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   Shining Tears - Review  

They're Not Tears of Joy
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy-Medium
COMPLETION TIME
15-25 hours
OVERALL

1/5

Rating definitions 

   This review was written with the basis of the game being played with a single player. Thus, it is quite a different perspective than if the game were to be played with two players. To view the differences between the two modes, please also reference the two player review, written by Anna Marie Whitehead.

   Like in many other games, the hero, Xion, finds himself washed up on the beach with amnesia. The members of the kingdom that saved him soon find themselves under attack and it is up to Xion, his twin dragon rings, and a handful of allies to stop an army numbering in excess of ten thousand. Unlike most games where that number is just used to scare the player, the two chosen heroes who wield the twin dragon rings will have to kill nearly that many over the course of the game. Shining Tears is a member of the Shining series, but it is an action RPG similar to Shining Soul rather than a tactical RPG like Shining Force. Unfortunately, the game has several flaws, one of which is so crippling that it almost entirely ruins the fun of the game. This major flaw is the horrible Artificial Intelligence, both for allies and enemies alike. While bad AI alone isn't usually enough to ruin a game, the way that the developers attempted to counter it is.

   In battle, the poor AI is almost immediately noticeable. Early on, most enemies are too stupid to even attack players that are standing right next to them. It isn't until later in the game when enemies attain ranged attacks that they will attack the heroes at a reasonable rate. Certain midbosses will even try to run away from battle only to get stuck running into a wall while the heroes slay it. Rather than simply improving the AI, it seems to have been decided that more enemies should be added instead. While this isn't a real problem early in the game with groups of five or ten enemies, it becomes a very serious problem in later stages when enemies take up nearly every square inch of the screen and over a thousand total appear per stage. To make matters worse, the two heroes are often smothered in enemies to such an extent that they cannot even be seen. Additionally, the game often lags with hundreds of enemies on screen. While this lag is nonexistent early in the game and mild in the middle, heavy lag is present near the end.

Another hero washed up on the shore?  This kind of thing happens in a lot of games these days.  He has amnesia too.  Didn't see that one coming. Another hero washed up on the shore? This kind of thing happens in a lot of games these days. He has amnesia too. Didn't see that one coming.

   The enemy AI may be bad, but the same can be also said for the AI-controlled ally. Despite the fact that the player has a small amount of control over them, the various allies will still get into trouble at an alarming rate. These problems include randomly standing still while Xion fights the enemy alone, rushing in and attacking enemies despite the fact that they are critically injured and are inflicting little damage, walking through traps such as poison gas and torches without care, returning to their original spot immediately after the player repositioned them, and, in the case of those with healing abilities, often failing to heal herself or Xion when needed. As a result, they are essentially dead weight most of the time and must be constantly monitored to make sure they don't kill themselves.

   The AI is horrible, but the actual battle system itself isn't particularly good either. Though there are a few skills available to Xion, battles are still generally hack and slash. This becomes very boring in later levels as the two heroes mindlessly slay hundreds of enemies in a row without rest. Naturally, there are a few items to mix things up a little bit, but all except four are for recovering HP, SP, and status effects. Luckily, players can use link skills occasionally to team up the two heroes and inflict heavy damage. The best part of battles, by far, is the ability to customize characters and their growth to the player's liking. This actually does require some thought and strategy as equipment has very specific requirements. It is certainly a nice break from the mindless carnage.

   Despite the horrible AI, some battles can actually be a bit of a challenge. After all, if the heroes are surrounded by one hundred enemies at once and the player cannot even see where they are on the screen, there's a good chance that the dual heroes are going to take some damage. Unfortunately, this is really the only way that the heroes have a good chance of dying aside from forgetting to buy healing items.

   The poor interface is another flaw Shining Tears has to offer players. In battle, though the controls for Xion himself are pretty good, keeping Xion's ally out of danger is very difficult. Humans quite simply do not have enough appendages to comfortably move Xion, have him attack or use items, and move Xion's ally at the same time, especially when hovering over the link skill button. Out of battle, another serious flaw becomes present; the button used to talk to people and confirm certain things one moment is also the cancel button the next. Different buttons must be used for carrying out conversations or confirming orders. This can be rather confusing at first. Luckily, the rest of the controls and menus are relatively well done. The localization has some minor problems, but it lacks serious flaws.

Fighting tons of enemies at once isn't uncommon.  This is actually a very small number compared to how much they fight later in the game when enemies literally cover almost every square inch of the screen. Fighting tons of enemies at once isn't uncommon. This is actually a very small number compared to how much they fight later in the game when enemies literally cover almost every square inch of the screen.

   As far as originality goes, Shining Tears borrows heavily from Shining Soul. Virtually every aspect of the battle system aside from the ridiculous number of enemies and the link skills comes right out of its predecessors. It would be one thing if it was a direct sequel, but it isn't a member of that miniseries and is trying to stand alone. The story is also a relatively stereotypical tactical RPG story, though it is in an action RPG. The washed up amnesiac hero and several aspects of the other characters have also been done countless times before. The story itself is still developed enough to be only below average though.

   While the entire story could probably be finished within about fifteen hours, there are a number of optional battles that can add to this. If the best clear ranks are attempted and all additional battles are completed, the game could easily take twenty-five hours. Those looking to get their money's worth could also play the game again on an increased difficulty that is unlocked upon completion.

   Though the music itself is average, there is so little variety that the tracks become very repetitive after a short time. There are special tracks that appear in the last few levels, but they too become a bit old by the time their respective levels complete. The sound effects themselves do their job, but they aren't impressive either.

   The visuals are of lower quality than the music is. Not only do most allies and enemies have few frames of animation, they also lack detail. To make matters worse, the game is full of recolored versions of almost everything. The only saving grace is the beautiful character artwork.

   With poor AI and a bad interface, Shining Tears is riddled with problems that are made worse by the shortcuts that were taken to supposedly cover them up. It is unoriginal and has a below average story. At least it doesn't try hiding behind exquisite graphics like many other bad games do. All things considered, Shining Tears has enough flaws to almost completely ruin a game that would have been otherwise unspectacular.

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