Part 14: :spergin: 2: PromotionThings you didn't know about Shining Force: Promotion and you!
One of Shining Force's regular mechanics is promotion, also called "class changing" by Fire Emblem. The way promotion works it that an unpromoted character can choose to promote to a new class at level 20. However it's not mandatory; unpromoted characters can level all the way up to 40 before they stop gaining experience. In general, promotion does two things: It allows access to more powerful weapons and alters stat growth patterns, usually for the better. So why not promote immediately?
Shining Force 1 (GBA remake included) and CD gave you an incentive to not promote right away. Upon promotion in those games, all your stats took a 10% cut, so you could really hamstring yourself early in the game. The stat cut is missing in both Shining Force 2 and Final Conflict. I'm not actually sure how Shining Force 3 handles it. So what's the incentive for not promoting in Shining Force 2? Well, you miss out on twenty whole levels of stats. To fully illustrate this, let's check Bowie's stat sheet:
Take a look at promoted Bowie's (right table) attack growth. Now, despite how the boxes are labeled, the game does not store the value as "Promoted Bowie's ATT should be 57 at level 30" (incidentally this is actually how Shining Force GBA does it, rendering promotion time inconsequential). It's actually stored as "Promoted Bowie should gain 29 ATT by level 30". Thus, if you promote later, Bowie is going to have bigger base stats to work with. The trade-off to this is that weapon stores will stop selling weapons that non-promoted characters can use, so weapon wielding non-promotes will really drag their feet for a certain stretch of the game.
By the way, Obob says he balanced this hack under the assumption that you promote ASAP. While you could grind to level 40 before promoting and then roll over everything, good fucking luck getting there. You don't hit level 40 unpromoted until Zalbard or so, and there are several fights that will grind you into dust if you're unpromoted.
Most characters do not get any choice what they promote to. For example, Bowie goes from Swordsman to Hero, Peter goes from Phoenik (???) to Phoenix, and Slade goes from Thief to Ninja. However, there are five classes that can get "alternate" promotions with the help of special items, that we can now purchase in Hassan. They are:
Priest (Sarah/Karna) -> Vicar (standard) or Master Monk (requires Vigor Ball)
Knight (Chester/Rick/Eric) -> Paladin (standard) or Pegasus Knight (requires Pegasus Wing)
Warrior (Jaha/Randolf) -> Gladiator (standard) or Baron (requires Warrior's Pride)
Mage (Kazin/Tyrin) -> Wizard (standard) or Sorceror (requires Secret Book)
Archer (Elric/Janet) -> Sniper (standard) or Brass Gunner (requires Silver Tank)
For the non-spellcasting classes, the changes are noticeable but not drastic.
- Pegasus knights forfeit terrain bonus for the ability to fly. Also, in the original game characters would have a lower defense growth for being a pegasus knight, but Obob changed it so that they instead have higher defense growth to help compensate for the loss of terrain effect.
- Barons gain the ability to equip swords, an extra point of movement, and better criticals (1/8 chance to hit for 150% compared to 1/16 chance for 125% that gladiators get). They have lower defense growth than gladiators to compensate. Swords in general aren't any better than axes, and the final axe is actually far, far better than the final sword. However, I still find it funny that promoting to baron instantly give Jaha a huge height boost, so I promoted him to baron anyway.
- Brass gunners actually lose a point of movement in exchange for much higher defense. However, mobility is key on ranged characters, so brass gunners kinda suck.
Comparing spellcasting promotions is actually quite a bit trickier.
- Most players swear up and down that master monks are strictly better than vicars, but this is absolutely not true. In the original game, where you can get away with anything, promoting both of your priests to monks is tempting, because they just hit so damn hard - monk weapons have the highest ATT values in the game. The part most people don't know is that monks have terrible MP growth compared to vicars. Now this is acceptable on Sarah, because her spells are kind of bad in the first place. But with Karna, who has one of the best spell sets in the game, stunting her MP growth is a really, really stupid idea. On top of that, staves have more utility than gloves in terms of item effects, and vicars are the only class that can equip the White Ring - and item that gives +10 DEF and casts Aura 2 on use. The sprite may be criminally ugly, but Vicar Karna is a much better choice than Monk Karna.
- Promoting to sorcerer instead of wizard changes the character entirely. While wizards continue on exactly the same path as the mage, promoting to sorcerer actually causes you to forget all your spells. Sorcerer spells are completely different, and all three sorcerers learn the exact same spells: Dao, Apollo, Neptune, and Atlas. While wizard magic is at its strongest when hitting multiple targets, sorcerer magic is exactly the opposite. For example, Dao 1 will only do 25 damage. If you nail two targets, it's going to deal 12 damage to each. As a result, sorcerer magic works much better against single, high HP targets. It's also a lot less effort to use.
There are also a few more interesting tidbits concerning promotion:
- Slade gains the ability to equip swords and learn magic after promoting. There was actually one more knife available for purchase in Hassan, but Slade was level 19 and I didn't want to waste the money since he was going to promote so soon.
- Kiwi changes movement type completely on promotion. His movement turns into "float", the best type in the game. It allows you to ignore movement penalties and even fly over mountains and the like. However, if you are on a tile with a terrain effect, you still gain the defense bonus.
- Peter is the only other character to have floating movement, but he only has it unpromoted When he is promoted, he changes to flying and forever loses terrain effect. A weird example of being nerfed on promotion.
- All magic becomes 25% more effective after promotion. This is most noticeable with healers, where Heal 1 will start healing for 18 instead of 15. However, this does apply to all magic, including wizards.