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Shining Tears
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 03/22/05
Japan 11/03/04



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Nice, er, ears.
 
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Out of the way!
 
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Oh, I see. This is Denver, right?
 
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Not quite the Super Ultra Sexy Hero Zan.
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Mike Wilson
Preview First Look
03/21/05
Mike Wilson

When the Shining series began on the Sega Genesis with Shining in the Darkness, there was something about it that would keep fans intrigued for years to come. Now, fifteen years later, as the eve of the newest installment, Shining Tears, approaches, the magic is still in the air. Shining Tears is the first Shining game to appear on a console since the days of the Sega Saturn when Shining Force III ruled supreme. Since then, there have been GBA incarnations of the series, but the hardcore fans have been screaming for a new console release for years. Well folks, it's finally here.

Shining Tears tells the tale of Xion, a young man who washes up on a beach in the Kingdom of Shildia, with no memory of his past or how he got there. Even stranger, he possesses two mysterious rings whose powers are unknown. Upon waking up, Xion is discovered by a girl named Elywn, who decides to nurse him back to health and help him start a new life. For a while, everything seems to be going great... until the dreaded Runegeist Army invades the kingdom and tries to take over. In the midst of the chaos, Xion gives one of his rings to Elwyn, and they discover that the rings give them the power to fight. Thus begins Xion's journey to rid the kingdom of evil and to regain his memory. On his journey, he will be joined by a diverse cast of characters, such as the crazy cat-girl Mao, the brash wolf Volg, the quiet sorceress Neige, the dragon warrior Lazarus, and the morbid priestess Ryuna.

The storyline is linear at first, but after a few hours, it opens up, allowing you to progress the story in different ways. The decisions you make and the characters you use will affect the story, and may even determine the outcome of certain battles.

As enticing as the story may be, the battle system is what many gamers want to know about. Shining Tears is an action-driven, hack n' slash action-RPG that will have you mashing buttons like they're potatoes. Each area is styled like an action level, with characters barreling through hordes of enemies to reach the end. And the number of enemies seen in battle is almost unreal. If you've played Gauntlet Legends, you'll be right at home, but if not, get ready for some serious fighting.

In battle, every character has a regular attack, a set of spells, and several unique skills; for example, Xion can suck enemies into oblivion with a vortex, Lazarus can spew fire, and Mao can teleport around the battlefield. Two characters can also team up and perform a "Link Attack"- a combo attack that can do some serious damage. One of the coolest Link Attacks is between Xion and Elwyn, where Elwyn casts a shield of fire around Xion to protect him from attacks; not only does it render Xion temporarily invincible, but the enemies that touch his shield take damage!

You can fight with two characters at a time; your second ally is CPU-controlled, but if you choose, you can control him with the right analog stick. To say the least, this is a little weird (considering that you control your own character with the left stick), but hopefully players will able to adjust to this. If that sounds too complicated, though, there's always two-player compatibility; Shining Tears lets you team up with a friend for some good ol' hack n' slash fun. Unfortunately, this option isn't available until halfway through the game, but you can bet it's still going to be a blast.

The item system in Shining Tears has an interesting appeal. When you find an item, you won't know what it is; you have to pay a special shopkeeper in town to make it usable. Once the item becomes usable, you can attach it to your weapons to improve them. You can also attach different combinations of items for a different effect. The number of possible combinations is vast, so you can expect to spend a lot of time with this system. You can also improve your weapons by visiting a blacksmith to get them tempered. This is incredibly cool; after all, how often do you use blacksmiths in RPGs?

The visual presentation is Shining Tears is amazing. The game is completely in 2D, and it's absolutely beautiful. The watercolored, hand-drawn environments pay homage to SaGa Frontier 2, with a 16-bit flair that similar RPGs, such La Pucelle and Phantom Brave, have also attempted to capture. The game also features animated cutscenes and character art, which look great.

Aurally, from what has been presented so far, Shining Tears is going to have a great soundtrack. In addition to great music, Shining Tears is also, for the most part, fully voiced. Most of the dialogue scenes have voice acting, and the characters speak during battles as well. It's no doubt that with a great soundtrack and decent voice acting, Shining Tears' audio could be its strongest feature.

However, if there's one thing that could knock Shining Tears down a few notches, it's the game's animation. From what I've seen, it could be a lot better. But, the final version hasn't hit shelves yet, so keep in mind that this problem may have been corrected. Besides, there is so much else to enjoy in this game that you probably won't mind the animation, anyway.

So, the question is, will Shining Tears shine? It definitely has the potential. Shining fans probably have the game preordered already, and the game is rustling up a fair amount of newcomers with its action-oriented battle system, great visuals, strong audio, and cool characters. You can expect to spend around 50 hours immersing yourself in the game's large environments, and even more time exploring its deep item system. Shining Tears is scheduled to brighten shelves everywhere on March 22, 2005.



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