Overall - 60%
Shining Resonance Refrain displays all the qualities one would expect in a JRPG game, albeit in a dated and unimaginative fashion. Fans of the genre will find plenty to sing about, but for those not sold on Japan's ideals of an RPG, there's little more here than a solid story and some good dungeon grinding.
Shining Resonance Refrain is an English translation and remastered version of the original Shining Resonance that launched in Japan for the PlayStation 3 in 2014. With a new generation of gaming consoles, far higher expectations, and very little presence for the franchise in the west, does Shining Resonance Refrain hold enough substance to compete in today’s industry?
Shining Resonance Refrain Review
Love ’em or hate ’em, the JRPG genre has made big moves into the Western audience in recent years. Games such as the Tales franchise have long been established outside of Japan, and with more players responding positively to the offerings of the JRPG, it’s only natural that further franchises continue to explore the possibility of a more global audience.
Shining Resonance Refrain pays homage to fans of the original release with a retail version that ships with all previously released DLC. This includes over 150 DLC items, alongside the addition of Refrain Mode. Refrain Mode offers past players a new twist on the story as two previously unplayable characters join the party, adding more dialogue between characters and two entirely new movesets to explore. It does not alter the main story in any way, which leaves for many confusing moments as you are fighting an antagonist with the same antagonist in your party, but it’s an entirely optional mode and one I suggest you don’t explore until you’ve gone through the original story.
The game follows the story of Yuma, a young boy in turmoil as he battles an inner dragon that has the power to save the world…if only he is able to control such power. The story follows the struggles of Yuma and his companions as they attempt to foil a plot by the Empire to devour the souls of the last remaining dragons, which are to be used in fusing experiments to create powerful weapons and soldiers. While the many moments of weakness and lack of self-belief create a disappointingly weak protagonist in Yuma, the growth of his personality, and with it his confidence, builds his character to a more likable figure in the latter stages of the game. JRPGs live and die by the quality of the narrative, and while Shining Resonance Refrain won’t blow you away, it’s definitely a story worth exploring. A colorful cast of characters supported by solid voice acting (both English and Japanese, which can be switched at any time) comes together for a memorable journey of self discovery and belief.
If stories are the threads that weave successful JRPGs together, combat would be the fabric that makes it truly shine. Originally releasing on the PlayStation 3, Shining Resonance Refrain’s combat system does feel dated. It’s very restrictive in regards to attacking and defending, and features stagnant animations that reduce fluidity and hamper an otherwise creative combat system. You are free to switch between any of the characters in your party, each with their own musically themed weapon and assortment of attacking and defensive abilities. I’m a little old fashioned in that respect, in that I tend to pick my favorite character and stick with it. While switching has its benefits, the AI companions are more than capable of fulfilling their roles, making the switching between members optional but rewarding.
The more interesting elements of combat in Shining Resonance Refrain resonate behind the scenes. Pivotal moments of the story, completing side quests, or growing closer to your companions through nighttime interactions and dates opens entirely new personality traits that can be equipped and combined to create a diverse and interesting list of possible combinations – each providing specific bonuses in combat and developing relations between each of the characters.
This creative mechanic offers more depth to both combat and the social relations you develop with your fellow explorers, making it as equally rewarding outside of combat as it is in. Furthermore Aspects can be obtained and equipped, which are special items that provide large buffs and bonuses to characters that allow complete creativity in developing specializations for each role in your team. While initially appearing shallow and rigid, Shining Resonance Refrain’s combat system evolves into a complex and challenging combat system that rewards a tactical mind and a strategic approach.
While the story can be pushed through in 30-40 hours, there are a lot of opportunities to invest far greater hours into the game. Shining Resonance Refrain features a huge selection of side quests and activities, although there is a lack of creativity and variety as nearly all of the side missions involve fetching certain items or killing certain creatures. That’s typically the tradition in JRPGs, but it’s still disappointing to see a lack of any innovation in this area.
However, the dungeon system (called Grimoires) does offer a little variety and an exciting spice of randomness. Available at the central town hub from early in the game, players can freely enter challenging and dynamically generated dungeons. As your party grows in power, as do the dungeons and the challenges they offer. This provides a much welcomed option to grind for levels and items, removing the frustratingly long travel times between zones and replacing it with a compact, combat-driven experience. While similar in layout and design, your choices as a player are what create the dynamic effects of each dungeons’ creation.
Throughout the game you can collect special items called Crests, which can be applied to dungeons to add additional effects. These effects can include everything from rarer items and better drop rates, to deadly enemies and dungeon-wide condition changes. While it is still, in effect, just running through rooms defeating monsters, the excitement of discovering special combinations of Crests, and defeating the challenges within, keep the Grimoire dungeons exciting, rewarding, and immersive throughout its entirety.
Shining Resonance Refrain displays all the qualities one would expect in a JRPG game, albeit in a dated and unimaginative fashion. Fans of the genre will find plenty to sing about, but for those not sold on Japan’s ideals of an RPG, there’s little more here than a solid story and some good dungeon grinding.
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