Though I've not played Diablo, I'm told that it's a fair comparison for Shining Soul. Basically, it's a real-time, multiplayer item-collection/hack'n'slash game... and not a great one at that. This is a brand new style of game in the Shining series.
There's a choice of four different character classes in the game: Swordsman, Dragonnewt, Mage and Archer; each one being able to use a different selection of weapons, items and armour. Throughout the game, you'll find items all over the place, particularly when you slay a monster. Some of these items can be used by your character, others are there to be sold, or traded with other players (if you're playing it in multiplayer mode).
There's not a lot to it really. Each area consists of several smaller levels, in which the goal is to defeat all the monsters and move on to the next level. In all honesty, button-bashing to destroy the monsters, or even using a power charge to wipe them out isn't much fun after a few levels, hence my nickname for the game - Boring Soul.
So, you've beaten all the monsters in an area... you've collected all the items you can carry. What now? After defeating the boss character with his/her simple movement patterns, you head back to the same old town, to sell on the items you can't use, buy anything worth buying to equip your character and move on. Or, if you're really lucky you might have found some pieces of ore which you can have crafted into a new item. Great...
"But there has to be more to it than that!", I hear you cry. Well, there is a little. As you kill monsters, you gain experience. With each level your character goes up, you'll gain some stats and skill points to be distributed to your character's various attributes. This gives them various benefits, such as a more powerful charge-up attack, taking less damage from certain magic types or even restoring more health with each medical herb used.
The final feature worth mentioning is that of collecting souls. There are various 'souls' that can be collected in the game, mostly dropped by enemies. These are basically an item that can be equipped as an accessory. They need to be charged up by killing monsters (each soul requiring a different amount of kills to be fully charged), to reach "soul max" status, meaning a quick tap of the select button will give you a pretty scene of the soul's character (for example, a Golem Soul would show a Golem) performing a 'devastating' (sometimes... usually it just knocks down the monsters HP a bit) attack on the surrounding enemies.
"Surely the multiplayer option makes it more enjoyable though?" ... not especially. I've played the game with one other player, and if anything it was twice as dull. There's no real interaction besides dropping an item for another player to pick up.
For the sake of having a good point about the gameplay, I'd say the controls are good, and the menu systems within the game is easy to get to grips with, even in Japanese.
Unfortunately though, the addtional features - and even the Advanced Mode, available when you complete the game - don't add much life to this dull game.
Camelot's lack of involvement in this project is, I'm sad to say, blatantly obvious. Let's hope this game is not a sign of things to come.
Being set at this point in Shining history gave the developers a lot of opportunities to expand on the Shining storyline and answer a lot of questions. Instead, they messed it up, or so preliminary translations would seem. Not only are there inconsistant references in the game itself (for example, playing as a Dragonnewt, the boss characters will still refer to you as a human!), but the story doesn't tally with the rest of the Shining history in many respects. Sure, we can see Adam and Chaos in the game, and most of the bosses are cameos from other games too... but their involvement is poorly, if not downright wrongly explained.
For example, Mishaela was nothing more than one of Darksol's minions in the original Shining Force, and later the mother of his child in Final Conflict. In Shining Soul, however, she's elevated to the rank of "one of the five generals of Dark Dragon". Bah! On top of that, it's said that Dark Dragon was created by Darksol, again inconsistant with the stories of the other games.
I could rant for hours about how the other characters don't tie in with their appearances in other games, and how the story is flawed. But, perhaps it'll be corrected somewhat in it's translation. We can but hope!
But, the grim truth is that this game won't take you long to get through, and even with the Advanced Mode when you complete the normal mode, it doesn't add an awful lot to make you want to keep playing.
The repetitive nature of the game is it's failure. Though the various (and sometimes fun) items to find can make you want to keep going to find more, that soon loses it's charm too.
Minimal skill is required to get through the main levels of the game - simple button bashing will get you through without problems. Charge up for a few attacks and you'll find the enemies dying all too quickly. There's no challenge in this game.
Even the bosses are relatively easy to defeat, each having a pretty much set pattern of moves and attacks that can easily be avoided. With all the medical items you can carry, you'll have no difficulty in passing most of the bosses first time around. Poor.
Compared with Camelot's GBA games (Golden Sun & Golden Sun 2), the graphics are pitiful. We've seen what the GBA is truly capable of, and Shining Soul is far from it.