The “Shining” series was a long
running RPG/Strategy game that made its debut on the Sega Genesis. Shining in
the Darkness was the first game released and it was an atypical first-person
perspective RPG/Dungeon crawler. The second game in the series, Shining Force,
was a different type of game from Shining in the Darkness. Shining Force was a
strategy game with some RPG elements included. For the old school gamers out
there, this is where the Shining series really “shined,” if you’ll excuse the
bad pun. The turn-based strategy gameplay was highly addictive and the games
even included excellent story lines to keep you further glued to your
controller. Sega kept the flame burning for the Shining series for several years
until Shining Force III was released for the Sega Saturn.
Over the past couple of years the
Shining series has re-emerged from its self-imposed darkness. A couple of new
games were released for the Game Boy Advance, along with a remake of the first
Shining Force. Then finally a new Shining game for the PS2 was announced,
Shining Tears. But something has happened over the years to the Shining series.
The classic strategy gameplay is missing from the batch of new Shining games.
Shining Tears continues this omission with a game that focuses on simple action
with just a small dash of strategy mixed in. I’m sure everyone is familiar with
the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well Sega didn’t follow this
rule with Shining Tears on the PS2.
The story of Shining Tears revolves
around a boy called Xion and the city of Shildia. Xion wakes up in Shildia with
no memory as to how he got there, but has in his possession two powerful rings
called the Twin Dragon Rings. The Dragon Rings used to belong to twin Dragon
Knights that used the rings to amplify their inner strengths. By using the rings
the Knights defeated an endless number of enemies. Eventually the power of the
rings corrupted one of the Knights and he destroyed the other Knight to claim
his ring. But the power of the rings was too much for one Knight and he soon
vanished, turning into a pile of sand. The rings were passed through generations
and were part of countless legends of the land. During the game you will
discover whom Xion is, what’s happening to the city of Shildia and the secrets
of the Twin Dragon Rings.
The storyline definitely won’t win
drama of the year or even game of the year. The storyline was very predictable
and repetitive. You’ll probably know what’s going to happen next during most of
the game. But since the game revolves around the battles you always feel as if
the storyline is just killing time until the next battle. I never had a
connection with the characters or the storyline. There was a large assortment of
characters in the game and most of them had their own unique storyline and
comments. But with a dull storyline the characters will never have a chance to
grow and connect with gamers.
The gameplay is best described as an
action RPG. All of the combat is done in real time, with just a small assortment
of attacks. Actually you only have one basic attack that you can use and it’s
done by simply pressing the Circle button. There isn’t a ton of strategy you can
use while performing your basic attack. In fact, I seemed to have just as much
luck mashing away at the Circle button as I did trying to move into a position
to strike an enemy. So for fans of the turn-based strategy gameplay from the
earlier games, be warned that Shining Tears doesn’t come close to the same
However, there is an ability to use
some strategy during the game because you have minor control over another
character during combat. During a battle, which is where at least 75% of the
game is played out, your character is teamed up with another character. The
right analog stick can control the other character’s movements, but you can’t
control the character’s basic attack. The game includes some special attacks,
called Special Skills that can be performed by either Xion or the second
character during battle. The Special Skill move of the second character does
interact with Xion if Xion is in the right location (depending on the special
attack). By teaming up to perform the Special Skill a more powerful attack is
unleashed on the enemy. However the Special Skill of the second character seemed
to be a waste of time during the battles. Since the action is happening in real
time, it seemed impossible to line up both characters in the right spot at the
right time to execute the special skill attack.
During the battles you still have
the ability to use different items to help Xion and his partner. These items can
be selected and used in real time during a battle. This was a nice feature
instead of having to go back into the menu options to select. The Special Skill
moves of both characters can also be assigned in real time during a battle as
well. All of these changes are made using the directional pad, but I found on
several occasions that I selected items I didn’t have in stock when I was trying
to change a special skill move. It became frustrating having to go back into the
menu screen to use an item when I should have been able to use it during a
Even though the combat wasn’t
perfect there were still some good points about the battle scenes. None of the
battles seemed to last too long with the average battle only lasting just a few
minutes. The game was very generous when it came to experience points.
