It's true that most RPGs can be played passively as you watch your characters level up and the story unfold. However, Shiness is here to whip you into shape with its action-packed battles so let's check it out.
Shiness stars Chado and his little bear-like pal Poky who crash-land their airship in an interesting new land. They meet a few friends who eventually join them in their journey including the determined Kayenne, the ruthless Askel, and the soft-spoken Rosalya. Each character is bursting with personality as seen through the voiced story sequences, comic book scenes, lively animation, and small vocal embellishments during battles and exploration. The vibrant cast fits perfectly in the vast and beautiful world that's full of colourful and gorgeous scenery.
When it comes to audio, the music helps establish the mood for each area wonderfully. As it shifts from an ambient soundscape to more upbeat rhythms when you enter battle, it'll surely get you jacked for a fight. The sound effects are well done as well. Exchanging blows with opponents creates impacts that sound like they actually hurt which adds a sense of urgency to battle while hearing Chado pounce around as he explores is simply delightful.
The battle system in Shiness is something that you don't often see in action RPGs. Most games in the genre merely have you mash buttons in order to win but the system here is complex and fit for fighting game fans. There are so many controls to memorize and elements to master that you seriously have to put in a lot of effort in order to have a chance against bosses and tougher enemies. You'll find yourself dodging and parrying attacks, switching party members on the fly, shooting magic projectiles, using items, having allies automatically assist you with spells, performing powerful ultimate moves complete with quick time events, and acting according to which element is currently highlighted in the arena walls. It's complicated stuff that takes forever to become accustomed with.
On one hand, the battle system is a refreshing change in that gamers who love mastering unorthodox RPG combat will spend hours perfecting their craft. The result of doing so will definitely be worth the effort. However, casual and traditional RPG fans will likely be put off by the complexity of it all. In other words, it's the system's steep learning curve that you'll either love mastering or find too inaccessible to put in the required effort. Either way, there's no denying how it comes together to create a distinct dynamic.
Besides combat, you'll find yourself exploring and solving puzzles. As you explore, you'll come across many animals that you can hunt by either sneaking around so they don't hear you or dashing quickly to snatch them up before they disappear. The puzzles are mostly solved by characters' unique abilities and involve tasks such as placing heavy objects on switches, linking coloured crystals together, and levitating objects with telekinesis. Both of these aspects are handled well and provide a welcome balance to the often hectic battles.
Shiness does have its downsides, however. One major problem is that the camera during battle can obscure the action so you can't see exactly what's going on. Whenever this happens, you basically have to run out from obscurity and hope that you don't take much damage as a result. Another issue is that there are many frequent visual glitches. Some of these include characters bouncing up and down rapidly and Chado getting stuck in scenery. It's not a huge deal but it will take you out of the otherwise immersive world.
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a beautiful action RPG full of fantastic and varied gameplay. Although traditional fans of the genre may find its unconventional combat off-putting, there's definitely enough here to enjoy.
- + Gorgeous world and likeable characters
- + Solid action RPG combat that'll put your martial arts skills to the test
- + Fun mix of puzzles and exploration, too
- - Camera can be problematic
- - The battle system is too complicated and inaccessible for casual genre fans
- - Frequent visual glitches