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An Embarrassment to the Shining Series
Recently there has been a renewed interest in the acclaimed "Shining" series. Shining Soul I was released last year, and in a short time the classic Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon will also be released. It comes as no surprise that Atlus, a company known for itís catering to fans wants, has been the one to revive interest in this series that enjoyed its success on former Sega systems. So recently when Shining Soul II was released for the GBA I decided since I had enjoyed the first installment of this, the second one was worth a gander. However, after playing, we can only hope that the ship is righted here and Shining Force does not become what this game is, because that would be a crime of the utmost proportion.
Iíll say it right off the bat: Shining Soul II is simply Shining Soul I in a different box, with a bare bones plot added to it whereas the first did not have a plot since it was designed as nothing more than a fun hack and slash game. What this game brings to the table is a laziness from the developers that has not been seen in quite some time. Many of the backgrounds from the original Shining Soul were actually used again, exactly as they were last time, for this installment. In addition to this many of the monsters were simply reproduced again, with little changes. While you will see new monsters, it is still depressing that the originality in this game is non-existent. The battle system remains unchanged as well, except for the addition of a summon-like item box where you can equip a summon and after so many hits on your enemies you can summon the corresponding beast. Like the original Shining Soul your character can only equip certain weapons that go with his class, and as your level up you distribute points to his stats that affect his power, hit points, special attack points, etc. You also level up certain special characteristics like weapon power, critical hit rates, etc. Each character has different special characteristics that do distinguish each character from the other ones in key ways. Still, despite that, the game is nothing more than a hack and slash game that mimics the first oneÖjust with a highly diminished fun factor if you have already experienced the first one, and came into this game expecting more. Needless to say a sequel is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you do what was done here, then it turns into a game that simply never needed to be made.
The mediocrity only continues in terms of visuals. Not even taking into account the recycled backgrounds and enemies, it is painfully obvious that Shining Soul II does not even begin to push the GBA to its limits. The GBA is capable of so much more than what this game produces. From the sprites for the characters, to the color, to the few original background designs, there is no improvement at all from the first, and indeed a little bit of a downgrade in terms of sharpness and details. It wouldnít be quite so disappointing if this was just some random RPG some no name company released. But this is a Shining game, and this is Atlus and Sega. I know I have come to expect a better product from a series like this and companies like those.
It doesnít get any better when we come to the music. The variety of music is poor at best, with the theme for the various stages grating on your nerves very quickly. The music in the town setting is equally annoying. And as you listen you will come to realize that this game has those two themes, and thatís about it. The sound effects are decent though, but really in a GBA game, could it be anything else? Itís not like anyone goes into a game on the GBA expecting the sound effects to knock your socks off anyway. It what you would expect from a hack and slash game.
At least there are up to five new characters that you can play as, and with the addition of a plot to the game we also get side-quests, and other assorted things that will keep you a bit busy. The plot; however, is as by numbers as it gets. You must save the kingdom from the forces of darkness and Chaos in order to restore the balance between light and dark. Thatís about it really. Along the way youíll meet the nicest bosses ever, because once you KILL them they all seem to have a soft spot for you and ask for forgiveness or compliment you to no end. The localization is horrible as well, which is truly shocking since weíre talking about Atlus here. The dialogue is actually painful at times to read and without an option to speed it up, you are forced to sit there and read that crap.
Shining Soul II is not even remotely challenging. You can breeze through it in 10 hours tops if you are just going straight through. Add the side quests in, and the hard mode you unlock once you beat it, and you get a slight amount of replay value. To put it plainly save your money if youíre looking for a game that is going to give you some actual value. In conclusion Shining Soul II does not deliver on anything, and has to be one of Atlusís and Segaís bigger disappointments in recent memory. Thankfully they can right the ship with the soon to be released remake of one of the all time classics: Shining Force. We will just have to wait till then, because this game should be avoided at all costs. Buy this game only if you have never played the original and have a strange desire to flush money down the proverbial toilet. Because, ultimately, you can get a better gaming experience from the first one, which you can probably find used for less then 15 bucks at a store or on eBay.
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