Preview: Shining Tears (PS2)

Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Amusement Vision / Genre: RPG / Release Date: March 2005

“Emotional” music, check.
Cute catgirl, check.
Mysterious white haired chick, check.
Teenage everyman hero, check.
Shoot, did anyone remember the destroyed hometown? Yes? Good, check.
Oh Shining Force, we missed you so!

Shining Tears is a side story to the Shining Force saga that pulls away not only in plot but in play as well. With real-time action and eight different endings, Shining Tears offers up an RPG with many possibilities. The main character has both a light and dark side that can be explored by the player depending on which other characters they decide to pair up with. Veering to the light or dark will offer different twists in the story as well as different abilities. The story sheers away from the typical linearity of Shining Force games to offer different missions based on player decisions and unlockable characters.

Xion, our teenage everyman hero, is not what he seems. An amnesiac (what?? In an RPG?? Shock!) wakes up in the care of a fine foxy blonde Elf (an archer nonetheless) named Elwing. They live a comfortable life with each other until… wait for it… An evil Dark Army attacks!! (eek!). The pair starts off conducting raids on the enemy, which leads to the discovery of Xion’s talents, and more partners for the cause. Partners come from both the light and dark, including elves, werewolves, centaurs, and powerful humans. The bond Xion creates with each of these characters determines the scenarios faced and various parts of the story.

Gameplay will appeal to me, a crotchety old school player. But also has some fun quirks. Two players can play Xion and a partner, teaming up for special group attacks. AI controls the partner in single player mode, though there are still options when a special attack or action is desired. Partners slay monsters in a traditional level-up system, moving forward opening up new missions, items, and skills. Back to the crotchety old-schoolness, Shining Tears takes players to the 2D environments of yore. Far from fond 16 bit memories, however, Shining Tears sparkles in the graphics department. Environments are beautiful in depth and aesthetics, and characters all have detailed anime-style headshots in the game for speech interactions and status information on the screen. Battles depend on the character, but lean toward the hack, slash, and spell method of destruction. Shining Tears bring back the rings that have been prominent throughout the Shining Force series. Xion constantly has one ring embedded in his left hand, but can grant the right to another, making them his partner and giving them super strength and extra powers. The powers vary from character to character, giving the player room to experiment and making each partner useful in different situations.

Stunning artwork remains a staple of the Shining series.

Shining Tears is being developed by Sega’s Amusement Vision, and the style is looking quite similar to the recent Shining Soul games for the gba which also have a partner system of fighting (although controlled by computer as the single player option in Shining Tears) in an action-RPG. The release date is November 2004 for Japan, but us suckers over here need wait till Spring of 2005 (Why yes, after fifteen years of gaming I am still bitter about late North American release dates).

Shining Tears brings back Sega’s special brand of RPG that had all us Nintendo fanpeople jonesing for the opposition way back when. Luckily now it’s not such a sin to own multiple consoles and you can enjoy this lovely game with little on your conscience.

[Don’t miss SEGA’s Shining Tears Preview Video from E3 2004!]