The Shining series goes back a long way. All the way back to the Sega MegaDrive. Over time the series has graduated from dungeon crawler to tactical RPG and to a more traditional JRPG style. Shining Resonance Refrain is a remaster of the 2014 instalment Shining Resonance for the PS3. A game that’s not very old but has never seen a western release complete with English voice translation. Deep inside Yuma Ilburn there lies the soul of the Shining Dragon. A soul he has supressed in fear of its power. We follow Yuma after his rescue from The Empire, a corrupt regime who attempted to harness the Shining Dragons power. Together with the Knights of Astoria and friends, Yuma must learn to control this power if he ever wishes to protect everyone from The Empire and their dragons. Its story has all the usual trademarks of a classic JRPG story, but that isn’t where this game really shines.
If you’re a fan of the Tales series of games, then this will be very familiar to you. Enemies are seen in open fields, in caves and caverns and one needs only to approach (or sneak around behind) them to initiate battle. The true depth of the combat lies in multiple layers of systems and characters abilities. There is a lot to grasp from the beginning, but each element reveals through the first few hours of the game so that you are never totally overwhelmed with information.Shining Resonance Refrain is tied to the theme of music. Weapons can be “tuned” to give your character new abilities or raise certain stats. Different tunings can be obtained and levelled up throughout the course of the game. On top of tuning weapons, they can be imbued with aspects, a sort of gem that that increases stats and resistance among other things. Characters play together in a “symphonica” during battle, a kind of song and dance that buffs your party depending on which song is performed. It’s all a bit cheesy and over the top sometimes but adds depth to what would otherwise be a simple battle system.
The relationships between your characters outside of battle play an important role inside of battle. You can invite members of your party to your room for a chat (it sounds seedy but it’s not) which can increase your bonds and friendship and unlock different traits for your characters. These traits are used in a “Bond Diagram” which has an incredible amount of customisation and complexity. Moving specific characters into proximity to each other on the diagram while loading them with a trait that is familiar between them bonds these characters together and changes the way they react in a battle situation. From always having each other’s back to unlocking specific abilities in battle. Finding a perfect balance between all of your party can be tricky and requires a lot of moving around and experimentation, but this is a system that brings the heart into not only combat but the game as a whole.
When things look bleak you always have the power of the shining dragon. Yes, you can actually fight as the dragon… but at a cost. The dragon feels a little sluggish to control when you’ve transitioned from smooth and quick combat. Use the dragon for too long and you will lose control of it to the detriment of the rest of your party. Keep it under control and it can be a great get out of jail free card.
The world is by no means huge, and you will retrace your steps a lot but after a few hours it’s the familiarity of your surroundings that is the real charm. Marga is your main hub of the game; a seaside town that boasts a beautiful landscape. It a beautiful place to just walk around and take in your surroundings. Big green fields may become repetitive for the first little while, but these graduate into caverns and mountainous areas in later parts of the game. The world is by no means new to JRPG fans, everything you would expect is here. The peaceful town, the enemy stronghold, the fields of monster encounters. It’s a tried and tested formula that Shining Resonance Refrain rarely turns away from.
The first few hours serve as a means to slowly drip you different game mechanics and introduce you to each party member and their uses. Shortly after the dramatic increase in difficulty may surge if you haven’t been levelling your characters which may mean you’ll have to do some good ol’ fashion RPG grinding to get you characters up to par. If you’re not a fan of or are not familiar with the classic JRPG formula this may stop you in your tracks if you don’t have the patience for repetitive battles. Otherwise, you know it comes with the territory and you would be happy to hack away.
Shining Resonance Refrain is a game full of heart and its characters and combat are its driving force. It hits all the right notes in the sense of its genre, yet rarely dares to break the norms. Yes, it is familiar, but it sets great example for other JRPGs. Fans who have been with the series from the start may not recognise much in this but its is worth picking up and giving it a strum.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*
Shining Resonance Refrain£44.99
- A beautiful fresh lick of paint over a worthwhile game
- A relationship system that is complex and fun to experiment with
- Wonderful characters and locations
- A little too familiar
- Steep difficulty curve which may require a lot of grinding
- Some cringey dialogue and character encounters