Shining Resonance Refrain is the latest(-ish) release in Sega’s long-running Shining series. I say “Ish” because the game was originally released back in 2014 in Japan for the PS3, but never received a US release. Now, we have an updated re-release with some new features to explore available to us. Way back when, I was a fan of Shining Force 1 and 2 on the Sega Genesis, but hadn’t really kept up on the series since then. I was definitely curious to hop back into the series. While the game was definitely not like the older Shining Force games (not being a turn-based tactical RPG for starters),
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. 1000 years ago, Dragons and Elves lived in harmony together in the land of Alfheim, with the greatest of the dragons, the Shining Dragon, being particularly revered. However, Deus, a being surpassing even the Dragons, sought to remake the world to suit his whims. A great war was fought, eventually ending with Deus sealed away, the greater dragons all dead, and Alfheim rendered uninhabitable. 100 years ago, Alfheim had recovered to the point that pilgrims were able to resettle the island and establish a kingdom. 10 years ago, the island was invaded by the neighboring empire bent on domination. At this time, a meek young man is born with the soul of the Shining Dragon and every side seeks his power to aid in their objectives. He is rescued from the clutches of the empire by the princess of Alfheim and her companions, who use special instrument-weapons that draw on the Shining Dragon’s powers.
There’s really nothing revolutionary about the setting, the plot, the characters, or much of anything about the game. The characters have their own cliché archetypes they fit pretty well into. That being said, there’s nothing obnoxious about them. The characters, in spite of not being tremendously original, are still entertaining enough and have enough of their own personality to keep us invested in them and their struggles and conflicts. This is definitely helped by the nightly events you can get with characters. When either at town or a campfire, you can speak with your party members and invite one of them (at a time) to hang out that evening. This then leads to a short conversation with them about some random subject. Sometimes this will then let you pick your response from a list of three, which can increase or decrease your affection with them. Get it high enough and you can go for a date/hangout with that character around town. The choice of which even you get is random, and they can repeat themselves. This can lead to you having the exact same conversation multiple times over multiple events, potentially leaving you unable to increase affection with them if there isn’t a choice or if there’s no correct answer. All in all, I liked the system, but perhaps a couple more options were needed to help avoid repeats.
Most of the conversations and events are presented visual novel style, with your party members and a few select NPCs getting full sprites and several different poses/expressions. The main story-event ones are typically voiced, but most of the side character-building and NPC ones are not. The style works well for a lot of the straightforward conversations, but leaves a bit lacking at some of the more dramatic, action-packed ones where it’s still just the characters standing side by side even when they’re supposed to be fighting or running or other physical actions. In those cases, it feels a little to static and limiting. I like it in general, but I’d like it if they were able to go to more animated (even in-engine with the field models) versions for parts that call for it.
When it comes to the combat, it’s reliably entertaining. When you enter an area, you can see the enemies on the map. When you approach an enemy, it goes into combat and will summon some additional monsters for real-time combat. You have one button that is your standard attack and one which is a “breaker” attack, which varies pretty widely from character to character. You can use these pretty continuously until you run out of AP and need to wait to regenerate it. You also can set four spells for use during combat without using AP (but with using MP). This allows for a lot of customization and interesting combos depending on who you use and which spells you equip. As you go through the game, you will also unlock abilities like transformations or party wide musical buffs. The combat is very fun. I definitely found myself getting lost just doing random quests and beating up monsters. It might get a bit repetative at times to some, but if you’re getting bored, you can switch to a new character who has a completely different style of combat.
Overall, I enjoyed Shining Resonance Refrain. There’s nothing groundbreaking about pretty much anything in the game, but it’s a fun, light JRPG. If you’re a fan of the genre, you might enjoy the game. If you’re not already a fan of JRPGs, this probably won’t break new ground and win you over to their side. I’d recommend a rental/trial to see if the game is for you, but I’ve been having fun with it, so you might too.
Shining Resonance Refrain
- Fun combat
- Characters, though cliche, are still interesting enough to want to spend time with
- Easy to lose yourself doing quests
- Some slowdown during combat
- Nothing groundbreaking.
- For a game themed around music, none of the music really caught my interest