Game Title: Shining Resonance Refrain
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital
Battery Life: 3-4 hours
Download: 6.6 GB
The “Shining” series of RPGs from Sega is one of those series that haven’t left Japan much in recent times. There are occasional side games and spin-offs that are available on PC now, but in the console world, they threw a PS3 RPG out in Japan and never did much with it, in terms of a Western release.
Thankfully, that changed last week. Shining Resonance for the PS3 was not only translated to be brought to the West, but it was fully dubbed in both Japanese and English and brought to consoles as well as handhelds.
So, let’s dive into this colorful anime RPG. Here is my review of Shining Resonance Refrain for the Nintendo Switch!
The story of Resonance centers around Yuma, a young boy that serves as the vessel for a legendary being from an ancient war, known as the Shining Dragon. As the vessel, he became the target of an invading army that wishes to use the dragons as tools of war as well as the country being invaded, whom revere the Dragons. Upon being rescued from the invaders, Yuma swears to use the power of the Shining Dragon to fight and bring peace to the world.
The story of this game isn’t what I would call bad, in any way, but it’s a bit too consistent with its predictability. It’s got great character development, especially with its Affection and Romance features. But they use some JRPG tropes a little too much. Having a boss fight where you end the fight, only to have another enemy show up for a boss fight is an interesting use of story, but when you have that same thing happen in almost every single chapter of the game, it’s a bit too tiring and predictable when you know the fight you’re doing is “the warmup fight”.
Shining Resonance Refrain is an Action-RPG with Dating Sim elements thrown into the mix. As you go through the game, you’ll be exploring areas, fighting monsters in real-time battles, and spending your off-time getting to know your teammates in Dating Sim-like Character Events.
Of course, the first thing of note is that this is an enhanced port of Shining Resonance for the PlayStation 3 which never left Japan. In terms of content, Refrain is packed with all of the DLC that came out for the Japanese PS3 release, mostly consisting of alternate costumes for the playable characters.
It also includes Refrain Mode, which is an alternate way to play the game. But, it’s much simpler than it sounds. Refrain Mode is the same as Original Mode, but with the inclusion of DLC Characters Excella and Jinas, two characters that were not playable in the original game, along with Character Events and Endings you can obtain for each of them. It’s kind of like a New Game Plus mode, but without needing to clear the game first.
Progression in Resonance is pretty simple. You’ve always got story markers on where you need to go to advance the plot, be it a location inside the city of Marge, which serves as the game’s hub world, or a dungeon out in the surrounding areas. This is a very story-driven game, though. All of your objectives will be story-based and the story is constantly pushing you towards the next area, dungeon, and boss fight to push the game forward.
That’s not all you do, though. You do go out into the world, spawn events, and fight bosses, but in your off-time, there’s plenty of other things to do. This game has a large focus on its Affection and Romance elements. Any day at any time, you can talk to your party members around the hub and, depending on how you answer questions they have, their Affection rating can go up or down. This will allow you to invite them to late-night chats and even go on Dates with them to further get closer and learn more about their character.
This is all tied to the Ending system. Every character has their own ending that is only accessible if their Affection Rating is high enough by the time you reach the Final Boss. The thing that’s great about this is that you can go into that part of the game with everyone’s Affection maxed out and the game allows you to choose whichever Character Ending you want and can reload your save to go again to see the other endings.
Now, let’s get into the dungeons and combat of the game. Aside from a facility in the hub city that creates automated dungeons for you to fight through for grinding purposes, the world outside of the hub consists of nothing but dungeons that link into one another. As you go out and explore, there are monster encounters everywhere, and you’ll be navigating dungeon areas to get to other dungeon areas. The game incrementally sends you further and further out into the World Map as the Story progresses and has you visiting different locations.
This isn’t a bad system, as you can see how the whole world is formed as locations connect to one another. However, there is one big Quality-of-Life irritation here. The game has no form of Fast Travel, outside of an item that returns you to town. The further you get into the game, the more dungeons you have to run through to get to new objectives. This starts out pretty simple, but the later you get, running through one or two dungeons to get to your objective starts turning into running through three to five dungeons to get to where you need to go for your next scene and boss fight.
It gets quite tiring, knowing that you have to leave town and chug your way through lots of dungeons to get to where you need to go. Sure, the game does offer camp locations across the World Map to save and resupply, but there’s no way to quickly travel to those locations. So, it feels like a task, just running around dungeons to get to the new dungeon.
