In 2014, Shining Resonance released over in Japan on the PlayStation 3 to moderate success. Weekly Famitsu rated the game roughly around an 8/10, or to be more specific, 33/40. Even though the PlayStation 4 had already released, I was holding out hope that SEGA would announce a localization for English speaking audiences due to the fact that I really wanted to dive into this story. In fact, this was going to be the first title I actually imported over from Japan in order to enjoy the combat, which has always appeared to be insanely fun. Every year I would put off the import, hoping and praying that SEGA would announce that localization. Finally in November 2017, Shining Resonance Refrain was officially announced for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. And yes, it was coming to the west. After having now played through the original version of the game, was it worth the wait?
Title: Shining Resonance Refrain
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Game Provided By SEGA for the Purpose of This Review
Shining Resonance Refrain remasters the original Shining Resonance for an entirely new audience. Featuring dual audio with English and Japanese voice overs and all of the originally released DLC, it also boasts a new story titled “Refrain Mode.” Without diving into any spoiler territory, Refrain Mode unlocks the ability to use two previous characters from Original Mode that were never intended to be party members in the first place. It is highly recommended you play through Original Mode before tackling Refrain Mode, as it will spoil certain portions of the experience by jumping straight to the new mode.
Shining Resonance Refrain takes place on an island known as Alfheim, an island located in the middle of the world. Known as “the Land Where Deus Lives,” it has been considered sacred since ancient times. During Ragnarok, which was a war waged by those seeking to rebuild the world with the power of Deus versus the combined might of the dragons and high elves intent on stopping them, high elves lived there with dragons.
On Alfheim exists Dragoneers, people who are able to wield an Armonic and harness the weapon’s power. They are also known as “performers of the dragon.” So what is an Armonic? Seven weapons crafted from the body of the Shining Dragon. Shining Dragon? I’m glad you asked.
There are seven playable party members, nine counting the two added for Refrain Mode, that you will encounter throughout the journey in Shining Resonance Refrain. Sonia Blanche, the lightning princess of the kingdom of Astoria. Kirika Towa Alma, the diva of nature. Rinna Mayfield, the whirlwind sylph. Agnum Bulletheart, the blazing pyromaestro. Lestin Sera Alma, the glacier sentinel. But most importantly there’s the main protagonist, Yuma Ilvern, the boy with the Dragon’s Soul. Within Yuma rests the spirit of the Shining Dragon, the very same ancient dragon who created the Armonics and shaped the world to be what it is at the present time.
Now that we have the world building and character introductions out of the way, let’s talk about what makes Shining Resonance Refrain an insanely fun game to play despite some flaws which we’ll address momentarily. The combat. Featuring a mixture of both random battles and non-random battles, while out exploring the world, you will physically be able to see a representation of the main enemy you will encounter. Initiating combat with these enemies by running in to them will shift the game into battle mode, which then in turn spawns a random set of enemies, some that are identical to the monster you previously saw, and others that are also in that general vicinity. For example, running in to a Hobgoblin may spawn 3 Hobgoblins and 3 Breedershells. There’s also link attacks where if two enemies are close enough together, they join forces and surround your party with a ton of enemies to go through. From there, it’s typical Action RPG style combat with two attacks, one that is your normal attack, and one that can stagger an enemy to knock it over. You also can use your Forces while in combat.
Forces are the skills you can equip on each character, and is a fancy way of saying spells. Every party member can have four assigned to them at once, each one being assigned to an individual button. Unlocking new abilities is simply done by progressing through the game and leveling up the old fashioned way, grinding out levels and getting stronger. Yes, Shining Resonance Refrain will require a bit of old-school grinding in order to better prepare yourself for the later chapters in the game. In all, there’s eight chapters found within, and by Chapter 6, the enemy difficulty will begin to ramp up significantly. Because you can easily get through the fields, dungeons, and areas without running in to too many enemies if you so choose, you could honestly find yourself under-leveled by this portion of the story. Keep in mind, characters not in your active party and participating in battles will not earn experience, unlike some other more recent JRPG’s, so swapping characters is highly recommended in order to not have any one particular person be behind.
Back to the combat, which is honestly addicting and makes the grind for levels enjoyable. Yuma has the ability to shift into the Shining Dragon during combat, which makes the tougher fights significantly easier. Being in Dragon form comes with a price. Your MP is slowly depleting while in this form, and everything you do has a price attached to it. If your HP or MP gets too low, Yuma will go berserk, and the Dragon will be out of your control, attacking both the enemies and your party members at free will until it calms down. Which honestly feels like it takes forever when it hits so hard, but really only lasts a couple of seconds. Still, going berserk during a crucial moment of a fight can mean game over.
Eventually, a mechanic is introduced known as the B.A.N.D battle system, which requires a BPM Gauge to built up before it can be unleashed. BPM is simply Battle Performance Mana, and will build up automatically during battles. You’ll want to unleash the B.A.N.D. performances during the more challenging fights, because every time you do, certain buffs will be present for your party, making for an easier time. It’s honestly a fun mechanic worth messing around with, and the little performance cutscenes that accompany each new song are fun to watch. Plus, they’re different depending on which character you decide to set in the center for each performance. So there is a slight layer of customization there.
Speaking of customization, you have the ability to determine how you want your characters to progress throughout the game. Tuning your Armonics allows you to focus on individual stats or builds for different characters, so you can truly have someone be a full time healer, full time tank, full time DPS, etc. You can also go the route of more balanced builds and try to have jack-of-all-trades. You can also equip a number of different Aspects onto your characters, which will range from simple stat boosts to high-risk, high-return trade-offs. It’s an interesting concept and gives Shining Resonance Refrain some much needed depth to match unique styles of play.
