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Soon Shine: Pre-Launch Impressions

Posted by Paul on August 11, 2014

I begin to feel like a fossil, a relic of a bygone age. The more I experience, the more I'm realizing that when I see people say they like "retro" games, what they really mean is they like the visual style of 8-bit games (or 11-bit, as seems a better approximation of what people do these days). There's a big difference between a game that simply looks like it's from the old days, and one that actually incorporates gaming values from the old days. We, Dahku, really liked those old days, and we try to bring to the table the essence of those days, not with little pixel graphics but with core gameplay ideas and values... And I think it's killing us.

I'm going to flashback here to the early 90's, when I played Tetris on my friend's original GameBoy. I was 11 or 12 at the time, and I remember having a blast just stacking blocks, wiping out row after row. I felt very accomplished when I passed 100 Lines. Score? Didn't give it a second thought.

It wasn't till I got my own copy of that old Tetris in 1996 that I got a chance to really dig into it. I got better of course, but it wasn't till I looked at the instruction booklet that I realized how the game was meant to be played. It wasn't about clearing Lines for its own sake, it was about clearing them in the most efficient way possible--preferably four at once--to earn the highest score.

Mindlessly clearing single row after single row was fun for a while, but I'd have grown tired of it if that had been all there was to it. Fortunately I played it long enough to realize how much depth there actually was, and thank goodness, because it's still a game I play to this day, ever improving and landing awesomely high scores.

Even though what you do and how it looks are very different, the essence of Soon Shine was largely inspired by the gaming values of that original Tetris. Sure, you can mindlessly tap spirits just like you can mindlessly clear rows of blocks, but if you take the time (either through self-discovery or the eManual) to dig into Soon Shine, you'll find there's a lot more to the gameplay than meets the eye. IF YOU TAKE THE TIME.

This is an area where I feel like those old-school gaming values have been lost. In the old days console and portable games generally cost $60 and $30, respectively. Unless you were filthy rich, you only had so many games and you made sure to get the most from the money you spent. Case in point, my experience with Tetris. But there are so many games out there to choose from these days, and so many of them are available for cheap prices. Not to say that more games at lower prices is necessarily a bad thing, but where's the incentive to dive in and get the most from your investment when A, the investment was so minimal and B, you've got so many games that you can just jump from one to the next so easily? I can't help but feel this modern mentality is already hurting Soon Shine, and will continue to do so.

Soon Shine is coming up on its eShop launch, and already we're seeing reviews that make it pretty obvious that people aren't taking the time to dig in. One place calls the gameplay "incredibly basic", another says it's "a game for kids or just to play when your bored to pass a few minutes", and so on. The worst example of all came not in a review of Soon Shine, but in another game's review, here.

It blew our minds that a respectable review site like Nintendo Life could find that Soon Shine, an original and polished concept made by two people through months of hard work, was worth one star less on its rating than SHUT THE BOX, a bare bones presentation of a centuries-old tabletop game whipped up by one guy on his weekends. But it's not the rating here that matters, it's the fact that the reviewer directly compared the touch-based gameplay of the two titles, and deemed SHUT THE BOX to be "a deeper experience".

Let's consider this a moment. In SHUT THE BOX you tap the button to toss the dice, and tap tiles that add up to the dice value. That's it. Nothing wrong with that, but I fail to see how it creates "a deeper experience". Meanwhile Soon Shine--where you have to watch what's on the screen, what's coming on the screen, squash spirits in color sequence to build score combos, swipe to flip between sun and moon to extend those combos or just to protect yourself, intentionally increase the spirits' strength for added score, watch out for trickster spirits that can upset everything, all the while keeping an eye on your health and balancing its preservation against the added score that can be gained by letting it deplete--has the same reviewer calling it "mindless stylus-tapping".

Each reviewer, like any other player, is entitled to their own opinions and interpretations. While we don't always agree with what they have to say about our games, we always try to respect their opinions and learn from them what we can. These people who clearly didn't play Soon Shine enough to judge it properly have made it so that all we can learn from them is how much times have changed, which brings me full circle to my original statement. I feel like a fossil.

Soon Shine's graphics have made a much better impression than Chubbins did, and the $1.99 price tag has naturally seen widespread approval, so we're still hopeful that sales will be what we need them to be. But even if they are, if nobody bothers to get into what makes Soon Shine fun, then it won't feel like much of a victory.