Combat, itself, is comparable to that of the Tales franchise, but not quite as in-depth. When in combat, you run around an arena in real-time, and can attack enemies with normal attacks, heavy/break attacks that can stun enemies after some time, and skills that use your MP. This is mostly comparable to Tales because it is very easy to chain attacks and skills together to make long combos. It’s not quite as extensive as the system Tales uses, but it’s similar.
The real uniqueness comes from the BAND system and the Shining Dragon. With all of the characters’ weapons being musical instruments, you can build up a gauge and do group songs to affect a lot of things in battle, like reducing damage the party takes or preventing status ailments for as long as the song plays.
This is further expanded in the Shining Dragon. Whenever Yuma has MP, he can tap into and transform into the Shining Dragon and fight in Dragon Form, where all of his stats increase but with a chance of him losing control and becoming berserk. This adds a bit of strategy for players to not just spam the Dragon Form and Ethers to go through each fight and use it wisely and carefully.
Upon winning battles, you gain experience points like most RPGs, both for your characters and their weapons to level up, giving you two ways to raise stats.
That brings me to one thing: Difficulty. This game is like a lot of retro RPGs in a way. This is especially the case with boss fights, but the game is full of huge difficulty spikes for you to overcome. There will rarely be a time in the game when bosses aren’t 10-20+ levels higher than your party and most of them require a lot of attention to learning patterns as they hit much harder than normal enemies around as well as previous bosses.
The thing about it is that this is an Action RPG, so with proper timing and evasion, you can take down enemies that much higher level than you. In fact, I beat the Level 83 Final Boss only around Level 53. However, that isn’t enough as your party still needs to be significantly powered to handle all of the damage those bosses dish out. This requires you to do a good bit of grinding when these spikes happen, even if you know the patterns.
This is another Quality-of-Life thing, because not only do these difficulty spikes happen, but EXP is not shared across all playable characters. Only Active Party Members level, so when you get later in the game when you’re forced to use certain characters, you’ll be in trouble if those particular characters aren’t levels and are thrown into battles with enemies that are absurdly strong in comparison.
This is where the Hub City’s Dungeon Generator comes in handy, as you can customize dungeons you run into by level as well as what kinds of enemies you run across. You don’t have to trek across the World Map, either, so you can just run by your save point and jump right in to send your party grinding it up to gain levels. But, be that as it may, it still requires a significant amount of grinding to keep up with many of these bosses.
That brings us to the game’s length. I managed to beat the game’s Final Boss is around 32 hours, mostly due to switch to the Casual Difficulty for a fair part of the game when the difficulty spikes got too ridiculous and I found myself spending hours of grinding, only to have the boss after require even more grinding. I’d say out of those 32 hours, about 5 were grinding. I’d gauge the Casual Difficulty around 30 hours of play and the Normal Difficulty around 40 hours, so there’s certainly a lot of time to be spent here.
Controlling the game isn’t too difficult. No touch controls in handheld mode, so there’s no need to change how you play when you undock your Switch.
Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and moving the camera is done with the Right Analog Stick. The Arrow Buttons / D-Pad are used for issuing commands to your party members. The four triggers are all used here as well. Holding L brings up Skills you can use, while R brings up the BAND/Song menu in combat. ZR is used for locking onto nearby enemies.
Finally, the action buttons have their uses. A and X are used for physical attacks, while B and Y are used for blocking and evading. It’s not too hard to get, plus the game has lots of tutorials to explain how everything works.
Graphically, this game looks absolutely beautiful. When you’ve got the game docked, it has little to no blemishes or jaggies. Even in handheld mode, there are some jaggies here and there, but it still looks colorful and beautifully optimized for the Switch.
The only hindrance on this is performance. During some fights, the frames will drop upon striking enemies. There has been a patch that has helped with this, but you can see stuttering if you ever strike more than one enemy at once with physical attacks. It returns to normal by the time the attack is over, but it is a bit odd to look at.
Oddly enough, these drops are far more noticeable in Docked Mode than Handheld Mode.
Given how beautiful the game is, I was surprised at the Battery Times. Here they are, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 11 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 22 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 56 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 08 minutes
3-4 hours is not what I was expecting. Kudos to Sega for optimizing this game very well.