Quick Take: Nothing about Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is really new or creative. The concept, level design, graphics, music, interfaces, and combat system are all just poorly done versions of things I have seen in previous games.
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a new action RPG from newly-founded indie French developer Enigami. A completely original world and characters, the concept was first created as a manga 20 years ago by the game’s Creative Director. He got the game funded by Kickstarter in 2014 and it has taken Enigami a little longer than they anticipated to finally release Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom. Was it worth the wait?
At first glance Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom looks to be an action RPG for kids, and in some ways it is. It’s a very cute and rather generic fantasy “manga” world with cartoony anamorphic characters, who really don’t seem to even fit in the “high fantasy” setting full of humans in armor and goblin berserkers. This is the beginning of the problems with Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom, it is so diverse in so many aspects that it really does nothing well. It’s a melting pot of ideas that all never really pan out. Nothing really shines in Shiness.
I spent quite a few hours playing Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom. It starts out with an introduction of our main heroes, a squirrel like version of DBZ’s Goku named Chado, and his dopey engineer sidekick, Poky. He is the same race as Chado, but kind of fat and nerdy. Sigh. Gotta have that guy to lighten the mood (comic relief) right? An obligatory sassy, scantily-clad woman, Mingane, and her calm, cool, tall warrior foxman pal named Kayenee meet up with our kung fu squirrels after they crash land their flying boat, which looks like an unoriginal cartoon version of every other airship I have seen. I know it was thought up 20 years ago, and it’s great that the creator got his vision crowdfunded, but did they bother to update anything or is Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom literally written by a 12-year-old boy obsessed with Dragon Ball?
Nothing about Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is really new or creative. The concept, level design, graphics, music, interfaces, and combat system are all just poorly done versions of things I have seen in previous games. The graphics are a combo of cell shading and manga, and they just end up looking cheap; nothing original enough or artistic enough to warrant any praise. The music is repetitive and generic. The writing is atrocious and full of pointless boring conversations, many that can’t even be skipped or the dialog is so slow that I was done reading it long before it moved on. The level designs are not very large, so almost in an attempt to drag the game out, there are quests that involve going from one end of a zone to the other, repeatedly running through areas multiple times with no ability to teleport back.
Instead of weapons, characters are equipped with spell scrolls that grant stats and special abilities in combat. Spells and their resources are grouped by earth, wind, water, and fire, an overused concept in itself. In combat, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom’s problems go from boring to irritating. Even with the ability to lock onto your target, the camera is all over the place. It was nearly impossible to keep a good view of the target. Combat is an over-complicated attempt at martial arts combo action, like in Sleeping Dogs and Shenmue. When combat starts, players are forced into a small “arena” where the walls change color, and pay attention to what color it is, as you can only recharge Chi (spell resource) when it’s the color of your element and that’s “the key to winning” as the game puts it. This is on top of a system that relies on precise timing in dodging, parrying, deflecting spells, casting spells, using items, and insanely difficult and touchy attack combos. After five hours, the spells didn’t look any better either. Oh look, another projectile spell. Sigh.
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom looked interesting on Kickstarter, it looked cheesy, but was still a neat concept in the trailer. What it is though, unfortunately, is an amalgam of other games and fandoms, done poorly. Over-complicated when it shouldn’t be and not committing when it should, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom feels lost and just left me disappointed. I spent hours running around the same areas, fighting the same enemies with the same spells and when I put my controller down I was relieved it was over. As of this writing I have no idea how long Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is and it left me with no desire to find out. I wasn’t invested in the characters because they were all frankly annoying. In a world where there are so many great crowdfunded and cheaply made indie titles, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a let down and a hard pass.
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided for that purpose.