Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom Review- Flawed RPG with Decent Brawler Combat

Posted May 1, 2017 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Enigami

Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

Release date: April 18, 2017

Available on: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One

RPGs come in many shapes and sizes, and it can be difficult to make one that can stand out from the pack. Beginning as a Kickstarter project in 2014 and now arriving on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One the debut game from developer Enigami, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom, seeks to do just that. The game gives us cartoony style visuals, complete with cute animal characters mixed with humans and other creature types, and throws in arena style brawler combat. It’s a combination that could have made for a great mix. Sadly, things don’t always go too well, and in the end the game is lumped into the “Okay” pile.

Shiness starts off nicely enough, introducing us to the main character of Chado (pronounced Shadow) and his cohort, Poky. Their ship crashes on the island of Gendys, one of the floating islands of Mahera. At first both are separated but the game moves quickly to reunite them, so things can kick off in earnest. There’s a muddled story of a world in conflict and of course needing to be set right. A magic called Shi runs through this world, and spirits called Shiness are imbued with this magic. Chado is able to speak to one of these spirits, a Shiness named Terra. The predictable plotline then takes the pair along with other characters across Mahera in a 15-20 hour long adventure. Environments are varied, from villages to caverns to deep forests, all rendered with bright, colorful visuals. The story is serviceable but never quite engaging and even a tad confusing. Some poor dialogue doesn’t help matters, and the game makes an odd choice by having characters speak in English during cut scenes (some of which are fully animated and others delivered in a motion comic style) and a fictional language during gameplay. We’re then given plenty of text boxes to read. There are only manual save points (you need to find a little creature named Shiyu, who will preserve your “memories” for you), which are plentiful in spots and sparse in others. Where they’re sparse is the problem, as it’s often prior to a battle which if you lose will set you back a bit.

Combat is more akin to a brawler than an RPG, mixing punches and kicks with ranged magic attacks. For defense you can parry and dodge, and having healing items equipped to your directional buttons can give you a boost should you start losing health. You can also swap in and out with your companions (they will automatically take over if you fall, but if you’re entire party of three is defeated, it’s game over), and you can set things up to have your companions buff you during battle. Things start off easy enough, and button mashing works well early on. But you will soon need to mix things up against stronger enemies. Problem is, I encountered some input lag during combat (leading to some very cheap and frustrating deaths), as well as a poor camera that sometimes hides you and your foe behind scenery. It doesn’t help matters that enemies will spam their strongest attacks and be quite relentless. When combat works, it can be quite fun. When it doesn’t, it can lead to throwing your controller out of frustration. Also, some combos are quite long to input. That won’t pose a problem for Mortal Kombat veterans, but for those less proficient in fighting games it tends to remove the stronger attacks from your arsenal.

Magic attacks need to be recharged, and are elemental in nature. You can replenish Shi when the barrier to the combat arena turns a matching color (for example, when the barrier turns blue you can recharge your water based magic attacks). Your magic attacks are mapped to one of the face buttons and used in combination with the left trigger. Magic is also used outside of combat to aid in puzzle solving. Chado can produce a rock to hold down buttons to open passageways. Poky has a wrench then can link elemental energy between like stones to solve puzzles. Another character can use telekinesis. On occasion you need to swap between the characters and use their abilities in conjunction with one another. One puzzle, for example, requires a block to be telekinetically lifted out of the way so Poky can link the energy between two stones. You only ever have one character on screen at a time, and swapping between them requires you to use the left shoulder button. At times it feels a little clumsy, especially when all of the controls you need are on one side of the controller.

Also clumsy and more than a bit confusing is the menu system. Multiple screens will give you the same information, and equipping items feels clumsy. A more streamlined approach would have proven to be beneficial. To get items or equipment, you either need to find or purchase it from a vendor. Money is gained by capturing wildlife and selling or bartering with the items you get from them. Capturing wildlife isn’t always so simple. Sometimes sneaking up on them works, other times just blundering into them helps. Either way, you need to hit a button (Square on the PS4) before the critter disappears in a puff of smoke. They respawn often enough, so if you choose to do so you engage in a bit of farming. Health items need to be assigned to each character, though all three can share them. However, if one character has healing items but you don’t assign them to another character, that character in battle will be unable to use them, putting you at a big disadvantage. It’s an odd system, and feels needlessly redundant.

In all, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom tries to set itself apart, but falls short. Some will absolutely love this, others will be put off by the less than engaging story and laggy controls. It does have a bright and colorful style, and there seems to be some deep lore in the story to be found, if you care to try. The combat is a lot of fun when it works. When it doesn’t, it can prove to be a big exercise in frustration. The varied environments offer plenty of chances to explore, and the enemy types are different enough to force you to switch up your tactics. Shiness doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but for some it may scratch that RPG itch without requiring 100 hours of your time.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus