REVIEW: Shining Resonance Refrain

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

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Shining Resonance Refrain | Field dialogue

We even get character interactions in the field.

There are other things that annoy me about the game, although these are more nitpicky than my issues with the combat. The biggest annoyance is running, which isn’t that much faster than the painfully slow walk speed while also having a slide when you release the run button. It puts you to a full stop and takes control away from you, and only after you’ve stopped can you start moving again. It may seem like a small problem, but it makes just trying to get places quickly more of a hassle than it needs to be. Speaking of moving quickly, the game’s full world isn’t that big, but there’s no quick travel, meaning that walking is the only way to get anywhere, and the furthest places from Marga can be a pain to always need to walk to when you’ve started exploring further away. You can quick travel back to Marga using an item, but a way to teleport between camps or something similar would not be amiss.

Shining Resonance Refrain | Dialogue choice

Making the right choice will make the other person like you more.

On top of these issues, Shining Resonance Refrain doesn’t give experience to your inactive party members, meaning that unless you’ve been going out of your way to keep your team balanced then you may be in for a rough time when the game then forces you to use specific characters for a full late-game dungeon. There’s also no increased experience when using fewer characters, meaning it’s hard to expedite the grinding you’ll likely end up needing to do. It’s not difficult to keep one party up if you stay on top of doing side quests, but trying to keep all your characters even will lead to extra time spent grinding, which means more time spent with the overall uninteresting combat. My last nitpick is the game’s performance. I’m playing on a regular PS4, not a PS4 Slim or Pro, and I experienced frequent, severe slowdown in combat when more than one of the flashier spell effects was in play. It’s a bigger nuisance during mid- to late-game boss fights, when the framerate slows to an almost constant crawl. It also almost froze during the final cut-scene, with the game stuttering and the PS4 emitting a brief but slightly worrying sound. Other platforms may run better, as may a PS4 Pro, but I had some problems there.

Shining Resonance Refrain | Dragon combat

Caught as the dragon on a rare occasion when combat was running smoothly.

The music is pretty standard fare, although the vocal songs that play for B.A.N.D. sessions are more memorable and pleasant to listen to. The battle victory theme changes as you gather more Dragoneers, adding the character’s instrument to the fanfare. It has dual audio, but I mostly played in the English dub, which was maybe a bit cheesy but otherwise not bad. The graphics are pretty, and I quite like all the character and dragon designs.

It all combines into a game that has its flaws and doesn’t make a good first impression, but sticking with it will pay off depending on how you feel about the characters. I ended up liking the middle of the game the most, when I could leisurely work my way through while enjoying building relationships with my party members and watching interactions, while the beginning has fewer characters to work with and the end focuses more on gameplay and finishing the main story. The story is fine – not particularly original, but it is well-told with good writing – but the characters are by far the thing that makes it the most enjoyable and engaging. Even if it seems like I spent a lot of this review complaining, I ultimately did enjoy the roughly 40 hours I spent with Shining Resonance Refrain. It’s a decent game for $50 USD, including all the content that was originally available as DLC for the PS3 version and the new Refrain mode, where you have former NPCs and enemies Excella and Jinas as party members. If you’re interested there’s a demo featuring the first chapter, but keep in mind it’s short and I think it doesn’t highlight the game’s biggest strengths. Otherwise, if it sounds interesting and you can deal with some problems, I’d still recommend Shining Resonance Refrain.

Shining Resonance Refrain | Singing event

The occasional CG by character designer Tony is a nice treat.

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.

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