Developed By Media Vision Published by Sega Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (Available on XBox One, Switch and Steam)
Shining Resonance was originally released to a Japanese only audience on the PlayStation 3. A few years later Sega has brought an updated version to western shores. While the Shining series has been around since 1991, this is my first time tangling with the franchise. Shining Resonance Refrain gripped me with its pretty visuals, musical motifs, and engaging looking combat. Was the wait for this enhanced port worth the wait?
Shining Resonance: Refrain first major lure is its visuals. The game utilizes a very wide color palette to dress both the world and its inhabitants. The art style is both fresh and familiar as it seems more games are following the Tales of series styling. The world is seriously crammed with textures and many of the characters sport clothes with a lot of details. The monsters are also well designed and smoothly animated so it adds an even stronger sense of personality. Even the NPC’s that you don’t interact with as heavily have detailed models. Also impressive are the animations during battles. Attacks carry a sense of weight and due to the unique weapons you tend to see some fights that you are only possible in this game. Some designs feel outlandishly anime, which can be both appealing and repulsing at the same time. This will of course be subject to taste but I still wanted to see more.
In a world where sound plays an important role, Refrain delivers. Every sword swing and each music note played is nice and clear. I also picked up on subtle noises in the quiet moments of Shining Resonance Refrain. Voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag. A couple of the characters sound a bit off at first as if the actors weren’t quite sure of what their characters sounded like.
Gameplay is also very well tuned and it comes with several layers to it. Between story segments you are free to roam around the world. Here you can find NPCs who have requests for you to fulfill for rewards. This includes finding certain items or slaying certain monsters. While exploring and resting, you can also hang out with your teammates. Doing so not only lets you get to know them better, but it does also grants perks and strengthens bonds. It’s worth the effort as it allows your them to function better in combat. In battles you can assemble teams of 4, so you’ll need to put some serious thought into the compositions. This may be a bit overwhelming for some as there are so many layers to mesh together. Not only do you have to think about your characters roles as attackers, healers, and casters, but you also must think about their connections.
Characters with higher relationship bonds have a chance to perform Resonance, which can add additional attacks, healing, and buffs. You have three kinds of attack: standard attacks, break attacks, and skills. Using regular and break attacks use up a stamina gauge so you must monitor your usage. Stringing together regular attacks and break attacks will allow you to break your enemies’ defenses, allowing you to really dish out some serious pain. Each characters’ break skills also have independent effects. Yuma can even change into the Shining Dragon and wreck havoc but you must exercise restraint as it can cause him to go berserk. There’s also the B.A.N.D system. Your party is equipped with instrument/weapon hybrids that allow them to cast magi. Combining these together allows you to “perform.” This allows you to assault your foes or rally and buff your team. The different songs you can play are based on the characters in your party.
The story is kind of a sore spot. The beginning of the story throws you right into it with quite a few characters. On top of that, they use world centric terminology. We learn that our protagonist Yuma is in possession of a dragon’s soul. This is the radiant dragon whose power is necessary to bring peace to the world. The playable cast rescues him from an assuming, conquering empire and hope he will join them to help fight back the empire. The story isn’t particularly compelling, even after dozens of hours of playtime. I grew to like the characters enough to see how their skills evolve and how they react to each other, but overall I was not terribly enthralled. Yuma is rather generic as far as anime protagonists go even though he can transform. I was not terribly fond of the English voice over as well and switched over to the Japanese voice cast. The Japanese dub feels a little better in tune with the characters.
Despite the issues with the story not being engaging, Shining Resonance Refrain has plenty to offer with its detailed world, the lure of learning more lore, and a fun combat system. The game has is lengthy so you will definitely get plenty of bang for your buck.