounters occur are fixed.
  • Respawning Enemies: Some enemies have the ability to summon in new units or spawn new copies of themselves. Given that each battle you could have up to eight enemies on screen at a time, mean that the chance of this happening was rather high. Meaning battles could drag out for a long time unless you managed to finsh them off quickly.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Vandal that the bad guys are trying to release. In fact Vandals in general, only the weakest ones weren't sealed away with Galm being the exception.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: A mild example with Melody. At the very beginning, she is brash and maybe overconfident, wondering why they even brought along Arthur when Rodi was holed up by himself in the mine. After she gets her ribcage crushed by the cave-in and the loss of her partner Forte to the evil spirit, she is notably traumatised and much more meek from that point on (if anything, it was probably her first real experience with loss).
  • Shifting Sand Land: The South Shrine and Mirage Village outside the Tower of Illusion.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Mountain Cave has outdoor sections on a glacier, where you move two squares are once unless you hit an obstruction. This makes navigation quite difficult and very easy to fall into one of the many crevasses that take you to an earlier part of the cave tunnels.
  • Squishy Wizard: Forte has the most powerful area-attack spells in the game (bar Inferno), but has the lowest HP and melee defense of all the playable characters.
  • Theme Naming:
    • With the exception of the last one, the Pixies (the actual type named 'pixie') are all named after trees.
    • The final Incubus and Succubus are named Boris and Natasha respectively.
  • The Unfought: Elise, maybe even Galm depending on how you felt about him.
  • The Unreveal: At the game's conclusion, two of the three Spirits separate from their hosts, and we don't know for sure who is the Innovator out of Arthur, Melody and Rodi, although there's some Foreshadowing that suggests it's Rodi.
  • When Trees Attack: The Forest of Confusion has the Trent (a misspelt Treant), an enemy that's practically a mini-boss thanks to its Slash Bats area attack (the first monster you face that has such an attack). The East Shrine has its successor, the Arch-Trent, who isn't as threatening by then but can give you trouble with its Confuse spell.
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: You are playing as Arthur during the game; battle sequences show his companions leaping forward to attack when they need to, and when Arthur attacks, the camera zooms towards the enemy with a slash effect. Similarly, when casting magic, the spell glyphs form directly under the camera's position.
  • Units Not to Scale: When Arthur is on the world map he towers over cities.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • At the game's beginning, the initial party (Arthur, Forte and Melody) are mercenaries that were sent by Rilix to apprehend the fugitive Rodi and stop the plan for him and 2 others (who Sabato planned on being Basso and Lisa, and Basso has a bit of a disappointed What If? moment when he works it out later) to become the vessels for the Spirits. Other than some banter among the Enrich soldiers outside the mine, you don't officially know that she's the Big Bad yet.
    • In a sense, Basso and Lisa were this to Sabato, since the only one he knew for certain should be one of the three vessels for the Spirit was Rodi.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The Time Warrior is only the 2nd boss you fight, but appears a very long time after the Wraith and is quite a jump in difficulty, not least because it has a powerful area-attack via the Spark spell (and is even worse if Basso got killed by a Chest Ghost earlier). It gives clues in who it will next attack, so knowing when to have a character defend, as well as proper use of Melody's Support spell, goes a long way.
  • Where It All Began: The game goes full circle with Desire Mine, the dungeon that you first enter to apprehend Rodi and become hosts for the spirits, and then enter again at the end of the game to find the Holy Ark and stop the Vandals' plan.
  • Wutai: Far East Village is clearly based of tradional Japanese architecture and is a village filled with Ninjas to boot..