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Shining Tears
Platform: PlayStation2
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Amusement Vision
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Released: US 03/22/05
Japan 11/03/04
Official Site: English Site



Scorecard
Graphics: 71%
Sound: 69%
Gameplay: 84%
Control: 80%
Story: 79%
Overall: 75%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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Hmm, must be a turnpike.
 
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You can build up hit chains on enemies.
 
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The environments have a somewhat cell-shaded look to them.
 
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Ice Mammoth Attack!
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John K.
Shining Tears
09/24/06
John K.

Shining Tears is the first game of the Shining Force series published by Sega on the PS2. Once, the Shining series was based thoroughly in the realm of strategy RPGs. Lately, however, the series has taken a side-step by offering gameplay that is far more action-RPG than anything else. This is not necessarily a bad thing as decent and engaging gameplay combined with a satisfying story could have acted to catapult this series debut on the PS2 into a whole new era of popularity. Unfortunately Shining Tears, while performing its duty as an action RPG adequately, does nothing that distinguishes itself from its RPG brethren, nor gives the Shining Force series any new life.

The Story

Our story begins with a boy, Xion, washing up upon the shores of the city of Shildia. Soon enough he's found by the plucky elf Elwyn and taken to the Hero's Hearth, an inn run by a beastman named Volg. Volg also happens to be the commander of Weissritter, the local mercenary band. Soon Xion is restored to health and it is discovered that he has little to no memory besides his name. He is also carrying two strange rings. The local doctor, Pious, investigates the rings and discovers them to be the Twin Dragon Rings; artifacts of legendary power.

If any of this sounds vaugely familiar, then the next part ought to sound like downright d<é>j<à> vu; it isn't long before the city of Shildia gets attacked by the empire of Runegeist and Xion and the cast of stereotypical heroes he runs into are the only ones capable of doing something about it. The story advances with each battle at a rather steady pace. There will be a couple of twists here and there but nothing that hasnít already been seen and done in the fantasy stories before. Despite this fact, along with the rather typical nature of the characters, the dialouge is decently written and each character has a few personality traits that are interesting enough.

The story's greatest problem is that it suffers from this constant sense of "seen this before" syndrome a player will likey feel as the narrative unfolds. The only aspect of the story that doesnít have this feel is the interesting fact that when Xion and an ally put on the Twin Dragon Rings, Xion's personality will change. If he is wearing the ring with the Dark attribute, Xion will become filled with anger, bloodlust, and he takes on a cocky personality. If he is wearing the ring with the Light attribute Xion's personality becomes calm, kind, and confident; the picture of a virtuous paladin. While interesting, this plot point could have been implemented in an even more engaging fashion by providing additional scenes and dialouges for not just Xion but his allies, depending on which ring they are wearing in battle.

The story does benefit from having slightly branching points in which Xion developes stronger relashonships with his comrades depending on which ones he uses most often in battle. This can unlock side missions and different ending sequences. This aspect of the story gives one more incentive to play through again and allows the story to at least feel more dynamic than it actually is. On the whole, though, Shining Tears' story won't show gamers anything they haven't experienced before.

The Gameplay

Shining Tears consists of two main activities when it comes to gameplay; downtime between battles and the battles themselves. Before a battle begins, players can send Xion around town to chat with his comrades and the locals of Shildia, purchase items and gear from shops, or down to a forge to upgrade weapons and such. Leveling characters consists of spending skill and attribute points gained to up stats and purchase new abilities or level up already known ones. This combined with the fact that you can use various materials picked up from slain opponents to build up one's equipment, gives the player a fair amount of freedom in customizing a characterís abilities, which is always a good thing.

Battles are real time upon a pre-set map upon which Xion and one of his allies will engage in combat with dozens and in some cases hundreds of foes. Before the fight, Xion chooses who his ally will be, which also determines which of the two rings he will be wearing for the fight. Once battle begins, it is up to the player to guide Xion and often his chosen ally about on the screen, attacking, using special moves, and making use of special combined attacks between himself and his ally to slaughter squad after squad of opponents. This AI of said opponents, while not brain dead, is not the most challenging to be encountered in gaming; they tend to just try and swarm you.

