It’s been a good while since us over in Europe have seen the Shining franchise and this latest entry may seem a little jarring for us who haven’t played since the Saturn. Does the series still hold it’s shine? Read on to find out!.
So let’s get this out there straight off the bat, any trailer or screenshot should tell you that this is a different breed than that of it’s earlier kin. Gone is the SPRG style of play, Shining Resonance Refrain is an action RPG with a focus on character development, waifu and a smorgasbord of side quests to tackle alongside it’s 30 hour campaign.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start Shining Force Refrain is that it looks quite dated, this is because it’s actually an enhanced port of a PS3 title that was Japan only. This doesn’t actually hinder the game in terms of visual, the art style is fantastic here and it really “shines” through (yeah there will be alot of that…).
All the characters have various aspects from popular anime culture such as the handsome withdrawn hero, the tsundere, you know the script by now, all brought to life in a lavish and colourful art style. The game locations are varied but the norm for an RPG throwing out little in the way of surprises. One issue here is the fact you’ll be seeing ALOT of the same areas over and over again but I’ll touch on that later on in the review. The characters animate well on the field, the sliding to stop after sprinting is particularly animated and I liked that as an additional touch. The cutscenes are sadly very much a product of their time, for better and worse.
Most cutscenes involve two character models stood either side of the text back performing basic animations, some have a little more action and break the pace & then some just have a black screen and sound effect. It’s a mixed bag of quality.
The story while quite grounded in location manages to hit some quite high beats touching on conflict between two sides, while there is technically an “evil” side they are more of a grey area and it’s only their extreme actions that cement them in such a way.
You have the ability throughout the game to date some of the cast, male and female. It’s the standard affair of making the right choices which bring out more of a character’s personality, this also improves them in battle so it’s beneficial to do so and choose accordingly.
The music in Shining Resonance is not only a plot device but also one of it’s best selling points, the soundtrack is phenomenal. From the opening theme you can already tell the extra mile was given when composing the music here, the game has such a fantastic mix of J-pop all the way to classical ballads that it’s hard not to find a track that really grabs your attention.
As mentioned previously, Shining Resonance Refrain is unlike the titles I remember in terms of its combat as it’s now an Action RPG. The combat is in real time, you control one character while giving other characters commands or rely on the A.I to assist you. You also have the ability to dodge and block attacks, you can totally negate damage if you play clever, read patterns and be prepared to flee aswell as fight.
You have a stamina meter which means you have to be mindful of button mashing and choosing your spots. A quick and heavy attack & of course “skills” or magic. Bigger enemies require a little more strategy as certain attacks can “break” an enemy, this means you can deal extra damage while the big bad is stunned. The combat is kind of standard for the genre but that isn’t a negative, it feels really smooth and the further in you get the more attacks and abilities you unlock allows you to get really nuanced with your battles.
As Shining Resonance Refrain is a port from the last gen, Sega have added a little extra content to make the package slightly sweeter, this comes in the form of the Refrain Mode. The Refrain Mode is essentially New Game + with 2 extra characters from the story as playable characters. You can play this mode from the get go but it’s not advisable as the characters aren’t really implemented into the story and it can be quite jarring when they appear in the story while they are also part of your in game party.
Shining Resonance Refrain is a nice slice of last gen JRPG, it has an outstanding soundtrack, fantastic combat and a well written cast. The small scale of the areas and the cutscenes do hamper the title somewhat, but from the art style to the pure charm the title oozes, do leaps and bounds to justify dipping into this new age Shining title.
Shining Resonance Refrain (Playstation 4) - 7/10
- Great soundtrack
- JRPG goodness
- Plays it safe
- Last gen hangups
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