With the revival of titles such as Streets of Rage and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, 2020 has proven to be a great year for arcade brawlers so far. And whereas Shing!, the newest project from Mass Creation, is not quite up to par with some of the best the genre has to offer, it is, nevertheless, a competent beat-em-up.
What Is It?
Shing! is an arcade beat-em’up which follows a troupe of four playable heroes in their quest to recover the Starseed, a precious object which is key to keeping their world in balance. In fact, the game begins with the mysterious Yōkai (Japanese supernatural spirits) successfully stealing the Starseed from right under its guardians’ noses, Tetsuo and Aiko, which happen to also be two of the four protagonists. The duo then enlist the help of Bichiko, Aiko’s sister, and Wilhelm, a warrior from a foreign land.
Why Should I Care?
Game structure-wise, Shing! follows some set conventions of the genre and is divided into seven clearly delineated stages, six boss encounters and six optional challenge rooms. The game tries to add life to its protagonists by the inclusion of ‘lore rooms’, which serve as optional resting spots where Tetsuo and company can interact in friendly banter. Unfortunately, the writing is generally lackluster and the story, characters, and world-building at large are all astonishingly generic so any respite from fighting is unwelcome.
Speaking of fighting, Shing!’s combat system is probably going to divide at least some fans of the brawler genre. This is because the greatest departure from your average beat-em-up is in the fact that the game has players use the right analog stick for attacks instead of face buttons. The intent here, I am assuming, is for combat to feel more intuitive than frantically mashing buttons. Whereas it is true that using the right stick made for some exciting combos–particularly when juggling enemies and that the combat can be exhilarating–I found that the trade-off means it seriously impacted how agile I could be, resulting in a gameplay experience that was more static than I would have preferred.
I found the gameplay experience static because there is not much progression in terms of character skills or abilities, which is significant omission, particularly as all the characters play vastly the same. Thankfully, Shing! does indeed mix the combat up as it throws quite a wide variety of enemies and bosses which require different ways of dealing with them. My favorite enemy is the Tengu Fencer, which requires players to use the right stick to change the attack type or direction: think Skyward Sword but simplified and made possible with a standard controller.
In addition, an important part of combat is the introduction of power-ups (blaze, lightning, shield, bombs, etc.), which are absolutely essential in making it past enemy defenses. In some cases, the hordes of powered-up enemies will overwhelm and make combat frustrating, but power-ups are a somewhat apt way of compensating for the combat feeling quite repetitive by the end of the about six-hour long journey.
Before I conclude, it is important to note that Shing! does not offer any online co-op play to speak of, which for a game of this nature in particular, is a massive detractor. It has also severely impacted my time with the game as I have not been able to play it together with someone else, as I am sure it was intended.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Shing! is definitely not for everyone. Genre purists might want to look elsewhere. However, Shing! is a good time, especially for those who are exclusively interested in the fighting part of a ‘brawler’ and for those who can muster the absence of online co-op.