Shining Resonance Refrain is a new entry in Sega’s classic Shining series which originally released back in 1991 on the Sega Mega Drive and since then has branched off into several different genres and games. Shining Resonance Refrain is a remaster of Shining Resonance which originally released back in 2014 on the PS3 exclusively in Japan and is including all the bells and whistles and DLC of the original game. It has been roughly ten years since Sega has released a game in the Shining series outside of Japan and that begs the question of if this is the possibility of a return to form for this classic series or will this new entry crash and burn?
Before we go balls deep into this review I want to bring up that this game comes with all the previously release DLC and with that DLC it is a lot of risqué costumes that are rather revealing of which I am sure some will be triggered by this but I ask that people put down their feminist and puritan views, their FPS walking simulators and give this game a solid try. Get your Dragoneerss and Waifus ready and on to the review!
The Story of Shining Resonance Refrain starts with the rescue of Yuma by the princess of Astoria Sonia Blanche and her army of knights. Yuma houses the soul of the legendary Shining Dragon which is currently of great interest to the Empire which have started harvesting dragon souls in which to create their own army of dragons with the intent of weaponizing them. The princess of Astoria, Sonia Blanche, a capable knight who prefers fighting on the frontline with her troops, leads a rescue mission to save Yuma from his captors. She is accompanied by Kirika Towa Alma, The Diva of Nature who is able to commune with dragons and control the forces of nature. The imperial princess Excella Noa Aura almost prevents this rescue mission with her trio of dragons Gae Bolg, Gungnir and Trishula but the idea of his rescuers being slain gives Yuma the motivation to assume the form of the Shining Dragon and get him and his saviors to safety. Shining Resonance Refrain focuses on a young man named Yuma who contains the power of the Shining Dragon within him. This gives Yuma access to incredible power, but he is hesitant to use it because he is afraid that it could inadvertently hurt innocent people. There are times when the Shining Dragon speaks to Yuma, attempting to coerce him into using this power. Weighing the options of using this dangerous power against not being able to fight for others is a great dynamic for the main protagonist.
When you start the game you’ll be presented at the main menu with the two options for when you start a new game: you can either play through the original narrative, or you can jump into a kind of 'what if' storyline called Refrain that follows two of the title's main antagonists. The game suggests that you leave the latter until you've completed the original story, and it's sound advice, as the additional plot elements won't make much sense unless you're already familiar with the events of the overall narrative. That being said, the main story is very enjoyable on its own.
The gameplay is easy to learn, but has a certain depth to it as you progress. Depending on what platform you’re playing on the controls will have the same placement but the button names will be different. For instance on the PS4, you use circle to do normal attacks, triangle to do break attacks, X to dash, and square to guard where as on Xbox/PC/Nintendo Switch you will use the alphabetized format of those controllers or WASD if you prefer on PC. Normal and break attacks require AP to use; there’s an AP ring around your character that empties out as you attack. After a few seconds of not attacking, that ring will fill up again, allowing you to fight some more. Running out of AP can be a bit of a bummer at times, but it also forces you to fight carefully. You can’t just spam attack forever, and I appreciate that barrier. Break attacks are slower than normal attacks, but they help break an opponent’s defense. When their defense is broken, they are put into a break state, which reduces their defense, and makes them more vulnerable to your attacks. In other words, if you have a chance to break your opponent, do it. The other important attacks are forces.
Forces are your special attacks, which can be magic or unique physical attacks. You have access to moves like heal and restore, along with other specialized attacks for each character. Forces require MP to use, which builds up as you hit enemies with normal and break attacks. You will unlock more forces as you play, and can configure which ones you want, and what buttons you want them mapped to. There's enjoyment to be found in defining how your party fights based on the forces that you've equipped, and the system's bolstered by 'aspects' -- items that you can craft and slot into your weapons to provide passive buffs.
Music plays a massive role in Shining Resonance Refrain. Some of the characters’ weapons are called Armonics and they are instruments that possess great power. The characters who wield these Armonics are called Dragoneers, and they can use the Armonics to play powerful and mystical Rune Songs by building up enough BPM (Battle Performance Mana). Using a BAND session (Battle Anthem of the Noble Dragoneers), you can play a variety of songs that could have a number of different effects on battle, depending on which song is played and which character is in the center leading the song. The BAND sessions can also be used to instantly calm Yuma if he goes berserk, which is an incredibly useful and creative feature.
When it comes to the over-world it’s like many other JRPGs, where you run around as the protagonist through various areas. You’ll encounter enemies that trigger battles once you run into them. Once triggered, all other enemies vanish and an invisible arena is created as specified enemies appear. After you defeat your foes, the arena goes away, and you can continue your travels.
I want to say that every review I’ve read has said that Shining Resonance Refrain is a “typical RPG”….when I hear that I question the statement because you have to set the precedence and provide an example of what a typical RPG is and it seems a lot of journalist and reviewers are not able to do so and that frustrates me because when you say something like that you have no way of knowing what your audience, be they new or old, would even know when it comes to what that would mean because to some a “Typical RPG” could be something along the lines of Dragon Warrior, Suikoden, Xenogears, Wild ARMS, Final Fantasy pre FFX and more while to others it could mean Xenoblade Chronicles or The Legend of Heroes. What I’m trying to say is that it is difficult to categorize this game into a neat little package because its so multifaceted and given that it’s truly a game that is not only an evolution of the Shining series but also incorporates bits an pieces from other games such as the Tales series and the more recent Ys games and forges its own identity. Are there storyline clichés? Yes but what game, movie, novel doesn’t have them? There’s very little new that remains to be done or said so for what it does I commend them. Shining Resonance Refrain doesn’t get everything right that it attempts to do however I find it to be a very enjoyable adventure with a very likable cast of characters and a very engaging combat system with a Waifu dating simulator thrown in, honestly what more could you want from this game? It’s a solid title and I highly recommend everyone go out and give this game a go! This game is a gem and deserves it’s spot in the pantheon in the Shining series. KASANOVA APPROVED.
*Review Code provided by SEGA and reviewed on Xbox One