There is something sad about games exclusive to a certain region. While it has gotten better, especially now that publishers are okay with not adding dubs or digital only releases, there are still exclusives. One such game is Shining Resonance. After finding some success on the PlayStation 3, it’s back to try to capture a new audience by bringing it outside of Japan and including a number of improvements. With additional characters, cute girls and the inclusion of a bunch of DLC, is Shining Resonance Refrain a must or should it have stayed as an exclusive?
Shining Resonance Refrain starts with an attempt to rescue a mysterious prisoner. As with most stories, the escape doesn’t go as planned and it’s revealed the prisoner is the infamous Shinning Dragon. Legends speak of its might and leads to conflict between the Shining Dragon and other dragons/forces.
Even if this is the central story, there is a lot of other things going on. Players will see what makes their kingdom special, follow Yuma on his quest to comes to grips and master being the Shining Dragon and countless other cute side stories that add to the world. Contrary to what this overview likely suggests, there is a startling amount of story.
Outside of the main story and sides taking place concurrent to the main adventure, there is a lot of relationship building. Players interested in a specific character or expanding their options can communicate with other characters and build a relationship. Some are cuter than others, like I’m personally partial to Rinna, but these will give story fans tons to explore.
Those looking for the true experience will also have a choice between the original story and the new refrain version. Shining Resonance Refrain suggests doing the original before playing the other, as it can be hard to follow without knowing certain things, a choice made so plot elements were not revealed out of order, adding a fair bit more to do.
Even though story is the main attraction, gameplay isn’t too bad. Unlike most games, Shining Resonance Refrain is an instance based action RPG. This is a long way of saying the combat is dynamic and players move in real time, with the downside being every encounter requires some loading and can be tedious.
There are two things that work against the combat system. It isn’t that deep and it requires a lot of grinding. Once you figure out one button attacks, another uses a different attack, there is a stamina bar, you can cast a couple spells and there is an evasive move, that is it. Players can opt to play as another character, allowing them a different role, such as healer, support or offense. Players can also use B.A.N.D. for a brief buff, with Yuma giving players the opportunity to play as the Shining Dragon.
A lot of these things sound more complicated on paper, as a lot of them are not practical for normal battles and/or are simple inputs, with the Shining Dragon being a headache. Since Shining Resonance Refrain prioritizes story over gameplay, Shining Dragon is essentially a Hail Mary. As your MP decreases, the likelihood of the Shining Dragon going out of control increases. If you lose control, it’s entirely possible for it to kill all your teammates or just offer a brief annoyance at having to switch to a different character. It’s a neat mechanic, one that can prove widely inconsistent and frustrating, even if the theory behind it is solid.
Needless to say, if you need a Hail Mary, combat has to be, at times, rough. Like a lot of similar games, if you’re not spending an exorbitant amount of time grinding and/or leveling skills, expect boss battles, even on the lowest difficulty, to be brutal. There were times when the boss was twice my level and could two or three hit me, with the fight itself requiring a lot of smart moves, transformations, dodges and more, just to come out alive. This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t undercut the experience. If only for the fact it feels like padding.
Thankfully, there are tons of peons to defeat, optional quests and power ups to obtain, giving players tons of things to do, you just need to make an effort to do them. Some of these, especially the story based ones, give a lot of insight into the world or extremely helpful items, making them a must if you want to experience everything or at least have an advantage.
Shining Resonance Refrain is an interesting, trope heavy, story with combat that could be fun, if there was less padding. None of these things stop it from being a good game, it just prevents it from being truly great. Despite the negativity towards a lot of it, the characters were fun enough where I found myself excited on seeing where things would go, it just requires you to be interested in a lot of clichés found in things like anime. Outside of that, combat is fun, at least when you’re not out classed, with the Switch having some slight performance issues, making Shining Resonance Refrain an okay experience. One fantasy and anime fans will probably like, with it having very little for anyone else. Well, outside of nice music and pretty visuals.
[Editor’s Note: Shining Resonance Refrain was reviewed on Switch platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]