Adieu, Game Boy Advance: SHINING SOUL

Shining Soul
Developer: Sega
Publisher Sega/Atari/Atlus (Depends on if you are in Japan/Europe/US)
Release Date: 2/14/03 (Europe), 3/28/2003 (England), 9/16/2003 (North America)

Shining Soul was the last game we ever did under the crappy four point rating scheme. Later that month we started up my ten point system that has won us critical acclaim ever since. It’s funny because that last review was also a massive FAQ on how to cheese out your characters best in that game for maximum damage potential. In fact I just threw in the scores at the end to make it an official review.

It’s also funny because Shining Soul represents so many ends and beginnings for me, it’s practically spooky. That’s why it’s on this list. It got a 6.5 from me. Good score, but the lowest by far out of all ten of these games. But sometimes, ratings aren’t what matters most.

Like I said, SS is special to me in a very weird way. Those of you who have been reading me since I broke into video game journalism might recall that I started out while I was living in Europe back in Dec 2002. Well, shortly after I started life got really insane for me. My work permit would be pulled on April 1st (ha ha ha, right?) and at the same time, the UK Home Office lost my passport so I couldn’t leave the country, but I wasn’t allowed to stay either. How’s that for stress and insanity? At the same time, my grandfather was dying and nothing I could do or say would even begin to make the British Home office f*ckers find my passport. Indeed, they refused to officially designate my passport as lost by them so I couldn’t get an emergency one to say good bye to an old man who wanted to see me before he passed. All they would say is “In transit.” By the time the US Embassy realized the Home Office employees were f*cking inept assholes and gave me an emergency passport, it was too late and I had to say good bye over the phone. I still bloody hate the UK bureaucracy to this day for doing something so f*cked up to me. Anyway, Shining Soul was there for me what was probably my darkest hour. No job. No home. No way of getting back to America. Technically illegally in the country I was. It was a hell most people can’t imagine. Oh, also this was during oh crazy ass Gulf War 2, and so American resentment was at an all time high, even in the UK, our would-be best friend. The US Embassy was telling US ex-pat’s at the time to lie and say they were Canadian. IN ENGLAND.

Thank god that hell lasted for only a month and a half. Then I came home and went from the depth of shit back up to the main event in only a weeks time. A week of hard work the likes of which anyone who was around me at the time didn’t think was humanly possible, but trust me, anything is if you have the will for it.

Shining Soul was there to comfort me in those awful times. It was moments of thankful escapism at the climax of what had been the worst year of my life. I could turn it on, and even though my console were in storage back in America, relive my battles against Dark Sol and Dark Dragon in a real time action RPG format. It wasn’t the same, but it was the closets I would get. Funny how true that would be. For you see, This also marked the end of the consistent stream of amazing high quality games under the “Shining” banner, and instead began the string of awful games that killed the series because Sammy-Sega was too f*cking stupid to put out a tactical RPG, what the series was best known and loved for.

It also marked the end of the pre-Kliq era of 411mania games. At the same time all this shit was happening to me, Bebito Jackson was having some real life problems as well. Both of us left the site for a few months and the writing and amount of it both got so bad Ashish and Widro were a hair away from killing the section. Bebito and I decided to come back, clean house and remake 411games with the friends and co-workers we knew were the elite. We formed the Kliq: a group of gamers that cared about quality and honesty instead of fanboyism and swag. Integrity and backing each other up was the foundation and all of the original Kliq members are still very tight, even if I’m the last one still writing in the industry. Again, Shining Soul was there to be the marker betwixt eras.

Of course, there’s also the review format change. This was the last game we did with the crappy old school scheme as I mentioned before. This was fitting. We were the first US site to review Shining Soul as well, mainly because it wasn’t released in the US until six months after it hit England’s stores; seven months after Europe got it. If you read the review you can see my bitching about how corrupt the industry was even back then and how most reviewers were willing to sell out their actual scores for something inflated as easily as crossing their palm with a stuffed animal or free copy of a game. It was the end of us sitting back and letting the other, larger sites get away with their bullshit and treating their readers and fans like retards. It was time to start shouting about the behind the scenes bullshit and remind gamers we as journalists are supposed to SERVE them and not the industry that owned most of us mind, body and soul.

THIS is why Shining Soul is on here. Yes, it’s a good game. An enjoyable mindless beat ’em up RPG that tries to hold to the last vestiges of the Shining Legacy before Sega shits on them for finality’s sake. It’s eerily been there at several major turning points in my professional and personal life. And that’s what this list has been about. The ten most memorable games I have played on the GBA in the past five years. You want me to give full blown commentary on the game? Go read the old review. I can’t think of a better way to end this set of commentaries than with the one GBA game that I have the most memory and emotion wrapped up in; even if it’s not the best.

Adieu, Game Boy Advance. The memories you have given me and countless others will no doubt last a lifetime. Hopefully by reading this, the ten games that graced your inner workings will know be able to touch others in the way they touched me.