This game was the first of the turn-based tactical RPGs in the Shining Force series. Players control their team of characters as they engage enemies on a grid-based battlefield. The characters have the ability to attack, cast a spell, use and item, or search the area. The units also gain experience by completing actions and defeating enemies. Each unit that the player controls is a named unit (non-generic) and has a class. The class can be altered or promoted after the character has gained the requisite amount of experience.
The plot of the game takes place in the Kingdom of Guardiana, in the land of Rune. The main protagonist that the player controls is named Max. Max is destined to defeat the main villain, Darksol. This will prevent his Runefaust minions from opening the portal that releases Dark Dragon. Max enlists the aid of allies to assist in his mission. These allies become the units that you control on the battlefield.