Although Japanese gamers got to enjoy the latest Shining game back in 2014 for PlayStation 3, it's finally available in the west in an enhanced version. The question is: was Shining Resonance worth remaking?
That's right; Shining Resonance Refrain is an enhanced version of the Japanese-exclusive Shining Resonance which is an entry in Sega's long-running Shining series. For the unfamiliar, it's an action RPG that feels very similar to Bandai Namco's Tales of series. You play as a young man named Yuma Irvan who is actually a dragon. Yuma finds himself in a sticky situation at the beginning of the story yet he's soon rescued. As his journey plays out, he meets many friends who join him on his quest including a princess Dragoneer attendant (Sonia), the elven Diva Magica Kirika, a wind-based magician (Rinna), the quick-tempered yet kind Agnum, and more. The character models are fantastic and well-animated and the voice actors do a great job of breathing life into each of their personalities. When you factor in the beautiful orchestral soundtrack, Shining Resonance Refrain is quite a wonderful game to take in.
The core gameplay loop of Shining Resonance Refrain involves running from the central town of Marga to various points outside the city then returning to watch some story sequences. It's really that simple. The world itself is diverse and you'll eventually discover plenty of unique environments but it certainly isn't as large as many other RPG worlds. Whereas most other JRPGs have you go on a memorable adventure from town to town, the gameplay loop here becomes tedious very quickly. Thankfully, there are plenty of quests that you can try and master along the way although they can get rather monotonous as well and the rewards are rarely worth the effort. On a more positive note, you'll eventually unlock the ability to traverse Grimoire dungeons in order to earn rewards and level up your party. I enjoyed working through these as they provided a decent sense of challenge and helped alleviate some of the tedium.
As you run from point A to point B, you'll encounter loads of different enemies. Shining Resonance Refrain's combat system is solid and has some welcome features. For starters, you only control your party leader while the other members move on their own and you have the ability to issue general commands to them, too. Your attacks consist of a basic attack and one that allows you to break enemies which temporarily disables them. Besides that, you can use magic spells (known as Force abilities) as well as block and dash to minimize the amount of damage you take. Considering Yuma is a dragon, he can transform into his dragon form which constantly depletes his MP. A similar move is the B.A.N.D. command which gives your whole party a boost after they perform a little song together. Even though all of these mechanics sound cool, the combat itself is extremely repetitive. You'll learn how to topple the various enemy types shortly into the journey and once you do, you just go through the motions and it all starts becoming downright boring.
Revisit the Shining series' origins
If you'd like to see how the Shining franchise began, be sure to download Sega Genesis Classics as it contains the first three games in the series: Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force, and Shining Force II.
Finally, although I enjoyed the cast of characters, the overarching story is so generic that I honestly stopped caring after playing for a dozen hours or so. Watching the cast of characters interact started off engaging but as you progress through the plot, it's difficult to stay immersed. Thankfully, this Refrain version contains a mode where a couple of unlikely chums (Jinas and Excella) join Yuma which provides a fresh experience but not enough of one to warrant playing through it if you didn't thoroughly enjoy the original mode.
If I can summarize the entirety of Shining Resonance Refrain into one word, it would be generic. It looks and sounds great and features a charming cast of characters but the gameplay is ultimately much too "been there, done that".
- + Generally solid action RPG gameplay
- + Lovely character models, voice acting, and orchestral soundtrack
- + Grimoire dungeons are pretty fun
- - Gameplay loop is very tedious
- - Even with somewhat intricate mechanics, combat is incredibly repetitive
- - Story is far from engaging