[Review] Shining Blade

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JP title: シャイニング ブレイド

Debut trailer

Man, I really wanted to love this game. Trust me, I did. The fact that I didn’t drop it after the first 2-3 hours is solid evidence of that. In any case, I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a quick review of Shining Blade for the PSP and why I feel like it’s the textbook example of wasted potential.

The game initially caught my attention for a variety of reasons. One was its fantastic graphics (by PSP standards), vivid and colorful, accompanied by character designs of Tony Taka. I’m also a sucker for fantasy JRPGs, so that was yet another plus. Finally, its battle system was meant to mimic that of Valkyria Chronicles. Having played and enjoyed Valkyria Chronicles 3 a few months before I got to Shining Blade, I had high hopes for this. It was supposed to be a colorful -though probably clichéd- fantasy adventure with Valkyria’s tactical battles and a large cast of pretty girls to engage in dating sim hijinks with. A recipe for success, no doubt.

But things… didn’t quite go as I expected. The graphics were really pretty, the voice acting was all top-notch and while the story was basically one cliché after the other, I was prepared to let that slide. But then the battle system happened. For one thing, the fields themselves are pretty small, but that’s fine, we’re on a handheld system, after all. The thing that does matter, however, is the difficulty. I’ll just say it – the game is insultingly easy, and it is no exaggeration to say that this fact single-handedly ruins the gameplay part of Shining Blade.

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Battles require little to no strategy – combat will mostly consist of you running up to the enemy and pretty much killing it with one or two hits, all while barely receiving any damage yourself. You don’t even need to select the right attacks to do the job, just use whatever, it’s going to destroy everything anyway. It’s all rather disappointing, considering it’s basically using Valkyria’s combat engine with such poor execution. If you thought the above was bad, wait until you get mages in your party. They more or less break the game, as they are capable of targeting multiple foes in their field of vision.

There is, of course, a certain amount of JRPG-like customization, as well as the ability to level up and strengthen your characters’ skills, but it’s all rather meaningless. The laughable difficulty makes the feature redundant during most of the game. Speaking of redundant, the same goes for using a different loadout of characters for different battles, since combat is so easy you can basically win most encounters just by using your regular attacks. My advice is to simply pick the characters that are aesthetically appealing to you, then start spamming your way to victory. There are few games where I seriously wonder why the player is even required to be present, and SB is one of them.

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Thankfully, and this is only going to be a small consolation, certain characters end up learning the secret art of songstresses during the course of the story, granting the entire party a specific kind of buff with their singing. I’m only mentioning this because it makes the battle music shift to a catchy J-pop song depending on the character doing the singing. That alone made battles slightly more tolerable, and I am not a man who refuses to give credit where it is due.

The cast itself is made up of a moderately likable bunch of stereotypes, be it the tsundere elf girl, the introverted sorceress with a severe case of man-phobia or the moping emo guy who initially appears to be an asshat but is actually a swell guy on the inside (he’s also the protagonist of Shining Hearts, taking place before his days of brooding).You can interact with them on a daily basis and pick from a couple of dialogue choices to win them over, a la Persona 3-4. The interaction with your companions was the primarily feature that kept me going, seeing how the gameplay itself was a trainwreck beyond redemption. If you don’t mind some stereotypes, it’s fairly enjoyable.

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There’s really not much else to say. It’s most certainly not the worst game I’ve ever played in my life, and I’ll admit it does have a certain charm to it. But I can’t exactly state with a clear conscience that this is a particularly *good* game, either. If you’re looking for relatively nice anime graphics, some mid-battle J-pop and a large selection of Tony Taka ladies to woo, you might get some enjoyment out of Shining Blade. If you’re primarily interested in tactical, challenging gameplay… you might as well just skip this and never look back.

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5 thoughts on “[Review] Shining Blade

  1. That’s really unfortunate to hear about. The only Shining game that I’ve played is Shining Hearts so I was hoping that was a fluke and I could get into other Shining games, but this seems to have the same problems as Hearts (though the battle system looks slightly more interesting, if that means anything).

  2. I think it was good. The story was there. The only thing is the difficulty of the game is by so far the easiest RPG i’ve ever played. The Music was great everything was top notch. But it all lasted for 1 day…it’s so easy my playtime was less than 24hr…

  3. I’ve heard that the Tony-Taka-illustrated Shining series of games never gets above mediocre, but I never expected this entry to be this bad. They really should have put the seiyuus and artwork to better use than this.

    Maxima Enfield wasn’t very well developed in the Shining Hearts anime; could you tell me more about her character in this game? And is Fubuki Hayane just Blanc Neige from the earlier Tony-Taka-illustrated Shining games in a different costume?

    • I had to look up who Maxima was since I’m not familiar with Hearts (or the anime), but she’s called Sakuya in this game.

      I actually played the game a few months ago, so I can’t quite recall everything for you in great detail, but I remember there being a couple of scenes with Sakuya where she talks about the harmony of light and darkness in the world or something, and how she’s fighting to protect it. She is basically a wise and enigmatic woman who taught swordsmanship to the protag and acts as a mentor character. Sorry if this is all very vague, but it’s been a while.

      As for your other question, I honestly have no idea. This is the only Shining game I’ve personally played so I know little to nothing about the franchise.

      • I see, maybe you ought to give Shining Wind a try, since it was probably the most well-received game of this series illustrated by Tony Taka (though, again, I was told by someone who knew Japanese and played it that it was mediocre aside from the art, seiyuus, and opening theme).

        I’m still suspicious that perhaps too much of the budget went to the seiyuus. I mean, Nana Mizuki alone cost how much to hire?

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