The sequel to Shining Soul – Shining Soul II – was once again developed by Nextech and Grasshopper Manufacture and was first released for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. It’s another real time RPG, only this time it’s more detailed and challenging than the previous game.
Shining Soul II again features single and multiplayer modes, and this time there are eight different character classes to choose from (Warrior, Dark Wizard, Archer, Dragonute, Priestess, Sorceress, Brawler, and Ninja), each with their own fighting styles. Which gives the game some serious re-play value.
The single-player campaign sees the battle between light and darkness continue, and your first mission is to attack the goblin fort for the king, and look for his missing daughter. Levels are split into different areas; when you exit one area there’s no going back to the previous (unless you re-play the level, which is possible from the map screen and is desirable if you want to grind for rare items). Combat, inventories and levelling are mostly the same as before, although there are a few subtle differences that make this sequel more interesting, and more difficult.
The first difference I noticed was that you cannot run through enemies, as you could in the first game. If you try to do that you’ll be blocked, so a slightly different approach to combat is required. Primarily: attacking, then retreating (to avoid a hit back), and generally being much more careful during battles. When fighting in enclosed spaces you need to funnel enemies into killing zones, and even employ ‘dirty tricks’ like attacking them through walls (which does work). Another fundamental difference to combat are charged attacks, which use SP – shown by the orange bar at the top of the screen (the blue bar being your HP) – and which are achieved by holding down the attack button until a circular meter is filled, then releasing it. These are very useful – especially as healing items are more difficult come come by in this game, and also enemies are much tougher.
Other new features include: breaking down doors by attacking them; throwing items (by holding down the B button, then releasing it); there’s smithing and fusing items; there’s the Royal Colosseum, where you can participate in ranked battles to win items; there are various sub-quests, and there are Monster Cards to collect from defeated enemies (which gradually fill in a monster encyclopaedia and can be traded with certain characters).
The graphics are better in this sequel and the game contains a lot more detail than Shining Soul [one]. Shining Soul II is also funnier than the previous game; the first boss fight is hilarious, and there’s plenty of humour in the game that was missing from the first game.
The biggest difference between the first and second game is that money and items are more scarce, which makes gaining a foothold in the game much more challenging. In Shining Soul [one] money was easy to come by and you left behind a lot of items because you couldn’t carry them all; in this sequel you can barely find enough items to fill your inventory, which is a little frustrating at times, but the key thing is to re-play levels to grind for items to sell.
Shining Soul II is a really good game and worthy sequel and will appeal to anyone who likes real time combat-based RPGs. If you’re going to play both Shining Soul games I recommend playing the first one first, because the second one overshadows it in a number of ways. Both are still worth playing now. Be prepared for a much more difficult experience with this sequel, though. Which is no bad thing as the extra challenge I think helps make it a considerably better game.