In the 11 years since the last Shining game released in the West, the JRPG landscape has evolved in numerous ways. A lot of mainstream entries shifted from traditional turn-based battle systems to action-lite or full on action-RPGs with big hitter Final Fantasy XV being an example. Partly due to growing older, less attentive and most importantly, having less time to consume the medium; I’ve grown fond of the shift. Upon learning that the series is returning once more, as a remaster of a PlayStation 3 title no less, it is high time I see what all the fuss is about.
Shining Resonance Refrain comes packed with all the DLC of the original game as well a new story mode titled “Refrain,” which is catered to those who’ve already played the game (unless you imported the game, I’d recommend playing the game as intended) and included two new playable characters to use. Playing as Yuma, a young man who is actually a dragon in human form, you embark on an adventure to stop the empire from exploiting the power of the ancient dragons. I’d say that the story is full of genre tropes you’ve come across in multiple places over the years and while it isn’t bad, it just lacks the punch other games have brought to the player.
Combat is fairly standard fare and I don’t hate it, as it reminds me of the Tales series but without as much polish applied. Taking an action-RPG stance allows battles to take place with up to four characters in a party. With either a standard or breaking attacks you create combos against opponents, and by holding L1, you can incorporate a series of flashy skills called Forces that have an array of effects. The more you play, the more forces become available for each character.
By using Yuma’s embued power of the Dragonshift, battles become more fun as Yuma is able to utilize the powers of the Shining Dragon and turn into it. Being a dragon allows Yuma to quadruple his strength, but the longer Yuma stays as a dragon, the more likely he is to go berserk and in turn, attack his party as well. There’s a fine balance to using the Shining Dragon and overexerting that power often leads to trouble, so it’s nice to see there are measures in place to balance the power of the dragon.
Another feature is the B.A.N.D system which allows the party to perform different songs that each has a variety of buffs applied to your party or debuffs to your enemies. Instruments play a part here, namely what is known as Armonics within the game. Armonics resonate with the Shining Dragon, allowing for energy to increase and battle in sync. B.A.N.D also calms Yuma when he goes berserk, too.
Boss battles were of note as being extremely rough. For instance, there is a scenario where you’re up against a string of bosses in a row without the ability to recoup or replenish items. My playthrough consisted of uneven difficulty and the only way to counter that was by grinding away at a handful of levels. Chalk it up to being a dated mechanic and surely one that sticks out for the worse.
As with most JRPGs, if you like sidequests than you’re in luck as they are abundant but many being basic fetch quests for various items. Being a remaster of an older game also means there a severe lack of fast-travel and for the duration of your playthrough, you’re trudging along the same paths to get to new ones and back again.
As if there wasn’t enough included in Refrain, there’s also a dating sim that sees Yuma and allies get to know each other when in town, and includes typical anime tropes, but it’s kind of fun that eventually leads to some romantic options.
Shining Resonance Refrain shows its age here and feels more like a budget title that does a ton of things alright, that in mind, it is still fun to play and is a welcome addition to my library as it gives me more guilty pleasures to indulge in. With a handful of good characters but a predictable plot, this isn’t anything you’d talk to your friends about but when things tend to pick up, it becomes more enjoyable. There’s something charming about playing this game and I’m still having a hard time pinpointing exactly what it is.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes]