By Chris Melchin / July 10th, 2018
|Title||Shining Resonance Refrain|
|Release Date||July 10th, 2018|
|Platform||PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Steam|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
The Shining series is not one I have a huge amount of experience with, which is to say I haven’t played any of the previous games and have mostly heard of it in passing. However, that’s not saying much, considering the last game in the series to be released in North America was Shining Force EXA on PS2 in 2007, aside from fighting game spin-off Blade Arcus from Shining, released on PS4 and PS3 in North America in 2015, and on Steam in 2016. Shining Resonance is the newest game in the series, originally released on PS3 in Japan in 2014. Today’s subject, Shining Resonance Refrain, is a remaster of the game released on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam earlier this year in Japan. Now, for the first time in the series in 11 years, the remaster is coming West.
Shining Resonance Refrain follows Yuma Ilvern, the vessel for the almighty Shining Dragon, as he defends his home of Astoria from the invading Lombardian Empire, and tries to put an end to a war that’s raged on for 10 years prior to the beginning of the story. He is joined by a group of Dragoneers, warriors who wield musical weapons known as Armonics to resonate with dragons and strengthen each other. Some of Yuma’s companions include Astorian crown princess Sonia Blanche, the priestess-Diva Kirika Towa Alma, her mischievous attendant Rinna Mayfield, and the pyromancer, chef and hobbyist cartographer with a heart of gold Agnum Bulletheart, to name a few.
The characters are really the strongest part of Shining Resonance Refrain. The game gives plenty of opportunities to see the characters interact with each other, between building your relationships with your party members and random events that you can see when you return to the main home city of Marga. The characters all have a surprising amount of depth to them, and I found them pleasantly growing on me even if they may not have made the best first impressions (I’m looking at you, Yuma). Controlling Yuma, you can invite your party members to talk with you at night to build your relationships, and even bring them on dates in the city to get to know them better. Fully building a character’s affection gives them new Traits, which can be used to affect the Bonds between your teammates. Bonds have different effects in combat, by randomly triggering Resonance events in combat to boost your teammates, through healing or buffs.
If it seems like I’m not explaining Traits, Bonds and Resonance that well, it’s because I don’t understand them that well myself. Shining Resonance Refrain does not do a good job of explaining them, and no specific description of a given Bond’s effects is ever given in-game. It’s possible to extrapolate effects of some during combat, but it’s never made explicitly clear. It’s unfortunate, because Resonance is one of the few things that could make the game’s combat system interesting and engaging, but is poorly-explained and completely out of the player’s hands with random activations. Otherwise the combat is the standard action-RPG fare of pressing the circle button (or whatever it is on your platform of choice) until everything is dead. That isn’t to say there are no other unique mechanics, namely Dragonshift and B.A.N.D. sessions, but they don’t do enough to mix things up. Dragonshift just turns you into the Shining Dragon so you can resume pressing circle, and B.A.N.D. (where your Dragoneers play music to give specific buffs depending on the song chosen and the character you set as the center) is just choosing a song to perform and then resuming as usual. You can do other things, such as Break attacks to try and break your enemy’s defenses, the usual dash and guard, and Force spells. However, for most regular encounters you won’t need more than regular attacks, at least while playing as Yuma, which I did for most of my playthrough.
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