Shiness: The Lightning Kingsom
As someone whose attention span has difficulty lasting the sheer amount of time it can take to finish an RPG, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom was great for me. A solid 15 hours in fantastically animated world was perfect in a time of year that has been inundated with big game after big game.
I mentioned the richly animated world first because that has to be the best part of the game. Seemingly hand-drawn environments and characters bring to life the world and add a depth of character to a story that's kind of so-so.
Starting off the game you play as an ambitious Waki (mouse-like humanoid) named Chado and his companion Poky as they are making their way to a mystical land with the help of the eponymous "Shiness" (pronounced Shine-ess) that only Chado can see and communicate with. Their airship soon takes some damage and lands them in a hostile world where they meet an exiled princess and her guardian. The characters meet a few more companions along the way in an adventure that spans across the entire world.
As with all RPGs the battle system takes centre stage as that's what you'll be doing for a large portion of the game. The action battle system this game uses is largely fun and is similar to the system used in the Naruto games. Battles are one-on-one with the ability to swap out for other characters in your party at any time. Health bars adorn the top of the screen during these battles which are akin to the ones found in fighting games and you have to use a mixture of punches, kicks, blocks, parries and dodges to defeat your enemies. Even with various martial arts forms to choose from in the game to master this system was incredibly repetitive and I found myself never really feeling the need to switch characters once I figured out the parry and dodge mechanic. nearly 80% of my battles were fought as Chado due to every character having access to every martial arts form.
Outside of battle world traversal is great, there's a welcome sprint button that is animated differently depending on which character you run around as (swapping works outside of battles as well). Each character also has a unique ability they can use to solve puzzles in the over world, though these are never really that complicated.
The story leaves a little to be desired and I'm not going to divulge too much to avoid spoilers, but be prepared to watch a lot of characters standing around while reading text boxes. Cut scenes in the game are relegated to comic book panels. Beautifully animated though and as this game is an indie project and was partially funded by Kickstarter it is an economic move that I am comfortable they made. The voice acting is fun too, they sound and animate very much like a Saturday morning anime but I found myself laughing a few times due to the interactions between characters.
The music in Shiness is great as well, mellow tunes serenade you as you walk through a forest and heavy drums echo as you make your way through a den of monsters. It's incredibly well mixed and adds great depth to an already beautiful world.
The setting and the variations therein are also great in Shiness. You begin your journey in the middle of a dark jungle after your airship crashes, and the story keeps you moving at a steady pace through a ton of different environments. Caves filled with enemies, a beautiful coast, a friendly village and even a haunted castle.. I never felt like I was seeing too much of the same environments and the variation kept me engaged throughout the story.
With solid gameplay, beautiful environments, a great score and some quirky characters this is a game I recommend you play. i can tell a lot of hard work went into this game, but I can also tell there was a relatively small team working on it. I found myself getting stuck in some environments and the puzzles were mediocre at best. Beyond that, with it's $39.99 price tag the 15 hour story is more than worth it.
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is available on Steam and PS4 right now for $39.99