Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom does not make a great first impression. It feels like an RPG out of time – something you’d have loved in the PlayStation 2 era, but something that feels dated and a bit generic today. But then, after the firs hour or two, it clicks – that’s kind of the point. It has a fantastic combat system, a truly unique universe and narrative from the mind of its creative director’s own manga, and colorful cel-shaded visuals that don’t come around often these days. It’s far from perfect, but Enigami’s kickstarted RPG is one that fans of the genre just might really enjoy. This is our Shiness The Lightning Kingdom review.
As I said, the RPG is actually based on a limited run French manga from the Enigami creative director, Semir Rebib. It’s not exactly Samurai Champloo, but the comic is available on the Shiness site for those interested in reading the story before starting the game. In a way, part of Shiness’ charm is that it’s wonderfully archaic. The visuals aren’t great, but they’re passable. If nothing else, they’re unique – reminiscent of Dragonball Z’s famed design, but with a hint of Semir’s own creative juices that I can’t put a finger on.
Your airship crash lands, as Chado you’re separated from your friend Poky, and the two of you begin running into more and more trouble as well a characters before realizing that you’ve all come together for a reason – to use the help of the spirit Shiness and end a conflict between Kingdoms before it ends the entire universe. It’s the heady sort of “hero of the day” kind of tale, but there’s a lot of personality, if cliched, in the characters you play with. My own personal favorite Kayenne, who’s basically a warrior monk Jedi (though Enigami wouldn’t use that term). Each of them have their own fighting styles and colors of Shi, which comes into play with combat.
Button mashing will get you through the early hours of fights in Shiness, but eventually you’ll need to pay attention to the color surrounding the fighting spaces you’re in. You can channel Shi and then use it to enable much stronger skills. This constant give and take of Shi is what makes combat quite fun and one of the highlights of Shiness. It’s just a shame that the game’s camera gets lost, moves erratically, and more often causes issues rather than helping you keep an eye on the action.
The game’s world/s are really quite open, and there’s a bit of Zelda-like action here, as you unlock special powers that enable you to go back to earlier parts of the world and unlock new paths. The puzzles are really rudimentary, usually involving rocks and switches, but they get more elaborate as the game goes on, though nothing most players will wrack their brains over. There’s a huge variety of landscapes you’ll adventure through, lots of progression and customization of characters to work with so you can find your best trio to go into fights with (thought fights are 1v1, you can tag out when needed). You’ll even get the equivalent of Chocobos to help make travel easy.
If it weren’t for the camera, archaic controls, and sort of… indie feel of it all, you’d think this could pass for a big AAA RPG. And I think that’s what Enigami had in mind. It’s clear their ambitions are sky high, just perhaps lacking the budget needed to make this a “must play”. Still if you’re a fan of unique manga, action combat like you might find in the Naruto console games, and PS2 era JRPGs, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. This is a valiant effort, and belies a studio that’s worth watching in the future.
Editor’s Note: Our review was completed using a PS4 code and a PC code of the final retail copy, provided by the PR team for Focus Home Interactive.