Despite that, fights are fast paced and actually rather fun in a mindlessly "hack n' slash your way to bloody victory" sort of way. Each character is unique enough in their powers that each one will add a different twist to your tactics; like, do you use Ryuna's priestess powers to heal Xion while he wades into battle, or do you bring along Volg and his speedy claws of doom to act as front line back-up, or perhaps the ice-mage Neige is more to your liking by adding deadly magical attacks to compliment Xion's melee prowess. The fact that Xion has a number of different special combined attacks with each of his companions adds an element to the action that is one of the few fresh aspects to the game. The attacks, while difficult to set-up and execute properly, can add a lot to one's battle repertoire and make short work of the numerous foes one is going to have to wade through. While the battles can at times be challenging and tactical, many other times you'll simply find yourself almost mindlessly trying to cut your way through your foes.

Boss battles are slightly more worthy of tactical thinking, especially in how to best make use of the combined attacks of Xion and his ally, but in the end the battles are still not all that in-depth and while being decent action, lack the element of strategy one might be looking for in the game.

During battles enemies will be dropping a lot of items from simply healing items to weapons and armor and cards. The cards are little more than an extra way to pass the time in the game, as Pious has a book to showcase all the enemy cards Xion has gathered. It's a decent excuse as any to go back and replay a battle if one wishes, which is an option as the game allows the player to return to any battlefield they've completed and relive the fight again via a special mirror world which becomes available mid-game. If one simply just hasn't gotten enough of Shining Tears' battles then there is also the Tower of Heaven, a special dungeon with sixty levels to throw oneself at and test the limits of endurance and sanity.

If one can get into the fast action of the battles and enjoys the limited tactical nature of them, then likely Shining Tears will provide many hours of entertainment; as one thing the game does well is allow the player to get into a vast array of battles. Anyone yearning for the strategic Shining Force of yore has the option of a rental.

The Graphics

The top-down camera offers a decent view of the action on screen in Shining Tears, though admittedly that action looks more than a bit dated. The colors are bright and smooth, no doubt. The character designs are simple, yet compelling, and the city of Shildia itself is rather picturesque. However, the in-game character sprites are small and a little too stiff and doll-like in their animations. Also, while there are a vast number of different enemies, not a single truly intimidating or fearsome looking one exists among the bunch, save for the exception of perhaps a couple of the boss characters. I wonít say this game looks as if it ought to be on the SNES, as the textures and backgrounds are much more detailed than anything likely to be found on an older system, but one used to the cinematic graphical extravaganzas of the Squenix age will probably be disappointed with Shining Tears.

At least the anime intro at the gameís beginning is quality.

The Controls

The interface of Shining Tears is simple and effective for what the game needs to do. Menus are easy to navigate and involve a minimum of headache in attempting to get to the page one wants. In battle, Xion moves quickly and reacts smoothly to player commands, as does his ally. Perhaps the gameís best control feature is the simple fact that when the player wants to it is possible to use to right thumb stick to move that ally character to a new position, if the player doesnít like where the AI is taking them. The only true hiccup involved with controls is the sometimes frustrating and difficult aspect of pulling off combined attacks. This is due to the fact that the player must position both Xion and his ally just right in order to get maximum effect out of the moves; not an easy task when trying to move two different characters independently at the same time using both thumb sticks while being attacked by hordes of enemies.

The Sound

The reason you will see little written here is due to the simple fact that Shining Tears has an incredibly forgettable musical score. Indeed, the music, while not making oneís ears rot off in horror, does nothing to stick in the mind as any more than vaguely pleasant background noise. That being said, Shining Tearsí sounds may not leave barely an imprint on the average gamer, but this in and of itself does not kill the game. Esthetics, however, is a slippery thing at best, and no doubt someone out there is likely to find something to enjoy in the musical score of Shining Tears.

The Conclusion

Itís best to say right here and now that Shining Tears is not a bad game. Far from it, the game is actually a decent and at times even enjoyable action RPG romp that offers furious battles, a couple of semi-interesting characters, a storyline that, while being done to death has the benefit of multiple endings, and thereís even card collecting to kill time. The problem is, thatís all the game really has going for it, and doesnít act as the most shining example of the series it hails from, especially for being the first game of the series to arrive on the PS2.



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