Shining Resonance Refrain Review- A Solid, Fairly Fun JRPG

Posted July 24, 2018 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Media Vision

Publisher: SEGA

Release date: July 10, 2018

Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One

For JRPG fans, there are plenty of titles out there to choose from. Quality can vary, but it’s easy enough to find one to fit to your individual tastes. For those who enjoy the Tales series and its active time combat, developer Media Vision’s new game may be right up their alley. Shining Resonance Refrain doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but it does enough right to make for a solid and fairly fun JRPG, with a nice mix of likeable, if at times silly, characters, a decent story with some nuanced villains, and fun combat. It’s use of song to buff your party and the ability for one of the main characters to shift into dragon form helps set it apart a bit, even when it leans heavily on genre tropes.

Shining Resonance Refrain is a remastered version of the 2014 PS3 title Shining Resonance, which had been previously only released in Japan. This new version includes all of the original’s DLC, plus adds the Refrain Mode, which allows you to play two characters that were formerly NPCs. It’s recommended you play the original mode first (as that was the game as intended by the developers) to get the proper story. One playthrough can take you at least 40 hours to complete, with more tacked on should you seek to complete every single side quest. Thee are eight chapters in all, and you need to wrap up any side quests you wish to do before the final battle, as there is no post credits gameplay.

There is, however, a post credits cut scene. The game does have a dating sim embedded, and you can choose to romance any of the characters by engaging them in special conversations and going on dates around the town of Marga. Prior to the final battle you will be asked to make a choice, and who you choose is reflected in the post credits scene. Completionists will have to either replay the game multiple times, or at the very least create multiple save files prior to making the choice, as there is a trophy for each character’s ending. The game is enjoyable enough to revisit, so returning to it won’t be a big chore.

As of this writing, I did not play all the way through the Refrain Mode, as there seemed little difference story wise. The only main difference was having the two previously unplayable characters to include in your party beginning in the second chapter. The problem is, from a story standpoint, their inclusion doesn’t make any sense, as they were enemies of your main group of characters. It seems to be a missed opportunity here, as it would have been neat to see things from the opposing side from the beginning.

The story is decently told, and has a few twists and turns, though nothing earth shattering. The game open with the Astorian princess Sonia storming the gates of the Lombardian Empire prison along with the Dragoneer Kirika. They’re quarry is the prisoner Yuma, a boy who harbors inside him the Shining Dragon, a powerful being who in years past helped defeat and seal away the destructive god, Deus. The game follows Yuma and the Dragoneers, people who wield musical weapons called Harmonics, which were created from pieces of the Shining Dragon’s body. They need to stop Princess Excella and the Sanguine Church, who seek the souls of the former World Dragons for their own ends. The characters are all relatively nicely done and have some nuance, though there are a couple of one notes among them. They do lean heavily on typical anime tropes, but they were likeable enough and never grated on my nerves, unlike some characters in other JRPGs (Ryuji from Persona 5, I’m looking at you). The final confrontation may be over a bit too quickly, but the journey there was entertaining.

Making that journey enjoyable is the game’s combat system. You can choose whom you control in combat by arranging the party to your liking (you always begin combat as the party leader). You have your main attack and a strong thrusting break attack to start with. The break attacks can incapacitate an enemy, which allows you to due a substantial amount of damage to them. Pressing the left shoulder button brings up a menu of force attacks, magic based attacks which you can map, up to four, to your controller’s face buttons. Once you learn some songs, these can be triggered by the right shoulder button to add buffs to your attacks. Pressing both shoulder buttons transforms Yuma into the Shining Dragon until his mana meter is depleted. Early on, you’ll need to switch Yuma back to human prior to the meter running out, or risk the dragon going berserk, in which he can harm friend and foe alike. Your force attacks and abilities are modified as you gain experience through combat. There are no weapon upgrades.

When you time things right, triggering both a song and the dragon form can result in the Shining Dragon unleashing an especially devastating attack. This occurs when you achieved resonance in combat, and getting it to trigger can prove to be a saving grace late in the game against the powerful bosses. There are times you will fight multiple bosses in a row, which can be a little frustrating if you fall due the game’s sparse save system. You can only save at a save point, as there is no auto-save. That can frustrate, especially after playing for a long stretch with no way to save or replenish healing supplies. Thankfully, there are only a couple of instances of this in the game, and doing a bit of grinding does the trick. Sadly, there’s no skip button, so unless you press X (or A, depending on the system) to cut the dialogue short, you’ll have to sit through the same scene all over again. At least the English dub is decent enough, so having to do so isn’t too cringey.

You’ll also be able to craft both supplies and Aspects, buffs you can slot in on your weapon. Aspects can add extra health, grant speed, or even block certain attacks like poison or shock. Materials can be found through exploration, gotten from enemies in battle, or bought from Liselotte, the game’s main vendor. There are also Grimoires to tackle, special dungeons that can offer up some nice items, as well as serve as a nice place to grind to gain experience. The game isn’t overly challenging, but it isn’t necessarily a cakewalk, either. For players who enjoy RPGs more for the story than challenging gameplay should like this well enough, and there is a fair amount of content to justify the game’s asking price.

Shining Resonance Refrain doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to. Those who enjoy the Tales series will find this quite similar to those games. The story is nicely told, and the fun combat makes up the majority of the gameplay. It has its issues- the camera can be cantankerous in spots, save points are few and far in between, and the environments are used repetitively, as you run through the same ones over and over again during the 40 or so hours one playthrough will take you. Multiple character endings and an extra mode where you play as two new characters offers some replayability, extending the life of the title beyond one trip through. Overall, the game is solid and enjoyable, and that makes it worth your time to pick up if you enjoy the genre.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus