Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom, an RPG recently released on Xbox One, PC, and PS4 by French studio Enigami, tries to start the player off quickly. You meet Chado and Poky, two of the game’s protagonists as their airship crashes in a pretty unwelcoming land. Early on in the game, I feared Shiness wasn’t going to be able to keep my attention. The stilted cut scenes, the incredibly upbeat yet repetitive music, and the confusing story at first didn’t do much to keep me interested. However, as I continued through Shiness, the game really opened up and improved – something I was very happy to see.
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom isn’t too long, which is refreshing for a game with an RPG billing. I was able to complete the game in about 17 hours – yet I know there are still more things to do within the world of Shiness. The anthropomorphic characters are endearing – at least Chado and Poky are at first – and the game’s setting is incredibly interesting. The world of Shiness is one of warring kingdoms – the Celestial Islands – and is full of conflict, which a spirit only Chado can see (aptly named a “Shiness”) prods the young Waki further into. Along the way, Chado and Poky will meet an interesting cast of anthropomorphic animals and humans which will help him along the way.
The game does have its high points and when it executes well, the results are spectacular. One area is combat and both the simplicity and complexity on display. Combat in Shiness is active – you’ll attack enemies in the world and enter into an area style combat setting where players can attack, defend, dodge, parry, and more. Some players can even use special Shi abilities and launch magic attacks at their enemy. The combat arena is surrounded by energies which you can “channel” at the appropriate time, whether it’s fire, water or earth energies. In addition to this, you have your party which buffs you while fighting and can tag in as needed. It’s a lot to take in – and knowing all aspects of combat will be crucial as you progress through the game. Some bosses later in the game have multiple stages to their combat – not knowing the ropes is a must if you plan to get passed them.
However, the combat itself has a disconnect with the rest of the game – it’s one-on-one. It’s a shame that you won’t be able to fight alongside your party members. It’s also weird when Chado and company are ambushed by a group of enemies for the actual combat to devolve into a one-on-one match. That said, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom really brought me back to the Action-RPG style games I loved in the late 90s (I had really strong flashbacks to T’ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger from the original PlayStation).
Additionally, some of the game’s puzzles lack the finesse you’d expect from this type of game. Some consist of you pressing down pressure plates with conjured rocks to move forward. Poky has a wrench which allows him to manipulate magnetic fields around him. Kayenne, one of the other main characters in the story, can move things with his mind. However, some of these puzzles really fall flat, making them more tedious and uninspiring than fun and challenging.
Shiness’s art and visual style is one which intrigued me from the get-go. I was immediately interested in the game by just the trailers because of the visual style of the game, and while there are moments where the graphics and presentation could be more polished than it was, the game’s visuals never got stale. Additionally, playing it on PC, I was able to play at 4K at 60 frames per second pretty flawlessly, which definitely made the game’s experience better with clearer visuals and incredibly responsive gameplay.
All in all, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is an experience I’m glad I played through. It’s ambitious – sometimes too ambitious – but as a whole, the story works. And for only $29.99, it’s a steal, honestly. Enigami showed that smaller studios can make great RPG experiences – Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a great example of what you can do if you actually care about the end product. This was a passion product from Enigami – and it definitely shows.
[Featured Image by Enigami]