One of the advantages of the rapid pace of technological advancement is that greater power allows for more chances to make games look amazing. You’ve got your Call of Duties, Witchers and Battlefields stretching the limits of what a GPU can handle, of course, and you’ve also got less technically demanding options like Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap that look amazing based on sheer style. Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a crowdfunded action-RPG that goes that latter route and ends up looking fantastic as a result.
The world of Mahera is a little past its prime, shattered into chunks called Meteoras due to war. The life force of the world, or Shi, has been dwindling thanks to the decline of nature spirits called Shiness. As cat-kid hero Chado, who has the unique power to see usually-invisible Shiness, you’ll adventure with friends both old and new in search of a way to reunite the world.
In true RPG fashion you’ll spend a lot of time running around and exploring the game’s vibrant, lush environments, but Shiness is unusual in that it offers a little bit of platforming on top of the typical run-around-and-grab-stuff formula. There are puzzles to solve using character-specific abilities, wildlife to catch (and later use in crafting) and plenty of secrets to discover if you take the time. It’s a little reminiscent of the classic Wild ARMs series of RPGs, particularly the later entries that incorporated platforming as well.
Shiness’ combat system is interesting as well, playing out something like a one on one take on the Tales series. You control one character at a time, taking on one opponent at a time; if you run into multiple enemies at once, the others politely wait until it’s their turn to step into the arena. From there, you’ve got a pair of attack buttons, blocks, dodges and a set of special attacks powered by Shi, a mystical energy that you can absorb during battle.
Your party waits in the rafters while you fight, providing support and boosts based on conditions that you set up before battle. The game’s never especially difficult so it doesn’t feel like the combat reaches the depths you’d expect it to, but this system is definitely preferable to a bog-standard turn-based option.
The real highlight of this particular game is its presentation, of course. Shiness’ art is amazing, standing out even if you consider other, much more technically demanding games. There’s a sort of cel-shaded/comic-style art going on there that’s a pleasure to take in, while many of the game’s cutscenes are displayed via animated graphic novel panels. The game’s sound and voice acting can’t quite match up in comparison, but they aren’t offensive or anything either.
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom isn’t especially long, running you around 12 hours if you aren’t a completionist; a decent enough span to keep the game from overstaying its welcome. The glorious art couldn’t have been cheap to produce, after all, and I’d rather have a tightly-packed game than something that sprawls and feels less complete as a result. Shiness’ short length and straightforward plot don’t quite pack the punch it would need to shake up the RPG landscape, but it works for what it is and looks good while doing it.