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Shining Resonance Refrain Review

Fans of Sega’s Shining series in the West have been missing out on some amazing games as there have been quite a few titles that were never localized. While the series has been around for almost three decades, the last game in the series that was released in North America was Shining Force EXA released in 2007.

With that 11 year delay, we finally get a new game in the series, or to be exact, the first new game in the West as Shining Resonance Refrain isn’t a new game, but instead a remaster of Shining Resonance released on the PlayStation 3 back in 2014. While it might have been a long wait, better late then never, right?

The Power of the Shining Dragon…

After an intense war known to humans as Ragnarok, most of the dragons in the world have been wiped out. However, a young boy named Yuma Irvan houses the soul of the most powerful dragon in existence known as the Shining Dragon and has been captured. Yuma is being tested on by the the Empire of Lombardia. After being rescued by Sonia, a knight and princess of the Kingdom of Astoria, the two meet with Imperial Princess Excella, who controls a powerful dragon in an effort to stop the two from escaping. After just managing to escape, Yuma finds himself in Astoria, where he is soon asked to join the fight against the Empire.

They story of Shining Resonance Refrain gets pretty stale at times, especially for the first few chapters of the game, where it starts picking up slowly. So you might have to bare with that for a bit, but luckily, there are some rather interesting characters that help keep things interesting. Yuma being almost the strongest person in existence is afraid of his power, so he doubts himself and is very timid for the first part of the game. That is until he decides to use that power to protect his new friends. Sophia is quite an interesting character outside of her choice of armor, but she does a good job of supporting Yuma to overcome his fear. Then, there are a few other characters that you meet along the way that have very unique personalities that help progress the narrative quite well.

Dating Simulator with not a lot going on… 

You will spend a good portion of time in the Kingdom of Astoria when you aren’t taking on a mission or a random quest. The city is your main hub for everything from resting, enhancing your weapon, shopping and more importantly spending time with your teammates.

Spending time with each character helps increase their affection towards you, which will in turn affect your bonds. I wasn’t exactly fond of how you initiate these events. After talking to the character you want to spend time with, you have to invite them, and afterwards, you have to head to the inn to rest and initiate an event which usually leads to a multiple answer question. If you don’t give a favorable answer, you might end up repeating that event the next time meet with the character. I can somewhat deal with that, but at times, the character will request to spend time together and go on a date. That sounds great, but the locations for the date are the exact same spots and usually have the same scenes. As a result, doing this over and over just isn’t very rewarding.

                                               It’s not only girls you can spend time with either..

Shining Resonance Refrain has two modes to select from. You can play the original game, which I’d recommend for first time players to get a full grasp on the game and story, and the new Refrain mode, which is a what if story that adds two characters to your party from the main game: Excella and Dragonslayer Jinas.

Battles don’t feel all that exciting…

Once you leave Astoria, you travel from field to field in order to reach your next destination. Throughout the course of the game, you will be returning to these fields quite often as you progress to travel even farther. Each time you return, the enemies on the field only get stronger and stronger as you make your way through the story.

You’ll be able to initiate or dodge enemies in battle. If you happen to get lucky, you will be able to gain the advantage over your opponents, giving you a few moments to attack them before they are able to move. Of course, they are able to do the same, but the game has a very weird hit box. So at times when I initiated battle from the side or in front of them, they would gain the advantage, which led my characters to taking quite a bit of damage, so you may want to be a bit weary.

The Shining Resonance Refrain isn’t the most exciting battle system and at times feels very flat and clunky. You have two main attack buttons, which you can hit to chain various combos as well as execute special attacks and skills by holding the R1 button and the corresponding face button linked to the skill. If you deal enough damage using your strong attacks and magic, you are able to break an enemy, which leaves them defenseless and vulnerable for a few moments, letting you deal massive damage.

                                                     I’m sorry but the princess is in another castle.

It’s important to find what character better suits your style in battle, as each character handles differently, so you might want to experiment with each character especially since there will be times where you face off against enemies who might be strong against a certain weapon or element. The downside to switching is that you have to go into the menu and manually change it each time in battle.

Chances are Yuma is going to be the character you use the most thanks to his ability to transform into the Shining Dragon. In this form, he gains new attacks and deals massive damage. The trade off is that his mp drains quickly, and he might go berserk and attack friends or foe alike. Transforming into the dragon is very useful, especially against bosses. Probably the most fun I had was just assaulting my opponents with overwhelming force, and when I run out of mana, all I do is use a few mp restoration items and do it again.

Two systems I felt the game didn’t really deliver to well on is the B.A.N.D. system and the Bonding system. The B.A.N.D. system adds a special bonus effect in battle based on the team leader by playing a song that lasts until either the end of the battle or the bar completely drains. While the buffs are nice, its main use is to stop your dragon form from going on a rampage, so using it before you transform is ideal. However, you essentially have to sit through the same cutscenes each time, and the music didn’t really have any impact.

The Bonding system is something that felt very lackluster in the game. Earlier I mentioned about affection through spending time with each member of your team. As you progress through the game, your characters will get different traits/titles that when equipped can grant various actions in battle, either support skills or attacks. This system is never really explained, and at times even with different results, I never really saw any big changes in battle since the AI tends to just do whatever it wants.

Enjoyable but lacking…

For my review, I played Shining Resonance Refrain on the Nintendo Switch to maximize my time and play it wherever I went. My issue was that while I did have some fun playing, I also felt the game was lacking and generic. I never felt like I wanted to do something as much as I had to, which is a shame, and things like tuning your Armonics (weapon/instruments) didn’t really yield too many benefits other than having to level up another weapon for light changes in stats.

Even the world felt lackluster and surprisingly small. It’s a shame that it felt like some corners were cuts, especially in terms of side quests, which are repeated over and over again, really giving you no need to actually complete them. This was a game I really wanted to enjoy but couldn’t. I enjoyed the characters, especially the character designs and some of the story, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a lot of the dull moments and action.

Nuke the Fridge Score – 5.5 out of 10

*Shining Resonance Refrain review code was provided by the publisher.