Shining Tears
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Amusement Vision
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Released: US 03/22/05
Japan 11/03/04
Official Site: English Site

Graphics: 79%
Sound: 72%
Gameplay: 70%
Control: 65%
Story: 71%
Overall: 71%
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 cel-shaded look to them.
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Ice Mammoth Attack!
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Dennis Rubinshteyn
Shining Tears
Dennis Rubinshteyn

The Shining series, like many of Sega's franchises, kept reinventing the wheel, losing what made the franchise so great in the first place. The franchise was initially a first-person dungeon crawler, but they are best known for their strategy games. Eventually, Sega decided to go turn the series to become yet another Action RPG like many out there. Developed by Amusement Vision, Shining Tears is an Action RPG that had potential, but some mechanics prevent it from being a lot more enjoyable.

You play as Xion, a boy who washed ashore in the city of Shilda. He was found by an elf named Elwyn who was taken to the Heroes Hearth where the mercenary group, Weissritter, resides. It turns out Xion has amnesia, remembering his own name only and possessing the mysterious Twin Dragon Rings. Whoever wears these rings shall gain tremendous power, but at the expense of losing his or her mind. When Xion wears the ring, his personality changes depending on the other person in the team, either becoming courageous or bloodthirsty. As he settles in Shilda, befriending and befriending the residents, word came out that the Rune Geist is planning to invade Shilda with over 10,000 soldiers at their disposal. With the king and his royal guards chickening out, Xion joins Weissritter. It's up to him and the rest of the group to save the city.

While Xion's split personality issue sounds interesting, the plot does have some issues. The concept of a protagonist having amnesia has been beaten to death, and a giant army invading a city isn't exactly fresh either. I am not bothered by clichés being used, but the execution of those concepts are weak. Plot twists and revelations occur, but they are predictable to the point where you can spot it from miles away.

Since the plot aspect is weak, there is one factor that saves the story portion from total mediocrity: the characters. Initially, I found them to be one-dimensional, trying to force humor with little success. As you progress, the characters become more likable and interesting thanks to how much interaction there is between the cast. They are not deep in any way, but you get to know them easily and I managed to find some favorites. The way these characters laugh, cry, and fight together against great odds adds a sense of coziness: something a fair number of RPGs lack. There are also subplots for some of the characters, learning even more about them from their history and their relationship to other characters. You also get a bonus scene during the game's ending based on which character you had standing by you the most, and there are eight playable characters with which you can receive these bonus scenes.

The control portion is the game's biggest fault, mostly due to the horrendous AI. The melee enemies are stupid, essentially going kamikaze, while ranged fighters are cheap, incorporating hit and run tactics. Your partner fares worse as he/she gets stuck in walls, rarely fights, and stands around helpless as enemies pummel him/her. The game also suffers some nasty, lengthy load times: when you enter some areas, before the mission, and even after starting a mission.

On the contrary, the interface is good, providing convenience and a simple way, organizing the items by category, switching to any weapon on the fly. This applies to abilities as well. The menus are nice and simple and the in-game map tends to be very helpful. It's a shame how bad the AI is and how a simple game gets plagued with load times.

This is an Action RPG where you literally have to go slaughter thousands of foes with just Xion and a partner. In missions, Xion and his partner go through a map or a series of maps, completing various objectives. Most of the time, the objective is to defeat all leaders, marked as a red spot on the map, or simply obliterate certain amount of leaders. Sometimes you just need to beat a certain enemy in order to progress. Occasionally, you get boss fights at the end of a mission. There are also obscure objectives like destroying devices and flipping switches. Upon completing a mission, you get a rank increase and a small experience bonus, depending on how well you did.

The combat is very straightforward. You have a button to unleash a combo or hold down the attack button to unleash a special attack. Another button enables you to use link skills between Xion and his chosen partner. Some abilities Xion and each partner possess are very good, but most of them proved to be worthless.

