Shining Force EXA arrives as a near-identical clone of its predecessor, Shining Force Neo. Which is to say, it's nothing like the beloved strategy RPGs that started the series back on Sega consoles. Instead, it's a smooth-moving, inoffensive Action RPG that ticks most of the boxes it needs to, but lacks the overall inspiration to make itself truly memorable. See those monsters? Can you press X? Okay, have fun!
There are several colorful side characters who accompany you in battle at times, including Maebelle, a female elf with a huge appetite and a compound bow the size of a picnic table, or Gadfort, a lance-wielding centaurian knight (a series trademark). We mention them first because they're notably more likeable than the two playable characters. One is Cyrille, a white-haired, humorless sorceress with a dragon-squirrel sidekick named Zhirra. The other is Toma, a stereotypically smart-ass teen swordsman who constantly barfs up idiotic, self-absorbed dialogue such as mentioning he's so awesome even he doesn't realize how awesome he is sometimes. Even if the spotty voice acting were actually top-notch and the average script was instead captivating, it would be tough to like Toma.
Nonetheless, he obtains a magical sword called the Shining Force almost immediately, dragging the whole group into a battle between two kingdoms. On the plus side, you also get a magic castle to use as a home base - complete with a talking dog caretaker - and can use its machinery to teleport around the world, upgrade your stats, and buy new gear. And it's cool that the party members you aren't using are sometimes called to defend the castle, eventually unlocking different tactics for them to use - though those battles interrupt the main quest unceremoniously.
So, why haven't we mentioned the battle system yet? Well, there's just not much to it. Your physical combos come from stamping the X button three or four times, your charge attack comes by holding X at the end of the combo, and your special attack comes from holding X again after your charge attack. You can map one item and one spell to the square and triangle buttons as well, and cycle through them with the d-pad - which sounds good until you realize you have to take your thumb off the left stick to do so, which makes it tough to do while running away.
This isn't to say the game sucks - the hacking and slashing all runs very smoothly even with a dozen enemies bursting into bits, and the art looks good, though it can't seem to decide upon a style - it's sorta Aztec meets Don Bluth meets medieval Europe. Shining Force EXA will pass the time; it's just that your memory of it will, ironically, be worn dull six months from now.