Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom may just be that different something you’ve been craving throughout this RPG famine. It offers a unique one on one, fighting game-esque, combat system that’s simultaneously, overwhelmingly, complex and sometimes as simple as the mash of a button. It’s got an art style and lightness of tone that harkens back to PS1/PS2 generation RPG’s -- in a similar way, though, it can occasionally feel as dated.
Which can typically be accounted for by it’s admirably low-budget, Kickstarter, roots, but is sometimes ascended by awkward design decisions like a bafflingly unintuitive UI, and a frustrating combat camera. But, when it works, it really does. When the art style, world design, and combat all come together it can feel really satisfying. But sometimes they don’t, a gnarly looking texture will throw you, or an environmental element will hog camera visibility, and you’ll have your minor gripe.
For the most part, it’s solid. A lot of thought has gone into both the game’s story and combat mechanics. The story? Chado and Poky crash land their ship on Meteora, a subsection of the larger outland Gendys. By chance, they happen upon a larger happening, the throes of a power struggle. After some exposition by a “Shiness” creature named Terra, Chado takes little convincing and is anxious to lend his fists to the issues at hand.
Eventually, you’ll amass a troop of 5 characters with their own fighting styles and unique puzzle solving abilities. These puzzles never push past simple and are typically as easy as knowing which character’s ability you need to surpass them. The complexity, as mentioned earlier, arrives in its combat system, when spells are introduced and become more pivotal to victory. A colored dome encloses each fight, and, depending on the color, signifies which element will strike harder and when you can regen your mana so that you can continue using them.
There’re also a plethora of equipable passive/assist support buffs that you can acquire, which can influence the battle more than you might initially expect. And the best (or divisive) thing about all these battle elements is that it leaves it up to you to fully learn and understand them.
Though the story can surprise in its thematic ambition (racism, domestic backstabbings), the pacing is a little awry. The initial take off takes a bit too long to leave the runway, and sporadic, stagnant, story blotches occurring in the middle stretch can make it easier to notice the occasional grind that can arrive in endless combat. But for the most part, Shiness surprises with its variety, scale, and quality. It’s charmingly imperfect and will do when the triple A titles aren’t.
Photos Courtesy of Enigami Games