Shining Tears Impressions - Exclusive First Look

We take an exclusive first look at Sega's newest entry in the Shining series for the PlayStation 2.

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TOKYO--Shining Tears is one part of Sega's upcoming revival of its classic Shining role-playing game series that was one of the Japanese developer's crown jewels back in the 16-bit day. The series has seen installments across almost all of Sega's hardware but went quiet during the Dreamcast's all-too-brief life. Thankfully, Sega has recently announced a wave of games that are essentially different aspects of the franchise's revival. We had the chance to get an exclusive first look at Shining Tears, one of the two PlayStation 2 Shining games, at Sega's Haneda office. The game offers up an original adventure that blends familiar gameplay elements with all new ones. The work-in-progress version we checked out offered a Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords-style experience that sends you on a quest to defend the fortress city you call home through a series of objective-based battles.

Your enemies will stop at nothing to steal your magic ring.
Your enemies will stop at nothing to steal your magic ring.

The game revolves around a young man who has, in the time-honored RPG tradition, lost his memory and gotten caught up in a war he doesn't quite understand. The city he lives in is under siege, and the reason, he is told, involves two magical rings of power. Want to guess which amnesiac local has one? You guessed it. This sends our muddle-headed hero off on a journey of discovery, which will come to include friends who join him, as he unravels the mystery of the ring and the loss of his memory. Since dangerous journeys usually mean progressively bigger trouble, you'll be able to fortify yourself with increasingly powerful weaponry, spells, and a rotating cast of allies.

While this all sounds like a fine setup for the type of turn-based strategy that the Shining series has been known for, Shining Tears focuses instead on real-time action. However, you'll still be doing plenty of hacking and slashing. You'll have to interact with other characters, some of whom will even join you. The game has a mission-based structure and will send you on journeys outside your fortress as you try to explore the world and make sense of it all. You'll visit towns where you can talk to the locals or make new friends. Once you have a full-on entourage, you can choose to hang out with them and do your own thing. Fortunately, your crew is more than just a collection of well wishers, since you can tap them to lend their skills in combat, though you'll only be able to have two active characters--your primary hero and a companion. Your companions all have unique talents that can come to affect your performance. Besides offering modest upgrades to your speed and other attributes, depending on who you use, your buddies will also let you alternate between light and dark alignment, which radically affects your performance in battle. Your dynamic duo will always consist of one dark-aligned character and one light-aligned character. So, your own personal alignment will change depending on that of your partner (to keep the balance). Therefore, if you choose a dark alignment partner then your alignment will switch to light and vice versa. The resulting difference between both styles is what you'd expect. Light alignment will emphasize more ranged magic attacks and support style of play, while dark alignment will focus on aggressive melee combat that gets you in much closer to your enemies.

The pairing of you and a computer-controlled partner will play out in one of two ways depending on whether or not you choose to play the game in two-player co-op mode with a friend or with a computer-controlled character. When playing with a friend, you'll be able to coordinate with your buddy to take on enemies in a pretty typical co-op style of play in which you work closely with your partner to defeat an impressively large horde of foes. When playing with a computer-controlled character, you can have your buddy support you in a number of ways, and you can take direct control of him with the right analog stick and actively direct his movements and attacks. The most useful aspect of this control is the ability to have your partner dash at your foes. This is because each of your companions has a unique secondary effect as they dash. For example, a female magician character left behind particles of ice that caused extra damage to the enemies she hit while dashing. You'll also be able to use your partner for special team attacks that cause damage in a variety of different ways but are excellent at doling out serious punishment to large groups.

The game will have real-time battles that you fight with a teammate.
The game will have real-time battles that you fight with a teammate.

The graphics in the game are looking good and feature a specific art style that helps give the various characters a distinct personality. The art is done in an ornate cartoon style that's almost "superdeformed" but not quite. The end result is a look that stops short of cliché. The environments are richly detailed with 2D art. Also, much in the same vein as the GameCube's The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords, you'll see a variety of supercharged special effects. The PlayStation 2's added muscle allows for hordes of up to fifty enemies to be displayed, which helps add to the game's epic atmosphere.

Shining Tears is an interesting new entry in the Shining series that looks to be adding a new perspective to the familiar formula. The game looks interesting and it features a good amount of depth beyond its combat system, such as the typical RPG trappings of items, equipment, and leveling up, which should make for a compelling experience. Shining Tears is currently scheduled to ship late this year in Japan with a US date to follow sometime next year. For now, watch an exclusive developer interview and see the new trailer. For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of the Tokyo Game Show 2004.

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