Title: Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: April 18
TL;DR: A beautifully looking action RPG with an intriguing world.
Family Friendly? Click here for more information
It’s strange to think that we’re only in April. Already there have been sleeper hits within the triple-A space and a plethora of indie titles have dropped. While everyone had their sights on Yooka-Laylee, right around the corner was a lesser known and successfully kickstarted game, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom. This is an action role-playing game, but it’s not like your typical action RPG, the game is an infusion of a world full of puzzles, platforming elements, and a fast-paced fighting system all wrapped up in a beautifully vibrant world.
When you start the game you’ll be introduced to two of the games main characters, Chado and Poky, who crash-land their airship on the strange and interesting world of Mahera. Chado has a unique friend called Terra and no one else appears to be able to see or hear her, but she is an elemental spirit known as a Shiness. The three of you are off on an adventure to try to find the legendary Land of Life. As is always the way, it doesn’t take long for you to meet up with a bunch of other varied characters and get wrapped up in the middle of a conflict involving many nearby kingdoms.
Shiness is certainly not lacking when it comes to the visual department, the beautiful setting and adventurous music meld together in a tight package that keeps everything in line with its massive Japanese influences. Cutscenes are presented in animated panels, which also add further layers to its charm. The only complaint with these is that sometimes they progress so fast that you don’t have the time to fully appreciate what is being presented.
While the world itself looks stunning at all times, the character models, however, are slightly less impressive. There’s no denying that your party is an interesting mix of characters, but there is little to no facial animation. The developer has opted to go a little overboard with the body language, making it seem like the characters are overacting.
From the moment you enter your first combat encounter, you’ll be able to see why the game was successfully kickstarted. The battle system is more akin to something to a fighting game than a typical RPG. You’ll be able to kick, punch, and use combos, as well as throw spells to beat your opponent into submission. Although you travel in a party, combat is one-on-one. Despite that though, this doesn’t mean your party isn’t completely useless. The game boasts a Final Fantasy 12 gambit-esque system where you can give each member a set number of routines to follow, like healing you if you fall below a certain percentage of health. You are also free to switch your fighter with one of your allies as you please; as each character has different strengths, this is something that you’ll do quite frequently.
The combat is far from forgiving with it being very fast paced; you’ll find yourself overwhelmed if you don’t pay attention, though the visuals make the game look like a fun filled adventure, but at times it can be really difficult. There is only one difficulty setting and you can’t treat it like your usual RPG and over level as enemies stop giving experience points once you reach a certain height above their own. As such, it’s important that you get to grips with performing combos and learning the proper times to dodge and parry. There are also times with the game’s camera becomes a huge hinderance, getting caught on rocks or having long grass covering what you’re doing. For a game that relies heavily on timed reactions, not being able to see left me in a pickle on a few occasions.
Shiness isn’t just about the combat though, the world of Mahera is covered in puzzles. In every dungeon you visit and across the world itself there will be some kind of puzzle that you’ll need to solve. Each of your characters has a different ability such as telekinesis, the ability to summon heavy rocks, or using a whip to interact with unreachable items. Most of the puzzles won’t take you too long to solve, but it’s fun to figure them out and play around with all of the different abilities.
You’ll also find a myriad of side-quests throughout the world and many of them will have different ways in which to overcome them. This means it’s up to you whether you want to go at them wanting to kick everyone who dare challenge you into submission or you can take the more diplomatic approach. Depending on how you complete the quest you’ll get different rewards as well as having NPCs react to you based on the decision you made. While there aren’t major impacts on how you tackle situation, it’s a nice touch to have subtle little differences and references crop up later in the game hours after making the choices.
Harkening back to the earlier PlayStation era JRPG’s where developers weren’t afraid to experiment with a diverse colour palette. Shiness does enough right that fans of that time will find themselves well served by what developer Enigami. While not perfect, its bountiful world of puzzles and fast-paced combat combine to make an intriguing package that’s well worth diving into. Here’s hoping a quick patch will quash the bugs and camera issues that quickly let it down.
- Beautiful world and likeable characters
- Fun mix of puzzles and exploration
- Novel combat mechanics
- Camera can be problematic
- Frequent visual glitches
- Battle system can be to complicated and off-putting for casual fans
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is rate PEGI 12 in Europe and T for Teen in the US. The game contains cartoon fighting, but there is no graphic violence.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a digital code of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.