Shining Soul 2 for GBA - very early impressions
Got it today, because I've heard Shining Soul 1 was a bit like Diablo, and that Shining Soul 2 was better in every respect than the SS1. I haven't played SS1, but have put in about 2 hours of play so far on this one.
The 8 character classes are somewhat diverse - some run-of-the-mill classes, like Warrior, Archer, Sorceress, and Priestess; and some a bit out of the ordinary, like Dragonute (dragon-man heavy armored knight), Dark Wizard (half-human, half-vampire sorcerer), Brawler (werewolf martial-artist), and Ninja (real-ultimate power!).
There are 8 save slots for characters, so you can play 1 of each if you'd like. So far I've made a Ninja, Brawler, Dragonute, and Dark Wizard. Somewhat annoying is that you can't skip the entire intro sequence for the game start when you make a new character (and it's the same intro every time). The intro takes about 5 minutes to get through, but it's annoying nonetheless to repeatedly tap A to get through it every time you start a new character.
The various character classes differ in usable weapons and armor, starting stats, and skills. Each class has a unique set of 8 skills (IIRC), each rated level 0 through level 7. Every level up grants 4 ability points to spread among Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Vitality, as well as 1 point to increase a skill level. The higher the skill level, the more points required to level it up. Some skill examples for my Ninja character include Sword, Knife, Decoy (chance to evade an enemy attack by interposing a block of wood in your place), Shadow (Ninja magic that paralyzes enemies), Backstab, and a few others. Increasing Sword or Knife allows you to wield weapons of higher power, as well as allow you to charge up your attack for special moves.
Having spent an hour and a half or so using my Ninja, i'd have to say the game plays like a console-rpg Diablo-lite. Your home base is the castle, where you heal up, buy equipment, identify items, and get missions. You can transit to any available area upon leaving the castle, where gameplay is pure hack-and-slash rpg. Angel wings serve as town portals, but each zone is not considered finished until you defeat the boss on the lowest/last area of the zone. An interesting castle feature is a blacksmith that allows you to forge 3 components into weapons and armor. I've only encountered 1 component so far, a dragon's scale that conveys fire-resistance to forged items, so I'm not sure how powerful the blacksmith is in the game.
There are three quickslots for weapons and three for items, so you can be somewhat tactically flexible in battle - in my Ninja's case, switching from weak, thrown daggers to his stronger, close-up sword as the battle dictates, with the press of the left shoulder button. One button attacks, and one button uses quickslot items (healing herbs, antidotes, grenades, etc), and special moves can be performed by holding down the attack button to "charge" up a move and unleash it upon enemies. This is also how spells are cast, with different spells requiring longer or shorter charge times.
So far, the fighting is fast, clean, and easy to get into. It's also quite fun, and quite addicting. The game definitely has that build-up-kill-build-up-kill pacing of Diablo-esque games, and it definitely shows promise. Already I like it better than the Two Towers GBA game (another hack-and-slash rpg), because it's much nicer having a home-castle in which to easily return to sell loot, buy better equipment, and heal up. Has the potential to be the essential portable hack-and-slash rpg, especially if you want something you can play in short bursts at a time, as you can save anywhere except boss areas.
Boy, Shining Soul 1 was sure dull and repetitive. Had potential, though, and was kinda fun when linked up.