Friday, January 25, 2013

Game Review: Shining Tears

In a post not too long ago, I discussed the game Final Fantasy Adventure and what I enjoyed about it.  One aspect was the fact that, unlike many modern "traditional" RPG games, you aren't paired up with a squad or team of characters to take into battle.  Instead, there is simply the "main" character, and whichever other one (1) character you take with you.  This allowed for continuously changing strategies, as your plan when you were paired with a healer was much different than when you were paired with a character who did best with ranged attacks, or someone who flew into combat with daggers.  Sometimes you had to be the artillery, sometimes you had to be the medic, but the game play never got stagnant.

I also lamented that these styles of games have faded out of favor.  However, I forgot a series (specifically, one game) that I love and still play now and again.  I haven't much else in the series (though I want to), so I don't know if the tradition continued, but for now I'll just discuss the one I have.

So without further ado, it's time for Shining Tears.

I'm going to start out with the coolest part of this game for me, in that, except for the character-specific side stories, you run a two person team.  The game has a Plot Device known as the "Twin Dragon Rings" that grant great power to the wearers.  The main character, Xion, has both of them but also starts out the game with amnesia because it's a Japanese game and main characters always have memory loss of some kind.

However, a neat feature is that Xion's personality changes depending on which other character he gives a ring to (which you do to boost them in combat).  When Xion has both rings, he's a kind, if unsure character.  If your teammate is a kind, caring character, Xion's personality becomes more brash and antagonistic, but if your teammate is darker or rougher, Xion becomes gentler.  It's a bit like a permanent "yin/yang" cycle that happens between the characters, and that's great.  It allows for a bit more customization, and if you prefer your character's mindset to be a certain way, it changes how you pick which teammate you take into battle with you.

Now, this game still has some of the standard Japanese flavors that come with most of their video games.  Very few characters look like they're older than 20.  There's big eyes and pointy hair all over the place, and the costumes look completely impractical for any real world use.  But since that's like complaining that "there's always water involved whenever I go to the beach" you tend to look past all of it.  It also has a cat girl, but again, that's like adding "plus, I hate sandals."

The game also has eight separate endings, based entirely upon which character you have the best "relationship" with.  This typically means you spent the most time with that character, not that you're trying to buy presents for giant dragon-men and writing his name in your high school notebooks with hearts around it. could do that, I guess, if you're into that, but just...keep it to yourself, okay?  It's not part of the core game.

Combat has an interesting linking system, where you can combo attacks between two characters.  Certain battles I was able to pick off individual villains by luring them into place to perform such attacks without fear of being destroyed by that enemy's allies immediately, other times I found it frustrating when I wanted to deliver a powerful attack to something and things just kept not working out right.  However, like many games I play, it never got to the point where I turned off the system in anger or gave up.

Shining Tears is a solid game, one that I think got passed over a lot by people when it first came out.  I've held onto my copy for years now, and any time I'm tired of open world or huge CG moments in modern games (which can and does happen), this tends to be one of the ones I toss it for a bit of positive nostalgia, not the "I remember this game being so much better than it is now" nostalgia.  If you find a copy, pick it up.  I say it's worth it.

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