Alright, let’s talk about some of the negative aspects. Side Quests felt rather pointless throughout the entire journey, and are only worth doing if you absolutely need the rewards offered from each one in order to craft something through Alchemy. I didn’t realize this at first, and throughout the early chapters, I would run around, accept every Side Quest offered, and go out and complete them right then and there. It’s here that I started to notice a good chunk of the quests are very much fetch quests. Now, for some that isn’t a major turn-off, myself included. I come from a big MMO background, and fetch quests are just par for the course. But there are others who absolutely cannot stand fetch quests, so it’s worth pointing out that most of the quests you accept and complete will be “killing X number of wolfs”, “collecting X number of an item”, etc. What really sucks is that the Side Quests will begin to repeat themselves, even as early as Chapter 2, which is the same chapter when the quests actually unlock for the first time. There are a handful of Quests found within Shining Resonance Refrain that are meaningful and actually reward you with story elements and deeper lore, but they are far and few between. It’s worth talking to everyone if they are offering a Quest or Side Quest to see what it is and check the rewards, just keep in mind that most will be skippable.
Along the same lines, in order to get more out of the story, certain characters in town will have speech bubbles above their head if they have unique dialogue options available. Speaking to these characters will provide backstory to what it going on in the world of Alfheim, or allow players to learn more about their favorite party members. After a certain point, because it felt so bland at times, I stopped caring about the random NPC’s found in town and only listened to what my party members had to say. The individual scenes with your actual crew are fun to experience and worth checking out, but everyone else just seems rather boring and not much fun to engage with. It’s a shame, because I wanted to really like some of these NPC’s found throughout town, but I only ended up caring for three or four of them, besides the playable characters.
One last thing. That town I keep speaking of, that’s Marga, the Seaside Capital. It’s also the only town you’ll ever get to visit throughout the entire journey. It’s honestly a letdown not being able to fully explore some of the other cities you know exist, because the characters talk about them and sometimes you can even see them in cutscenes. But the only time you are able to physically walk around a town, interact with NPC’s, and do some shopping is within Marga. Hey, at least it’s lively.
A mechanic that immediately caught my attention when the game was first releasing over in Japan was the bond system and relationship options. It’s no secret that I enjoy romance in games. Shining Resonance Refrain handles relationships on a much deeper level than I was expecting. First and foremost, traits and bonds play a big part in how well your party does in combat situations. Every character has unique traits assigned to them that they either start with, or that you can acquire throughout the game, and yes, some are miss-able. Equipping traits onto characters affects their particular bond with another character, and proper management and setup will be needed in order to yield the best results in battle. At the same time, Resonance is an action that occurs naturally during battle based on how well your characters are bonding. Certain Resonance will allow for shields, attack up, defense up, heals, etc. The relationship management ended up being a lot deeper than I was expecting, but that’s honestly a good thing.
Yes, there are dating mechanics and getting closer to your party members as well. Whenever you’re resting at a campfire on the field or strolling through town, you have the ability to talk to your party members. Initiating a conversation with them may bring up a prompt letting you select an answer. Be quick, because these are timed. Selecting the right choices will further your relationship with your party, and could even end up leading to dates. Night Events and Dates are where you will really get some one-on-one time with whomever you’re speaking to and learn more about them. To get started with these, simply invite the character you want to spend more time with, and then choose to either rest at the campfire or rest at the Seagull Inn if you are in Marga. Some of the more comedic moments and truly heartfelt dialogue happen during Night Events and Dates, so they are definitely an appreciated addition to the game. A date could also allow you to discover unexpected traits for your party, which will then influence the combat even more.
The only other thing I want to mention about relationship building are the field chats. These take place while wandering through the world. Pay close attention, as these are not voiced and appear in the bottom left-hand portion of the screen. You have the option sometimes of making a choice with either L1 or R1 which will affect your relationship with the character speaking. Try not to miss these, as it will help speed up the process of getting to the Night Events and Dating cutscenes.
Graphically, Shining Resonance Refrain looks like a PlayStation 3 game, and rightfully so. It’s not cutting edge technology here, but the art style used and the way the game is presented is very pleasing to the eye. I had no complaints throughout the entire time spent going through Original Mode in terms of the graphics. The soundtrack is also extremely well done, with several vocal tracks making me stop and listen for extended periods of time.
The only technical complaint I had throughout the game is when there ends up being a large amount of enemies on screen, plus your four party members. It’s at this point when the framerate will suffer significantly during attack animations and spell casting. Once some of the enemies are defeated, the slowdown does stabilize back to normal, but it was still disappointing to see it happen throughout the game. At least it isn’t during every battle, but it still happens often enough that I was instantly able to notice it even in the early hours of gameplay.
All of that being said and with the negatives I mentioned, it may sound as if I didn’t enjoy my time spent with Shining Resonance Refrain. That is not the case in the slightest. I had a blast playing this game, so much so that I’ve already started another playthrough in Refrain Mode in order to unlock the two additional characters and see the changes SEGA and Media.Vision made for that. I am honestly praying that this is not the end for the Shining franchise, which used to see new versions happen way more frequently than what we’ve seen in recent years on recent console generations. This will absolutely appeal to the hardcore JRPG fan, those that enjoy deep combat and relationship mechanics, those familiar with the Tales of series, and those looking for an enjoyable story with a likeable cast of characters. For everyone else, especially those who despise fetch quests and quests simply for the sake of extending game length, definitely do some solid research before deciding on whether Shining Resonance Refrain deserves your time.
7.0 / 10