The return of the Shining series
Shining Resonance Refrain is the latest entry into Sega’s Shining series of games. Spanning over three decades, and a multitude of systems, the games in this series are some of my favourite Sega published games of all time. Although there has been a steady flow of games released in Japan, it has been over 10 years since we have seen a game in the series localized on these shores.
A remaster of Shining Resonance, only released in Japan on the PlayStation 3, Shining Resonance Refrain includes the same great gameplay from the PlayStation 3 release along with a brand new mode and more. Let’s take a look at what makes Shining Resonance Refrain the perfect game for those new to the series to jump in, and why long time fans won’t want to miss this iconic JRPG game.
The soul of the Shining Dragon
Shining Resonance Refrain takes place in a mythical ancient content known as Alfheim, where powerful dragons once ruled. The story begins with as Sonia, Princess of Astoria, is attempting to save a young timid boy named Yuma while the castle is under attack. They eventually team up and after a visit to the King, it is decided that they must take down the opposing Kingdom and bring peace back to Alfheim once again.
It is not until Yuma is in the heat of battle, that his secret of harbouring the soul of the Shining Dragon inside him is revealed. Although there are many cliché JRPG characters in the game, I particularity found it interesting on how much of an emphasis the game places on music in the world.
Furthermore, I really enjoyed how each character’s personalities are unique and develop quite nicely as the story progresses. As a direct result, I was really impressed at just good of a job the story does of adding context to gameplay and building a detailed and convincing world.
Unique gameplay elements
The game’s focus on music can be seen not only in the story but also gameplay. Weapons are known as Armonics and instead of enchanting them you tune them. Additionally, you don’t channel spells or skills, you play them. While it may seem a little odd at first, it really makes Shining Resonance Refrain’s gameplay stand out from other role-playing games.
Combat takes place in real-time and is fairly similar to that seen in the Tales series of games. At times, I felt that the combat system could get a tad clunky. However, this only happened if I failed to start an attack in a particular sequence. Each character has their own unique break attacks, which are special moves that inflict even more damage to opponents. Additionally, each character has Action Points, which determine the number of actions you can take during a certain amount of time. Luckily, you can easily restore your AP gauge by moving around the playfield without attacking.
Quite possibly my favourite gameplay aspect of Shining Resonance Refrain is the B.A.N.D. system. This team based attack is triggered when you build enough Battle Performance Mana (BPM). All members of your party come together with their Armonics and use their musical weapons to play music. This gives special attributes to your party such as increased damage against opponents and so on. It is a nice way to again differentiate itself from other games in the genre.
Getting to know your party members has advantages
A key influence on character growth can be attributed to the game’s Bond system. You can interact with your fellow teammates and invite them out for a night out on the town. As you spend time at a campfire or the town’s inn, you can get to know them better by talking to them. You’ll gain a deeper insight, and as a direct result your relationship enhances.
Consequently, your relationship with the characters in your party helps determine the frequency and type of Resonance that takes place in battle. Resonance randomly occurs during battles, and results in enhancements to your character or damage to your opponents. Characters can be linked up via the Bond diagram and the kinds of Bonds you create are directly affected by the Trait equipped on each character.
An all-new mode along with DLC
Refrain Mode is an all-new mode that adds an additional story to the game and unlocks the Imperial Princess Excella and Dragonslayer Jinas as new party members. It’s a compelling reason to play through the game again with these key villains as part of your team in a “what if” scenario. While you can access Refrain Mode from the very beginning, I suggest playing this mode on your second time around.
In additional to Refrain Mode, Shining Resonance Refrain includes all of the 150 pieces of DLC released for the original game. These range from costumes, to events, to side quests. There is certainly not a lack of things to do and see in this game.
Beautiful cel-shaded graphics
Shining Resonance Refrain’s cel-shaded anime style graphics are colourful, bright and cheerful. Tony Taka did a great job in bringing the world and characters to life. While the game’s visuals won’t win any awards for graphics of the year, they get the job done.
I played the Switch version of this game and was quite impressed how well the game performs in both docked and handheld mode. While in docked mode, the game runs at 1080p and handheld mode looks fantastic on Switch’s screen.
Loading is virtually non existent and in case you were wondering, yes you can select between English and Japanese voices. I did however experience some minimal performance issues when playing in hand held mode on the Switch. Though, this was only after playing for a few hours at a time. Luckily these were limited to a bit of stuttering here and there.
While Shinning Resonance Refrain isn’t with out its flaws, it is a welcomed addition to the role-playing genre on these shores. I really enjoyed the game’s story, even after the slow start. Characters are unique and each have their own distinguishable characteristics. Combat is solid and the addition of the new Refrain Mode adds a lot of replayability to the game.
Given that this game is a remaster of a Japanese PlayStation 3 2014 game and the series is not as well known here, its price point makes it a perfect entry point into the series. I hope that the release of Shining Resonance Refrain outside of Japan marks the beginning of many more in the series to come.
+ Beautiful cel-shaded graphics that are bright and colourful
+ Unique gameplay elements make it stand out from other games in the genre
+ Refrain Mode is a compelling reason to play the game again
– Story starts out slow and takes a while to start ramping up
– Difficulty spikes occur from time to time
Gameplay: 3.5 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5