Musashi was alright, I much preferred Hanzou, though. Yup, I managed to find all of the secret characters - and without cheating or reading guides either! Hurrah! Not that they're especially difficult to find... but I was pleased when I was just a nipper.
Did you every play the SF remake for Game Boy Advance? I wasn't a massive fan and never got round to completing it but I'd love to hear what you thought of it, if you played it.
Zylo was the man, man. Well, yeah, he wasn't really a man, but he was the man, you know? I always liked Balbaroy too, even if he was a little on the weaker side, he was always in my party. Amon, however, I just couldn't get along with and always ditched her.
Now, Ernest, he was my favourite for the longest time. Crap name, but he looks like he means business. Crying shame that you couldn't recruit Kain; still at least he gives up the awesome Sword of Darkness, amirite?
SF2 was the mutts, man. You can level up crazy-high and have your stats go into the "??" range - which basically means you're a walking tower of pwnage. I much preferred the characters, too, even if some of 'em were a little...goofy. The story isn't nearly as serious but it does the trick for me. I also like the variety in playable party characters and how you really have to keep your eyes open or you'll skip right by characters who can be recruited.
Small gripe: The main character, default name: Thoth (err...lol), looks like the geekiest, weakest creature in the universe until you promote him. Also: Having a phoenix on your team who constantly respawns after every battle - free of charge - is always a blessing.
Definitely try and pick up a copy off eBay if you can, mate. If you liked the first SF then I'm sure you'll love the sequel.
Quick answer: You kidding? Shining Force and Shining Force II are two of my favourite games of all time! I've completed 'em both a thousand times over and still play 'em to this day. Ae you a fellow fan? I warn you: If you answer yes then I won't hold back with my Shining force geekery.