Review: Shining Resonance Refrain – Resonating in our hearts

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Shining Resonance Refrain is an up-to-date version of the PlayStation 3 title. This newly launched version features all previously released content, English dubbing/subs, and even an entirely new story through its Refrain mode, which lets players experience the story from the Empire’s point of view. Find out what we thought of the PlayStation 4 version of the game today.


Pros:
+Extremely beautiful graphics and animation that bring the games anime-like look to life.
+Combat is an absolute blast after unlocking the B.A.N.D. mode
+Relationship building is an absolute bonus that gives more depth to each of the games leading ladies
+The soundtrack is phenomenal and deserves a listen on its own

Cons:
-Can grow a bit stale due to the sometimes unnecessary level grinding that is put before the player
-Boss difficulty spikes can deter JRPG newcomers or those who have yet to experience the series


JRPG’s are a particularly hard set of games to review, not because they may have a grind hidden beneath their surface, small tidbits of sidequests tossed into the mix to keep things fresh, but rather, because there’s a lot to them when you piece them together through previously established titles – if they have any.

That’s where the Shining series comes into place. Much like the well-established franchises Atelier and Tales of, the Shining series is nothing new to prolonged stories and classic JRPG elements such as grinding for experience and items needed in order to progress the story further once a specified goal has been met. However, for those hankering for a taste of what Shining Resonance had to offer on the PS3 had to import the game or wait until its remastering as Shining Resonance Refrain for PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

To put it short, this is the complete version of the game which features the previously released DLC as well as an entirely new version of the story called “Refrain”. Unlike the titles previous release, Refrain is a new mode that allows you to take on the role of two new special playable characters that are best saved until a second playthrough of the game. That being said, let’s get to our review for Shining Resonance Refrain itself.

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Let’s meet Yuma  – the main man of the show

The main story on its own is actually quite enjoyable and honestly, deserves the attention it should get. It focuses on a young man named Yuma who has the power of the Shining Dragon lying deep within his very being. Because of this, he has access to incredible power, but just like it is said, “with great power, comes great responsibility,” and Yuma is no stranger to this saying.

Yuma also knows that the Shining Dragon could inadvertently hurt those around him, endangering the lives of innocent people. In the game, you’ll see this internal struggle more than once was the Shining Dragon attempts to coerce Yuma into using him, empowering them both with limitless possibilities in and outside of combat. Yuma’s only problem isn’t simple by any means. He has to weigh the options put before him – use the dangerous power that lay just under the surface for the greater good or run and hide his power from the world in order to not endanger those around him.

Unfortunately for Yuma, he learns that the land of Astoria faces a great threat by that of the Empire themselves. They’ve been attacking villages, performing atrocious experiments on the peoples of the land, and even wield the mighty power of the Cracomachina – manmade dragons that serve every wish the Empire has. Just as one would expect, this approach is almost like an anime trope, but fortunately, it works and it works rather well for Sega and Media.Vision.

Once the game gets underway, after Chapter 1, the games tutorial mission, you’ll quickly begin to see the story unfold before you. Yuma eventually meets two Dragoneers, warriors for hire, mercenaries if you will, that have teamed up in order to fight against the empire and their atrocious deeds. Unfortunately, we aren’t going into full detail about the story, not because we don’t enjoy it, but because you need to experience it for yourself.

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Polish off your swords, your musical weapons, and your bows.

Anyone who has played a title such as Tales of or Ys title should feel right at home with how combat works.  Don’t be fooled, the combat does change as you progress and so does how you’ll set up every single character in Shining Resonance Refrain. This includes their bond links that you decide to use, what bonuses you will have through them and how you want your party organized in order to ensure any encounter you get into is easy to complete.

Combat starting out is rather simple. Each attack is performed by using “O” to do normal attacks while triangle performs break attack, X dashes, and square is to perform a guard against a foe. Each attack consumes a portion of your AP gauge which is displayed by an action ring around your given character. During combat, you will need to stop attacking in order to charge your AP back to normal in order to attack some more. Luckily, AP attacks aren’t your only form of attack. MP attacks (also called Forces) are available and allow you to regenerate your AP while using them.

Much like AP, Mana does have to recharge for your MP attacks to be used. Doing this requires you to use your standard attacks and your break attacks. Remember, breaking your enemies is extremely important, which means you need to take advantage of their weaknesses, which came to show while undertaking some of the games hardest fights that players will undertake.

These breaks don’t just stun an enemy, but rather, they also make them more vulnerable to damage all around, allowing them to be dispersed rather quickly. But take note. Boss fights won’t be easy to get to and battling your way through as many hordes can be even quicker when this ability is taken into consideration.

There is a twist, however, when it comes to combat. You may remember the mentioning of the Shining Dragon that remains semi-dormant within Yuma’s very being. This being said, the Dragonshift and B.A.N.D. systems are rather unique and make combat even more enjoyable than before. Holding down L1 and then pressing R1 activates Yuma’s Dragonshift ability, which in turn, allows the Shining Dragon to take hold of him, turning him into the dragon itself.

