Playing Shining Tears is a lot like eating at your local Chinese buffet right before it closes-- the spare ribs are lukewarm, the fried rice is a bit hard, and the sesame chicken glaze is way more gelatinous than it should be. Yet in spite of this, that doesn't stop you from filling up your plate, digging in, and going back for seconds.
The Shining series' entrance on the PS2 is a strange one indeed. Forgoing the very elements that made it so genre-defining, SEGA created Shining Tears as an action RPG, which left many of us wondering if they skipped the testing phase altogether. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, more on those issues later.
First, allow me to go on record as being a total sucker for the whole hero saving the world shtick. Sure, I'll admit it. Heck, it's the reason I play RPGs so much. Ultimately, the trick is to make the player really care about the characters and the world they exist in. Take Lunar for instance – a game that embellished the perfect example of a successful RPG formula and deservingly so, became an all-time classic.
Unfortunately, Shining Tears fails to take that big step towards perfection. This is what to expect in taking on Shining Tears: a simple story that with a little work could have been really interesting, characters that are great looking but underdeveloped, a simple yet addictive combat system, great artwork, a rather quick playtime, all culminating in a nice, "in between" RPG.
The game's protagonist, Xion, washes up on a foreign shore, with no memory and is basically surrounded by gorgeous ladies the rest of the game. If only I could be so lucky. Imagine washing up on the shore and getting nursed back to health by a gorgeous elf-chick, but I digress. There are some dudes in here as well, and they all help you in your quest to stop the evildoers from completing their usual hijinks.
Each secondary character has strengths and weaknesses, so if you are fighting the undead, take along the priestess. Fighting fire-based characters? Take along Neige, an ice wizard. You get the idea. But heck, you really don't need to adhere to this idea. Just pick a secondary character you like and hack away because this is at the core a fairly simple (yet addictive) button masher with enemies sitting idly in squads waiting for you to smack them around. How nice of them!
If you grow tired of mashing, players can simply execute a link skill and lay waste to hordes of baddies in one shot. Both individual skills and link skills become unlockable by using points earned from leveling up your characters, (a system that's fashioned very similar to the one featured in Wild Arms 2). For each level gained, your character earns 3 stat points and 1 skill point, respectively. In turn, the stat points can be assigned to things such as attack, agility, and intelligence. And each character has his/her own set of upgradeable skills.