STAFF REVIEW of Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom (Xbox One)

Thursday, May 11, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom Box art Normally when people say to me "Kickstarter game", I admit I cringe a bit inside. When someone says "Kickstarter Indie action RPG game that will be coming to the Xbox One", I have my incredibly large salt shaker on standby. Developer Enigami set out to create such a game. This small developer took to the streets in an initial effort through Kickstarter to fund their game Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom. Priced at $29.99, this has me incredibly weary for multiple reasons. First, Enigami's goal was $100,000 and they managed to raise just shy of $140K. So, while not a tremendous overage, the big question remained was what type of game could Enigami come up with, with such incredibly limited funds. The answer to that shocked me completely.

If you're an action RPG fan that enjoys a lighthearted story that doesn't take itself too seriously then you could have one of the biggest sleeper titles you'll ever play on the Xbox platform. I know, that's a big statement, but this game literally blew me away, even with a few technical issues. Right from the title screen I was listening to the music and it started to captivate me. You get the sense that it will be a truly grand adventure, and it is.

The story is the heart and soul of this game, so the main plot is for you to discover; however, this game boasts such a depth of content that it could seem overwhelming at first, but after quite a learning curve you'll start to get the hang of things very quickly. Cutscenes and transitions are handled in a semi-cartoonish comic book style that gives the presentation a unique feel. But there's so much more.

The story is not laid out in a sequential order. Your choices and actions decide how the game unfolds and what side quests you may or may not receive. On top of that, you will have to build a relationship with your companions and if some do not like your choices, or how you handle a situation, you can bet that there will be a strain put upon that friendship as a result. This really makes the game feel like it tells you, the gamer's, own story and it is sensational. I even tried to see what happened when making other choices as I reloaded an older, separate save file to see what would happen.

This feature builds upon your character's dialogue responses. While cartoonish in nature, both in the actual dialogue and the input, there is a sophistication to this that is rarely found in gaming today. I was amazed by the depth and that is because Shiness provides an incredible wealth of content. Mixing physical and magical sources, outside of equipping your gear, you'll have different abilities/spells to master and each one does a variant of a certain type of elemental attack. As you progress you will unlock new abilities which will lead to newer abilities such as fighting combos, because that is pretty much the majority of what you do in the game, you fight.

The areas of the worlds are called Meteoras and you will find yourself traversing around these large expanses completing not only the main quest, but side quests as well. Each one of these levels, actually the entire game itself, is done up in a beautiful cel-shaded style that looks amazing. Every small detail is accentuated with a bright, crisp feeling that makes individuality among the characters and environment feel fresh. This graphical presentation is only made better by the incredible soundtrack that follows. Simplistic melodies and dynamic sounds help weave a sonic pattern of mastery that not only surprised me, but delivers an adventure soundtrack that would rival other action RPG games, and in some cases surpass them.

Make no mistake, while you're taking in the beauty of the world, don't just pay attention to the various enemies but also the wildlife. I mention this because the wildlife plays a major role in your game. By quietly trying to sneak up behind them, you can press the X button when prompted to steal an item from them which you can then use at various traders to sell, or even bargain with them, to produce new disciplines to master or spells to learn.

When you start out on your adventure you'll notice that when you encounter an enemy you can click the RS to target them and scan them for information. When you get within range (provided your enemy hasn't seen you) you can land a sneak attack, which at first is either a punch or a kick (X for punch, A for kick). Your Y button is used for parrying incoming attacks and spells and it will rapidly become your best friend. The parry move poses a challenge and that challenge is timing. Get the parry right and you will stop the enemy attack in its tracks, while stunning the them and allowing you to take no damage. It also frees you up to start your onslaught. Should you fail though and you're going to get crushed with damage. My strongest suggestion is to master parrying as soon as you possibly can. Get used to timing the attacks, because once you master that, blocking almost becomes irrelevant. The B button will block attacks; however, you will still incur some damage. Using B with the LS will cause you to roll in any direction and that technique should be mastered after parrying.

Fights occur in makeshift energy rings that change colors to indicate various elemental shifts that can be used. Blue = water, Green = earth, etc. These fights occur 1 versus 1 with any supporting fighters on the outside of the ring. Defeat an opponent and their supporting enemy will drop in. During the fight the LB will change between characters, however the input seems rather slow and cumbersome and doesn't happen all the time when you want it to. The same goes for the input when using healing items, or any items in the game really. If you want to use a healing blue apple for instance, pressing the LT brings up the menu and pressing up on the d-pad will allow your character to consume one and thus heal themselves.

The gameplay mechanics do have a very high learning curve, but outside of hunting down wildlife (there's an achievement to hunt down one of every type of creature in the game), you're going to be fighting and questing and doing quests where you have to fight (make sense?). So, get ready for a healthy dose of rinse and repeat, especially when you realize that enemies respawn after you've left an area for so long.

Beyond the 'input' issue I found, there are some other issues that ware worth mentioning, and one of them has haunted countless games for decades; that is the camera system. While you are in control of it, there are times when you're in a fight and the camera will swing wildly into a rock effectively making you blind to the fight at hand. While the camera system works wonderfully when you're exploring, unfortunately it doesn't work that well all the time. Another issue are the special Hyper attacks that seem to be relatively useless. These are the biggest gamble attacks and when they instruct you to use them wisely, you better do exactly that because if you should fail (which will happen a lot), you will be 100% exposed without a hope and a prayer of defending an attack. The thing is, it almost seems as though if the target is standing still and doing nothing, and your Hyper attack seems to do exactly the same thing, nothing.

Now in order to have supporting characters you'll need to form a party. As you progress through the game you'll find that your party grows, and once you reach three people the game will unlock its challenges. These are small in game modifiers that consist of challenges like "finish a fight in under a minute" or "get an S ranking in a fight", etc. Should you accomplish each challenge then you can snag yourself some rare loot, which is broken up into three different categories: technique, clothes, and magic. Each provide different bonuses and skills/abilities to learn. This is just more of the parts that equal the sum of the game and equate to an incredible gameplay experience, so as long as you remember to manage it, it is truly a masterpiece. It accomplishes so much more than what anyone previously thought possible.

Coming from a Kickstarter and only surpassing their goal by $40k when other games spend over 1,000x on production and fail spectacularly, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a remarkable game. It could very well be a top contender for indie game of the year, and at a price point of only $30 it seems to really be a bargain and a half. Not only has this restored some of my dissolved faith in Kickstarter video games, but in indie games as well. It goes to show that you don't need to spend millions of dollars to make a great game as developer Enigami managed to do it with $140K. If you're a fan of action RPG's that look and sound incredible while offering a colossal amount of content, even though there are a few hiccups now and then, stop reading this and go start downloading Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom now.

Careful with the camera system. Make sure that all aspects of combat function properly, this includes making sure boss fights don't continue to spam attacks that can't be parried.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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