Sega’s Shining franchise hasn’t been seen in the West for a number of years and Shining Resonance Refrain is essentially a remastered re-release of the Japan-only PS3 title Shining Resonance. Shining Resonance Refrain features updated visuals and a new story scenario to play through which acts as a sort of “What if?” saga.
When launching the game, players will be prompted to play through the main story first, unless of course they are familiar with it and want to jump into the “What if?” saga of Refrain right away. Newcomers should definitely play through the main story first otherwise they won’t know what’s happening in Refrain at all.
In the main story, players will take on the role of Yuma, a young man that houses the soul of a shining dragon within him. Players will soon be introduced to Sonia, the Princess of Astoria, who ends up rescuing Yuma from imprisonment. The game doesn’t waste any time getting into this and soon enough players will find themselves in the game’s only city, Marga. This serves as a central hub of sorts with players leaving Marga to visit various other locations in the game.
The environments in Shining Resonance Refrain are quite varied and will keep you satisfied throughout. Having only one major city is quite a let down but the fact that there’s more than enough story content contained within makes up for this somewhat. The interactions you can have with your party members and the various visual novel-esque segments present in the game are rather enjoyable as is the main story itself involving dragons and an evil enemy empire.
Shining Resonance Refrain is a bit text heavy though with some parts of the game consuming a considerable amount of time by making players wade through story heavy dialogue. The dating and relationship system makes for a rather interesting set of events as you can unlock various scenes and optional story sequences with the different characters you have within your party. If you aren’t a fan of JRPG trope heavy stories and writing though, this may seem extremely cliche to you but the game is relatively well balanced and never gets too annoying or cringeworthy. Thankfully, many of the character interactions are well done and players will grow to like the cast over time as their personalities show through.
Gameplay in Shining Resonance Refrain is quite similar to the “Tales of” series of games from Bandai Namco. The game is an action orientated JRPG and each party member has access to their own unique set of attacks and abilities. The game does have a bit of a grind to it as with most games in the genre but is enjoyable nonetheless. The additional party members help keep things fresh too since changing members and strategies can alleviate some of the repetitiveness of using the same attacks over and over again.
Shining Resonance Refrain also makes use of a “Bond” system where different party members can resonate with each other based on battling together over time. Party members can also be outfitted with upgrades to boost their damage output or infuse elemental damage into their attacks by tuning their weapons. Boss battles in the game can be brutal and the lack of being able to save on the fly makes things difficult at times. In fact, save whenever you can because chances are, some of the later boss battles will leave you wishing you did some more grinding earlier.
Graphically, Shining Resonance Refrain holds up quite well to today’s titles. The anime aesthetic has helped with this and the visual effects in battles are quite spectacular. It’s worth noting that the game’s character artwork is exceptionally beautiful since the designs have been created by artist extraordinaire, Tony Taka himself. Just don’t expect the same level of visual fidelity for the environments themselves.
Shining Resonance Refrain’s soundtrack is enjoyable and the voice acting is great to boot. With a game that features music as an actual story element, it’s a big plus to have a soundtrack that’s well crafted and actually stands out. Shining Resonance Refrain has some catchy battle tunes that will stick with you for a while and the various themes that play throughout are well suited to the game and its story.
Overall, Shining Resonance Refrain is a good JRPG title that stumbles in it’s datedness. Not being able to save anywhere or fast travel between specific locations is a let down and the A.I of your party members can be infuriating at times especially during the more intense boss battles. The bonus “What if?” saga features the bare minimum extra content and isn’t as great as it could have been either. If you want to get into the Shining franchise though, Shining Resonance Refrain is a good starting point. Hopefully, Sega will produce a far more polished entry in the near future.