When a character levels up, he/she is given points to spend on stats and skills. You get 3 stat points to spend between 4 different stats which are STR, AGI, INT and CON. You also get one skill point to spend on certain skills which usually cap at 10 (they can cap at 20 if certain conditions are met). Each character has their own skills along with passive traits to get stat boosts or improve resistance. Save for Xion, characters also have link skills to spend points on.

The concepts sound solid and hey, what can go wrong with a game where you kill hundreds of enemies. The problem is that the fights themselves are weak, and the game itself feels slow. We're not talking about frame rate issues here; Xion moves and attacks slowly and the same goes for the enemies. Combined with the stupidity of enemies who keep going kamikaze, these simplistic fights lack any sort of excitement. Bosses fare better, but they all have predictable patterns. Making it fast-paced would've made a major and add a little more enjoyment.

The enemies may be stupid, but they pack quite a punch. Since you are always surrounded by dozens or even hundreds of enemies, you easily get killed, a lot, even with good gear. Fortunately, the death penalty is forgiving as the only loss is the amount of gold you collected. You are sent back in town and if you go back to the mission, it leaves you at the beginning of the map you died at with the drops still on the ground and the enemies you killed remaining dead. Dying too much does affect your rank, but otherwise bears little importance in the game.

The game supports co-op play, enabling the second player to control Xion's partner. By default, that makes your partner much better since their AI is horrible. It feels so much better to work together with a friend to slay foes, adding another level of enjoyment to the game, but by yourself, it's lackluster.

There are three primary types of missions. First is the story mission which you need to go through in order to advance the plot. At some point, six characters get their own character side missions where you get to learn more about them. Last are the side missions, which have their purpose.

In story missions, you are initially forced to use characters relevant to the plot, though you get to pick your favorites later on. Half of the missions are triggered automatically after beating the previous story mission, but others have has an obscure way of triggering. You need to do side missions in order for some story missions to emerge and that leads to some issues. It really seems the number of side missions you need to complete is random. At one point, it took 3-5 times while another time it took 20 or so. Most of these missions are pretty quick, but sometimes, you are left to do difficult ones. It may not sound like a big deal, but the annoyance builds up and it seems like unnecessary busy work.

The game features a ton of gear which you mainly get through appraised items you find during missions. Most equipment can be used by everyone, though a number of them are character- or gender-specific. The character also needs to be the correct level and have the required stats to equip head, arm or body gear. There are also forgeries in the game. You can improve or upgrade weapons and armors as long as you provide the right materials and sufficient cash.

There is also card collecting, which mostly serves for those who like having complete bestiaries...though it also serves as equips in the accessory slot which cuts damage in half against the monster whose card you equipped. I like the idea, but it would've been a lot better if you could change the equipment during a mission.

The graphics are the best part of the game though it's a mixed bag. The hand-drawn environments are quite lovely, with each area being creative and colorful. It is even better that there are a lot of different locales to keep the stages fresh. Some stages get rehashed with little to no tweaks, but at least there are a far greater number of newer stages. With the only cut scene being in the introductions, conversations are portrayed through good looking portraits. These portraits have a good amount of expression and use close-ups to showcase their intense feelings.

Even with the unique hand-drawn environments and solid portraits, I believe that this kind of game that could have easily been pulled off on the original PlayStation. Being on a much more powerful console, I find it pretty strange that the game suffers from some loading and frame rate issues. These usually occur when there are a lot of enemies on screen and it really becomes a problem during the last two missions where the stages are long and enemies fill the screen; it felt choppy the entire duration.

The soundtrack consists of orchestral melodies. There are a couple of good songs, but I do not find them memorable. It serves well for setting the mood, but that's it. There is no voiced dialogue and the only voices you hear come from grunts and spell casting phrases. In other words, nothing substantial.

The game was not bad, and it had its enjoyable moments. The concept was solid, but was ruined by weak execution. It has artistic merits, but the action is sluggish, and the AI is downright awful. If you are a big fan of the Shining series in general and need your fix, it won't hurt to try it, but this is not a "shining" example of a quality Action RPG.


© 2005 Sega, All Rights Reserved.

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