In the Shining Dragon form, Yuma’s damage is massively increased, putting him on par with most bosses in the game and making him a formidable foe to lesser creatures. The trade-off is the number of attacks you can perform while in combat. You are now limited to swiping his claws, shooting fireballs, and performing a dashing slash at your foes. During this time, Yuma’s MP is constantly consumed, causing you to lose control of Yuma has he goes berserk.

This will force players to take on the role of another party member who must avoid getting near Yuma while he is berserk. During this period anyone and everyone is a foe and can be caught in his crossfire as he moves across the battlefield attacking anything in sight. As the duration for this is moderately short, don’t expect him to continually attack as he will come out of his berserk rather short and the B.A.N.D. (Bond) system can help with this rather well.

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The B.A.N.D. system isn’t as dumb as it sounds.

The B.A.N.D. (Battle Anthem of Noble Dragoneers) isn’t as odd as it sounds – as you may notice from the headline above – due to the fact it plays a rather important role in the overall scheme of things. The Dragoneers, something Yuma can’t seem to be, are warriors who wield weapon-meets-instrument hybrid called Armonics that allows them to not just fight but to also resonate with the Shining Dragon itself so that they can increase one another’s strength and work better together.

Before or after battles, you can choose a leader for each of your missions or sessions. Each of these Dragoneers is accompanied by their own unique set of abilities ranging from increased critical attack rates, accuracy, and even defensive measures. For example, Kirika can increase the critical rate of attacks along with your accuracy while Excella excels both in Diva Magica and Dragoneer arts, making her a viable member of the team.

Excella can both heal and bring special buffs to your team, allowing her to quickly turn the tides of battle to your parties favor. This makes combat enjoyable, a not-so-complacent experience while fighting through every battle put before you. Luckily, activating it isn’t a complicated matter. All you have to do is click R1 then press X on the menu that comes next. A short animated cinematic will be put on screen, allowing musical notes to float about on screen as the effects begin to take place on screen.

As this is also happening, you’ll be able to notice a small meter on the bottom left of the screen, this meter is broken into three segments. In order to activate the B.A.N.D. you will need to fill one of the three bars on the screen. The more of the bars that are filled, the longer the song will last and the buffs you are given will remain. Lastly, they are extremely important as they will help calm Yuma if he has gone berserk.

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The city of Marga is an important place to be

In the city of Marga is the most important place you will go. Here you will be able to upgrade your items, purchase new ones, craft new items, and even spend some time with Liselotte, the main merchant you will need to visit in order to buy items to revive your party, heal them, and give them what they need in order to be more effective in and out of combat.

Most importantly, in Marga, you will be able to visit Lyle so you can tune your Armonics in order to make your Armonic weapons more effective. By tuning your weapons at Lyles shop, you can add special effects to each of the weapons you are using. These effects can level up as you play, making them more powerful as you fight your way through hordes of enemies that are put before you.

During your time in town, you can also equip aspects to your weapons which improve the health of your characters, their magic, their MP, and plenty more. But there is one more thing you need to know about your trips to town – your bonds between your characters. These bonds aren’t improved just through combat and working with your team. These relationships can also be improved by meeting with your friends during late night discussions, which to be honest, they almost always accept.

However, to activate these discussions, you will need to stay at the Seagull Inn or a campfire placed somewhere around town to trigger the dialogue. As your relationship grows with one of your pals, the ability to go on dates opens up, personally, I chose Kirika as it seemed like the proper thing to do. Just as you would expect, underneath it all, she’s a kind and gentle woman who cares deeply for her people all-the-while having to carry a heavy burden with her need to protect them as the Empire lays siege to their lands. This type of narrative only helps to add depth to the overall game and help you emotionally invest in each of the party members you will meet.

Shining Resonance Refrain – PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch
Developer(s): 
Sega, Media.Vision
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $59.99

And the curtain draws to a close – review conclusion

But when said and done, at the end of the 30-35 hour campaign, Shining Resonance Refrain is a beyond enjoyable game, one that manages to do just as SEGA intends for it to do. It delivers a unique story, while almost seemingly cliche with its anime themes, it is one that’s unique, so-much-so that you remain engaged, wanting to play through its entirety just to experience what you can. Toss in the Refrain mode, another take on the previously established story, and you have plenty more to enjoy after your initial adventure through the game.

Toss in the Dragonshift, B.A.N.D. sessions, and rather difficult, but enjoyable boss encounters, and you have one of the best modern JRPGs for you to enjoy. Luckily for you, you can enjoy it while on the go with the Nintendo Switch or at home on your PlayStation 4. Now, what are you waiting for? Go, go play it, now.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 8 out of 10


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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