Sega's Shining series is a diverse RPG franchise that includes tactical RPGs such as the Shining Force games, dungeon crawlers like Shining in the Darkness, and so forth. In recent years, the series has focused far more on action RPGs than other subgenres, among them being Shining Soul, which is a subpar offering.
Being an action RPG, Shining Soul naturally features a real-time battle system, with the player, upon starting a new game, choosing one of various classes, including warrior, wizard, archer, and dragonite. Combat takes place across eight different dungeons with a certain number of floors that a boss fight follows. In order to access subsequent floors, the player must kill certain enemies on the preceding floor to unlock a passage to the next floor. Combat itself is simplistic, especially when playing as the warrior, with the player scrolling between weapons with the L button and items with the R button, the A button triggering a swing of the current weapon and B using the current item.
Killing enemies nets the player's character experience, with enemies occasionally dropping money or items, with a limited inventory meaning that the player must drop an item in order to pick up another. Level-ups also occur occasionally, in which case the player can invest four points into their character's stats and one skill point in various skills that determine things such as defense and the ability to charge a weapon of a certain type a certain number of levels and release it for bigger damage against enemies. Charge attacks are pretty much a necessity for beating enemies, especially in the latter half of the game, with weapon misses being frequent and normal slashes ultimately being useless. The developers also made the grave error of not letting the player pause the game at all, with the action of battle still happening while navigating the game menus. Ultimately, combat proves to be a chore.
Control is superficially decent, with easy menus and shopping for new items, although the limited inventory space can get annoying, and while the player can save anywhere, doing so quits the game, and even forces the player to restart dungeons from the very beginning, a major annoyance. Overall, the game doesn't interface as well with players as it could have.
Story is the low point of the game, with Shining Soul having a simplistic plot of defeating the Dark Dragon's generals and fighting the Dark Dragon itself, a rehash of Shining Force. The translation is largely spotless, though isn't a major reason to play the game.
The music is okay, though marred somewhat by the Gameboy Advance's weak audio quality, and can consequentially become grating. The graphics are okay as well, with big character and monster sprites, some occasional anime portraits, but is rife with palette-swapped enemies.
Overall, Shining Soul wasn't a very good beginning to the Shining subseries, what with its sluggish, repetitive combat, minimal plot, and average presentation values. Fortunately, the Shining series has much better installments, which players would be better off trying instead, if they can get their hands on them.
This review is based on a playthrough as the Warrior.
+Different classes to choose from.
+Graphics and music are okay.
-Sluggish, repetitive combat.
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Game Mechanics: 3/10
Lasting Appeal: 2/10
Playing Time: No Game Clock