Characters are still earning experience points even if they didn’t take part in
a battle. Another interesting part of the combat was the use of the Dragon
Rings. The personalities of Xion will change depending on whom he is partnered
with during a battle. During some battles Xion will turn into an aggressive
fighter that is out for blood. While during other battles he will turn into a
calm and cool soldier that is determined to win on the battlefield. The game
allows you to see which side Xion will take before you select a partner for a
battle. But during the early part of the game your partner is automatically
assigned for you.
As I mentioned earlier the majority
of the game is spent in battle. The rest of the time is spent talking to the
different characters in the city of Shildia. There isn’t much exploring to do
besides visiting the different parts of Shildia. Each location within Shildia
will have just a few shops that you can use and maybe one or two characters that
will divulge some useful information. The game is typically played out as
follows: storyline, walk around the city to trigger the next part of the story
line, battle. If you ever feel stuck in the game (because you can’t move on to
the next battle) try visiting another area of Shildia. This will usually trigger
the next sequence in the game. After a few battles this pattern get repetitive.
Since the gameplay during the battles isn’t what I could call revolutionary the
game might start to wear on your nerves after just a few battles. A fantastic,
intelligent and funny story could have helped tremendously.
Sure this might not be the greatest
game in the world, but there are a couple of bright spots in the game. The
graphics for the backgrounds of the city and battle locations look great. The
characters have the old 16-Bit look to them (small body, big head), are in full
polygon, but lack the polish and detail of the background graphics. This isn’t
the game to show off the powers of the PS2, but it has a great anime look. The
other nice feature included in the game is the ability to upgrade your weapons.
A blacksmith can upgrade any weapon in the game as long as you have three
materials to combine with your weapon or armor. It’s quite possible to only use
the upgraded weapons in the game and never purchase a weapon or armor from the
Shining Tears really isn’t the game
that I expected or wanted in a new Shining game. I’ll be honest that I would
have loved to see a throwback to the old strategy Shining games of yesteryear.
But I could have tolerated the game more if the storyline was up to today’s
standard. Heck, even the text on the screen was almost too small to read when a
character was talking. The repetitive gameplay and storyline will probably be
enough to keep gamers waiting for another Shining game to be released. However,
for gamers looking for that next anime or import-style RPG, then look no further
than Shining Tears. It’s a throwback to games of long ago, but sometimes not
even honoring one’s own history is a misfortune that is often only admitted in
The action-oriented combat is an almost mindless excuse for gameplay. Button
mashers will probably have a field day with the way the combat plays out. The
addition of the 2nd player to your party is an interesting idea, but
being limited to how the character can be controlled doesn’t help. The rest of
the follows a repetitive format: talk, walk around, talk, and fight.
Old-school looks with a slight coating of polish for a modern-day viewing. The
backgrounds are really the best part of the graphics with some nice details. The
16-Bit style characters have an average look to them but will appeal to the
anime fans out there. The game includes some 2D artwork for each character
during the dialog scenes and the menu options.
The music in the game is orchestrated tunes that never seem to set the tone of
the game. The music does get repetitive with the same tracks being repeated
consistently. There is limited voice acting in the game with just a few words
being uttered by store owners. Why do the store owners get to speak but the
characters never say anything? The sound effects are acceptable but nothing that
you probably couldn’t hear on a Game Boy Advance game.
Button mashing is not what makes a game difficult. You might die a few times but
remember to keep hacking away. Sooner or later you’ll get through the battle.
But if you do use the different Special Skills of the characters correctly the
game doesn’t present a tremendous challenge.
The idea of controlling another character during a real-time battle with the
right analog stick is interesting. If only the game allowed more control over
the character. But luckily another player can use a second controller to control
the character during the battles. The action-oriented combat however really
doesn’t stand out in the crowded RPG market for PS2.
The game does allow for up to two players to play at the same time. A second
player will control the other character during battle by using another
controller. An online option is not available in the game.
Shining Tears doesn’t “shine” above the rest of the RPGs available for PS2. The
repetitive gameplay is the real downer for the game. Having to repeat the same
steps over and over again gets old quickly. The battle mode does offer a nice
addition with the second player option but doesn’t offer anything unique enough
to keep everyone entertained. However, there are still fans out there that will
flock to this game. If you want a (somewhat) mindless action RPG then Shining
Tears might be the game for you. I loved the old games and I really wanted to
enjoy this one as much as I did the older games. There are some good parts but
not enough to make this a must-have title for everyone.