QCF: Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom

nterest in JRPG games is still steadily climbing, and it despite some of the more lukewarm titles recently released that have tried to take advantage of the genre’s resurgence, the demand for the style has not slowed down. Seizing this opportunity, a studio named Enigami took to KickStarter to fund their idea Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom; a game that empathized the traditional nuances of classic 16-bit JRPG with a presentation that boasted the production value of a modern anime.

Receiving additional support from the CNC after their Kickstarter campaign was successful, the game has quietly released on storefronts, with little to no marketing, and to that effect, little to no fanfare either…

Which is a shame because while the title may scream “DeviANT Art: The game” at first glance, the unique combat system, and world-building offered in Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is something that’s surprisingly memorable, and definitely worth a look for anyone who’s looking for a new JRPG to dump some time into.

Like the era of contemporaries that it homages, the premise of the independent RPG is one that’s centered around a convoluted conflict that leads to high-stakes war between nations, a giant ensemble cast that only gets bigger as the story goes on, and a hidden agenda that will lead to the all-too-convenient answer to every complication introduced in the plot. Shiness goes out of its way to embellish every trope that you can identify with JRPG design, and then some—the reverence for the genre border on the edge of pandering, though never to the extent where it’s ever groan-inducing.

The setting begins with two anthropomorphic rodents named Chado and Pokey, who’re on their way to a place called the Land of Life, where their only means of navigation to the destination is the titular Shiness, an omnipresent spirit that only Chado can see, and communicate with. The pair end up getting caught in a turbulent storm in their travels, forcing their airborne vessel to crash-down in the nation of Gendys, where they’re introduced to a cavalcade of characters, stumbling upon the political turmoil that plagues them in the process. Luckily, the group discovers the similarities in both of their goals, deciding to unite for the common cause.

The narrative isn’t all that different from what you would see out of your typical Seinen Fantasy, complete with all the chunky bits of trademark plot exposition the genre is famous for, and as result, the pacing does suffer at times as the plot development doesn’t exactly translate all that well within the guise of a video game. The adventure does do a great job of reminding why you should care, and what’s at stake, it just come with all this other bloated baggage to flesh out its world, with the effort veering the fiction a bit too far off course.

While the narrative isn’t executed as well as it could be, the visual presentation is certainly hits what it aims for smoothly with sleek, sharp visuals that reminiscent of the classic anime contemporaries before its time like Tenchi Muyo! And Outlaw Star. Each character model is animated with a dynamism that emulates the quality of big budget animation productions that we see out of modern day anime, applying the same sort of attention to detail to the vibrant backdrops that they’re casted again as well. The quality of the game’s visual presentation thankfully delivers the sensation of a charismatically fluid world that the narrative struggled to convey its appeal, giving players plenty of eye candy to sink their teeth into.

The active-time action dynamics within Shiness is the other unique thing that it’s got going for it as it closely resembles the 3D fighting mechanics of titles like Tekken, or more specifically, the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Enlisting up to 3 members at a time, each encounter transforms the screen into a battle arena where you can strike, evade, and counter a variety of different enemy classes with various techniques and maneuvers that’re all inputted in the format of the standard fighting game command that you’d expect of a combo or a special move.

How well the game executes this innovative take is up for debate, as the flow of combat isn’t as polished as some of the other contemporaries mentioned earlier, where mindless button-mashing is just as effective as the more nuanced techniques in Shiness’ command layout.

While the combat itself is interesting for its depth, a lot of it goes to waste when it comes to the bland enemy variety; most of the enemies possess the same AI, with the only discernible difference being a slight lean towards the offensive strength, speed, or projectile usage—there isn’t much to them otherwise.

Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom may look like a superficial project that’s aimed at pandering to a very specific audience at first glance, but there’s surprisingly more to the experience than what meets the eye, it just takes a while to get there. Underneath all of the derivative yet gorgeous visuals, is an RPG that uniquely juxtaposes mechanics that’re both tactical, and active together in an enjoyably engaging, and cohesive way. If you’re looking for something different then I definitely recommend the adventure, just don’t bother divesting too much into the furry drama, because well, it’s just not worth thinking too hard about.

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