Man. . . This game does it all! I mean seriously. Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a pretty rare bird all on its own. The art looked so familiar, but I just couldn’t place it til I did some digging. I had seen the art before, but I just couldn’t place it. Then I remembered I had a lot of friends who are into that particular art style, so it all kind of came together. Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a throwback in every sense of the word, except on the visual scale. Because come on, this is no PS2 game. This is such a gorgeous damn world. The colors are vibrant and bright, the characters are exceptionally drawn. Everything about it feels organic. I really found myself getting lost in this world that they put together for me. It’s funny in a way because it’s a lot of things that normally don’t interest me, put together in a way that does catch my attention. Because platforming ARPGs don’t normally make me sit down and stay a while, and the anthropomorphic/furry style characters certainly aren’t my cup of tea. Most of the time, anyway. Though Chado and Poky are charming and funny. The dialogue doesn’t feel forced or awkward from anyone, except characters it’s supposed to be. Not everyone is a world-class orator; the brooding characters are awkward in personal chit-chat, and I like that. Kudos to French studio Enigami for all the hard work they put in bringing this to life!
At its core, it’s an action RPG, where your end goal is not incredibly clear from the outset because you crash land in this strange land, where you speak to an entity that nobody else can see. That’s the Shiness, and you’ll learn more about that in-game. Don’t want to spoil it! He’s totally not crazy though, because he can summon and throw huge rocks. I wouldn’t call anyone crazy that can do that! You see your foes on the main map, and as you go through the first quests, you learn stuff about the Shi, Shi affinity [elemental affinity basically], that I’m not going to go into intimate detail on because you’ll learn it as you play. It teaches you everything you need to know. You have five characters as the story progresses, and you can swap them out in combat, or summon them to help you out. Hell, this game even has the FFXII “Gambit System”, where when certain conditions are met, one of your allies will pop up and do a thing, like heal you or help you attack, things of that nature. But while we’re chatting about combat, there is one thing that drives me insane with this particular engine. The enemies appear on the map and you run up to them and initiate combat. You can sneak up on them and punch/kick them, or stun them with a Rock Throw, but when combat happens, the enemies are almost always right on top of you, and because of this, I don’t think I’ve ever had a match where I’ve taken no damage.
So you have to really…really pay attention and strike before they strike you. And each character feels a bit different in how they approach combat. Like Poky can mix it up in melee, but also uses elemental attacks from a distance. You can’t spam them either. Once you run out of that Shi, you have to recharge it. And if the field isn’t that elemental type [you’ll see a glow, sort of, around the map to help with that], you can still recharge, but it’s not as fast. And this is a fast-action combat system, so you have to really think on your toes. It has seriously awesome combos and flashy moves that do tons of damage, but if you are being cocky and just hammering buttons, you’re probably going to die. The battles feel like they’re in a kind of arena, similar to the Tales of franchise. However, I do tend to get very turned around after a battle. Whatever direction you were facing at the end of combat is where you’re facing now. So man, that really disorients me. As time progresses you’ll gain more Shi, more cool attacks and support moves. You can acquire some from Bartering with merchants, via items you acquire in combat, and from hunting down innocent critters out in the wild.
And there are puzzles! Jumping puzzles, puzzles involving using your various Shi powers… Like Poky has a wrench attuned to Shi that he can use to solve puzzles. He’ll come across elemental stones or pieces that crackle with energy. You just solve the problem and get the link of energy where it needs to be, and bam! Problem solved! There are lots of cool puzzles and platform style areas to navigate, not challenging enough to make you tear out your hair, but definitely, they will challenge you. There’s really just a lot to unpack in this game, and I think it’s going to be something for everyone.
Kind of like… Naruto + FFXII: 4/5
Yeah, that’s how I feel. It’s got the action combat and cool powers/characters of Naruto and the technical, puzzle solving and mechanics that make me think of PS2 RPGs like FFXII. Honestly, that’s what this is: A return to form to the action RPG/platformers of old, in the absolute best way. Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom captivated me like I haven’t been in quite a long time. It’s fun, enchanting, everything about it other than my one gripe about combat have been a positive experience. The menus can be a little taxing to navigate, but that will change over time. I love that you can swap in and out in combat between characters, perform awesome combos, utilize a new magic system, and actively use it in puzzles in the world. It’s more than “I have spells! And I use ’em sometimes!” This is a wonderful game, and I sincerely think it will stand out on PS4 and offer quite a lot to the RPG fans out there. Do try this! It’s a trip through time in the best way.