I used to follow Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites religiously. Mostly because I used to write a weekly column for a different site in which I compiled 3 upcoming projects that I believed were worth your attention, if not your money. Some of those games I wrote about are only now coming to fruition, while others have turned into vaporware and even stirred up controversy. Thankfully, after three years, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom has a release date – April 18th, 2017 for PS4 – and I’m still excited to play it.
As I rewatch the latest trailer, I’m reminded of why Shiness caught my attention three years ago. It’s a cel-shaded beauty that looks right at home with Level 5’s catalog on the PS2 or PS3. (The actual company making it is Enigami). Sure, it’s not a graphical powerhouse, but it’s a fully realized world with voice acting, orchestral soundtrack, action-based combat, a fully 3D environment, and all the other things that you don’t realize you take for granted until a small indie studio attempts to fund and create such a project.
That might not sound impressive now, but you just didn’t see that often in 2014. Back then, Kickstarter was filled with retro-style games that every developer and his dog seemed to have slapped together on a whim. Although retro games appeal to my nostalgia, as I’m especially a sucker for games with high-quality pixel art, Shiness was a breath of fresh air by comparison. Back then, it only exceeded its $100,000 goal by about $40,000.
Kickstarter is a feast or famine site. It’s tough enough for PR to convince outlets why their retro game stands out from the others, but it’s even more difficult to convince backers to support one of these projects on a weekly basis. I remember reading blog posts from game developers who discussed what they did right with their campaign, and what other developers could do to improve theirs. I even had a friend who calculated which month would be the best to release his project and still didn’t reach his goal. Kickstarter projects need to stand out, but they also need to meet needs that AAA games weren’t meeting, and not everyone can break records like Double Fine Productions. It’s no wonder developers are using it to test the waters as with Shenmue 3 and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night .
Anyway, Shiness is one of the ones that stood out then, but I’m not sure it will stand out today. Keep in mind that 2017 has been an excellent year for action RPGs. I’m convinced Nier: Automata might this generation’s Chrono Trigger , and Persona 5 is on the horizon. Both of these games are bold in art direction and storytelling. Shiness , on the other hand, looks like it fills a niche. It does have a unique battle system that’s inspired by fighting games, but it also looks like it will have the usual tropes of a JRPG. That might not be enough for the gaming population who haven’t backed it, but hopefully, its backers will be happy with what they paid for.