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Shining Tears (PlayStation 2) artwork

Shining Tears (PlayStation 2) review

"From the original Shining in the Darkness to the mystical yet inconclusive Shining Force III, I’ve always been a die-hard fan of one of Sega’s most prominent RPG series. And while I could mutter eloquent praise for their latest installment—Shining Tears—it would only be from a “fan boy” standpoint. That and I don’t want to be sued by countless people who read this review, spend the money to buy it and find out what a jumbled mess it really is. I didn’t absolutely hate the ga..."

From the original Shining in the Darkness to the mystical yet inconclusive Shining Force III, I’ve always been a die-hard fan of one of Sega’s most prominent RPG series. And while I could mutter eloquent praise for their latest installment—Shining Tears—it would only be from a “fan boy” standpoint. That and I don’t want to be sued by countless people who read this review, spend the money to buy it and find out what a jumbled mess it really is. I didn’t absolutely hate the game nor do I regret spending the money to buy it, but if I were to sit down and think about it, there are plenty of other titles I would rather have.

Don’t get me wrong. Shining Tears isn’t absolutely horrid, leaving me to push through it just to warn others, but mistakes were made while trying to tread new ground with a stone set series. While Shining Tears has its share of things that suck, there were many things that made this game playable as well. So I’m just going to simplify it and leave the choice up to you.

In Sega’s world, the loss of memory is about as common as the flu—especially to heroes. The story starts out with--prepare to be twisted beyond belief--a strange man (Xion) with an even stranger power washed up on shore of a troubled town called Shildia. With no recollection of who he is or where he came from…. Wait, I feel like I’ve done this before. Probably because the whole introduction is cliché and even Corky from “Life goes on” could predict what happens next in the story. This gimmick may have worked in the first Shining Force but by now it’s dull and outdated. The twin dragon rings are a new aspect, but in all fairness nearly every role playing game I can think of gives you a boost of power allowing you to take on fierce hordes. So with a lacking story the battles must exist on a stellar plane to drown out the redundancy. Sorry to say, Sega screwed this up as well.

The battles have no complexity, they require no skill. You may not even need a complete controller. One single button is all you really need in battle. For the most part, I felt like I could tape the analog stick forward, grab one of those glass, bobbing woodpeckers and line him up with the circle button to leave myself free to do something more constructive. The enemies swarm you; you tap the circle button, slash them dead and move on. You are going to wear that little button out though, because there are a lot of enemies.

So the game should be intense right? A heated battle with countless villains worked for War Craft. No good news yet, sorry. The best way to put it is: It’s like running a hundred-yard hurdle when you don’t know how to jump. Just when you hit your stride, your adrenaline starts flowing and you’re ready to storm through to do more damage you’re smacked right in the face with a “Now Loading” screen as you push onto another area. They don’t last obnoxiously long, but that doesn’t stop them from strapping on a weight to otherwise extreme battle scenes.

It would be nice if you could escape these devious little screens when you’re not fighting, but just like a lonely roomate when you've got a girl over, they never go away. Anytime you leave town, the store or the bar the little bastard pops right back up. Again, dragging the game down and making it seem choppy.

But with all its downsides, Shining Tears still manages to do some things right. They aren’t going to change the redundant game play or the lagging fun factor, but for some it may make this game playable.

Simply put, this game is gorgeous. I will be the first to admit Sprites have an anime aspect to them that I don’t usually look for in a game. Shining Tears is making me debate my disposition on the style though. The colors are explosive, the backgrounds are lush and each character whether in battle or in the dialogue scenes stand out with a unique, anime quality to them. With elves, giants, dwarves and birdmen your eyes won’t grow tired from looking at the same characters with different colors. Even the enemies deserve a nod, both for their abundance and their misted dissipation upon death. Everything is pulled of in a seamless display of programming majesty.

This game remained a visual splendor through its entirety but if that were the only good side you could rent it, turn it on to look at the graphics and never touch it again. The co-op is a new but fabulous addition that will make you push through the opening sequence. For the first few battles at least, your partner is dependant on an AI—which can tend to be a little gung ho. As the game progresses you soon gain the option to have a friend play alongside you. It’s a decent aspect and in my opinion is what made “X-men: Legends” such a blast. It’s no different here, so keep your mind open to the possibility of strategy.

If you think it’s as simple as “I’ll go over there and kill those guys, you go over there and kill them” you’re wrong. It’s best to stick together, because if you get too overwhelmed you have the option of using “link attacks”. Both players use one massive attack depending on who’s who. Sometimes it’s straight lines so that one of your characters can fire a multitude of arrows in the direction you tell them, other times it’s a circle that grows larger as you pull away from your partner and anyone trapped inside suffers one of several numerous attacks. Each character—aside from Xion—has three in their roster and one summon. Seeing what each character has to offer is one thing that’s going have you mixing it up long after you get bored with the battles.

You’re going to have to build these link attacks up though, just like every other stat. And no, this is nowhere near a complaint. Call me simple, but I rather enjoy gaining levels by pushing through boring battles just so I can add a little more power to an already existing skill or purchase a brand new one. Each character has four single skills, four link attacks and four auto skills like higher defense, sp recovery and so forth. Having complete control over each characters progress is also thoroughly addictive. With every level gained, you get three stat points that can be added to your strength, intelligence, agility or hit points. You also get one Skill point, leaving it completely up to you how your character develops and excels.

The sound is only so-so. It’s not horrible, as each character has their own little one-liners when they use a special attack and they let you know when they charge into battle with a quick war cry. It’s only the score that suffers. It’s a bit generic and you find yourself saying “I know it had music, I just don’t remember it.” Don’t worry I said the same thing writing this.

The replay value is decent. After beating the game you can start a typical new game plus, allowing you to go back and gather anything you may have missed while still keeping certain important items such as the enemy cards. The fun factor remains more on the negative side just like any other Shining game due to the overabundance of battles, especially repeating the same ones over to level-up all of your characters.

I’m teetering on a very thin line with Shining Tears. It has aspects that keep me up at night and other days its downsides burn me out so quick I can’t even drag myself through one battle. Shining Tears is nowhere near the epic I had hoped for in Sony’s first take on the series but it is far from a dud either. For anyone other than loyal “Shining” fans I would suggest just renting it at first because there is one thing Shining Tears got exactly right: The title. Part of the game simply gleams and part of it just makes me want to weep.

True's avatar
Community review by True (July 04, 2005)

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