With the recent release of AAA action RPGs like Mass Effect Andromeda and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s easy to overlook a newcomer like Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom. However, players will quickly realize that this relatively unheard of game combines elements from a variety of genres to create a unique experience that is just as magical as any AAA title. At first, I had my doubts about the unusual concept of cute, furry characters fighting with both magic and kung-fu, but it didn’t take long for this complex and fun adventure to win me over.
Chado and Poky are two cuddly animal humanoids who undertake exciting adventures throughout the Celestial Islands in their glorious airship. When it crashes in hostile territory, they’re forced to search for each other while fighting off the angry natives. After they’re reunited, the shaggy duo must explore the area looking for a way to repair their ship. Eventually they meet up with three other odd characters and set out on a dangerous adventure to reunite the warring kingdoms and bring peace to the lands.
Oozing With Style
After firing up Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom, it becomes immediately apparent that the Legend of Zelda series was used as inspiration. Forest areas have an almost mystical vibe accented by bright colors, plenty of flora, stone bridges, and small buildings. Conversely, large cities combine a medieval look with Steampunk elements that include splendorous airships, overly-complicated gadgets, and alternative energy sources. This makes exploring more enjoyable because players won’t be trudging through similar environments over and over. Besides…Steampunk!
Fortunately, the cool style doesn’t stop there, as comic book cutscenes are the most dominant method of pushing the story forward. I also really like the humorous combination of harmless-looking animal characters laying the smackdown on tough enemies during combat. Don’t be surprised to see authentic kung-fu moves mixed with funny maneuvers like a butt smack in the same combo. Add in a wide variety of powerful magic with impressive visual effects, and the result is a game that’s almost as fun to watch as it is to play.
Speaking of combat, players are forced to fight when they get close to, or are seen by, enemies. It’s also possible to sneak up on enemies and get bonus power for a sneak attack. When combat begins, players fight one enemy at a time regardless of how many are in a group. After one enemy is defeated, the next one immediately enters the combat area and the fighting resumes. Similarly, players only have one character in combat at a time, but they can quickly switch between characters when needed.
Switching characters comes in extremely handy for many reasons, not the least of which is changing to one with more health. It also comes in handy when using magic because most enemies are strong against some types but vulnerable to others. For example, it doesn’t makes sense to attack an enemy with fire if they’re practically invulnerable to it, so it’s best to switch to a character who specializes in water magic. Luckily, the devs have included a target enemy button that reveals their vulnerabilities, which is a lot easier than finding out in the heat of battle!
Mashing buttons may result in victories at the start of the adventure, but combat becomes very complex in a short amount of time. Some enemies prefer melee specialties like stuns and poisons while others will hurl fireballs, continuous lighting attacks, and even a giant open book that causes damage by closing on the player. I love how this forces me to adapt my play style to suit the situation so I don’t become lazy and repeat the same attacks over and over. Also, it’s really fun to experiment with the plethora of melee and magic abilities as it seems like there are nearly endless combinations.
A Grand Adventure
Exploring the floating islands of Mahera is anything but boring thanks to numerous main and side quests that task players with everything from fetching items to using disguises to fixing broken mechanisms. In addition, there are many secret areas hidden behind giant vines, crashing waterfalls, and breakable walls. Lastly, platforming fans will appreciate the jumping “puzzles” that offer to take players to new areas if they avoid crashing to their doom.
However, the real puzzles require players to use each character’s special ability. For example, Kayenne can move certain objects using telekinesis, and Poky can link electrical streams to energize mechanisms. Sometimes only one character’s ability is needed while other times the player must switch between different character’s and use each one’s ability in the correct order. One example of this is using Kayenne to move an object out of the way and then use Poky to link a power source to the switch that opens a wooden gate.
Bugs Bite Hard
Just like any true outdoor adventure, this one has its share of annoying bugs. I find it surprising that the “invert Y aim” option resets itself every time I quit the game, which forces me to change it back every time I resume playing. It’s a minor issue, just like the time I fell through the wooden elevator platform and the health of every character in my party dropped to 1. However, my least favorite bug is the combat camera that frequently displays awkward angles in the middle of intense battles. Sometimes my character is blocked by scenery, and sometimes I can’t see the enemy that’s attacking me. However, the worst part is when I’m being melee attacked but I can’t see the enemy or myself because we’re both blocked by a tree or a building. Sadly, players can’t change the camera angle during combat so we’re left with either struggling to adapt or dying a miserable, frustrating death.
I can certainly do without these bugs, but they’re not enough of a deterrent to keep me from finishing this fun-filled action adventure. I’m just glad that I discovered the game at all because Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom has managed to fly its virtual airship under the radar until now.
Review code for Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information, please read our Review Policy here.