Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PC, PlayStation 4
Rating: PEGI 12
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a French action RPG from Enigami and Focus Home Interactive which was partially funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s a brighter and lighter RPG in a world where 100+ hours huge open world RPGS have become the standard. Shiness comes with a lot of original ideas, or at least ideas we haven’t seen for a while, with both an interesting world to explore and learn more about and enjoyable gameplay that mixes and matches to bring something that suits Shiness’ purpose.
In some ways, Shiness is a reminder of the old days of RPG with a wide roster of funny, interesting characters and beautiful aesthetics which may not be the latest and greatest technologically speaking, but still amazing. Its release back on April 18th marked the day that an internet manga became a game and Shiness reflects that in many ways. In its simplicity, nothing in Shiness is overly complicated which makes for an enjoyable, although at times unstable, ride.
The story of Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is that of a fantasy kingdom. There is a lot of lore in the game, and tasks “you”, a rodent-like character Chado who recently crash landed in the land of Gendrys, to help cleanse it of dark Shi. Chado and his friend Poky sets out on their journey to fight the dark shi, and on the way, they find a whole lot of anthropomorphic friends and foes as well as regular humans. Since this is based on a manga, there already is an established world, characters, and some in-world language. It doesn’t matter too much if you have never read any of it before booting Shiness up as it’s still a fun game.
Something which can quickly become stale or old in any game is the gameplay. You do the same monotone thing over and over again, use the same weapons and moves again and again. This is also where Shiness shines. Shiness is a shorter game of about 15 hours, and there are five playable characters so the gameplay never really gets a chance to feel old and stale. The open world sections have the right amount of puzzles in them, although often they are a bit too rudimentary, and the path forward is often clear enough to you won’t get lost. Same goes with the usual fetch quests. They are often on the way or in the area you’re already in so they never become a massive chore.
The combat in Shiness also never gets a chance to get as boring as it easily could. As mentioned before, this fantasy world has Shi. It's a sort of force that surrounds regular fantasy stuff. When entering combat you get closed in with your foe and his potential allies. Even though you have a party of three and they can be more than that, each fight will still be one-on-one with the other characters providing buffs. Each character has an affinity with a certain Shi. These are elements, meaning that each character will be better against different enemies. While in combat you have to focus your Shi, use spells, dodge roll from attacks, parry enemy combos and beat them up with some combos of your own. As the game progresses, you will find more and more combo and spell scrolls, allowing you to master even more moves,and make the combat even more interesting.
But it is flawed...
Though I enjoyed Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom, it’s a flawed game, unfortunately. The flaws aren’t limited to a certain area but are all over the place. The story, cutscenes, and dialogue quickly become boring due to the artstyle, the lore is set in the manga and there are a lot of things you still wonder about. When they try and explain, they do it by rambling a bunch of text that isn’t even voiced a majority of the time, and the voiced cutscenes feel stiff with the manga style the game went with.
The bosses and stronger minions often feel overpowered, some have ridiculous unbreakable combos, others have instant heals that can go off at any time even when they are at one percent health. Some of the regular minions feels unnecessarily difficult for reasons unbeknownst to me. This forces you to instead of using your wide arsenal of interesting combos and spells to spam the same thing that seems to work over and over again like “kick kick kick roll parry repeat”, taking some of the fun out of it.
Texture Rendering distance is often too short and texture collision issues also appear. Things such as having troubles walking up stairs or floating books which are placed as stairs happen a bit too often, as do the morphing into rocks at times.
All these thing makes Shiness stumble upon itself. It’s a fun and entertaining action RPG, but Enigami overlooked one too many bugs. When I tried to point a few out to them on Twitter before launch, asking them to PM me I just got silence, making it seem like they shipped Shiness knowing these issues would be in it, but do not take my word for it, there could be any number of reasons for my one Tweet not being seen.
Let us not forget what it does well.
What Shiness does well is providing a really enjoyable action RPG with a wide variety of characters and an already big world of lore for those who want to read more. Shiness also manages to show that a fun RPG does not need to be 100+ hours with top of the line graphics, it’s enough to have great core components combined with an original concept. Another great thing about Shiness is the length of it. There are quite a few games these days and sometimes you just want to be able to complete one in a weekend without pulling all nighters. Now that we have reminded ourselves about both sides of Shiness, let’s go down to the Verdict.
Shiness is a fun albeit flawed game. It manages to bring an enjoyable experience and a new IP into a time of gaming where making sequels is prefered due to cash guarantee. Shiness has more shininess than darkness. The world, the story, the combat and the humor all makes for a game that most will enjoy. What will make some put off on getting Shiness will either be one of the too many overlooked bugs or the weirdly high difficulty setting. Some just don’t like slamming their heads against the wall trying to beat a boss.
That being said, this game has potential, both as in it could be better and as in this could be the base of sequels. The gaming world is filled with examples of sequels being better than the first game. Rating Shiness is very hard since the response to it will be highly personal, much more than usual. Those who enjoy nitpicking every aspect of everything will probably say that Shiness is a 60/100 game, while those who enjoyed Shiness for the many reasons there are to enjoy it and were never really bothered by its flaws or never even thought of them will say it’s a 70/100. I enjoyed Shiness, it was fun, my kind of game although a bit hard, and reminded me of the golden age of French comic writing. For me Shiness is a 73/100 worth trying.