This current generation has probably seen the most ports, reissues (definitive or not), and remasters than any generation we have seen ever. While it was already rampant before the Nintendo Switch’s release, the massive success of the new console has seen it continue when many gamers figured it was starting to slow down. These have ranged from those that make sense, including a lot of the WiiU games coming over to the popular new Nintendo console, to “WHY…just…WHY?!,” such as L.A. Noire (even though it helped remind people that that was a game.) This brings us to a remaster that falls into the former: Shining Resonance Refrain, which is a remaster of the Japan exclusive PS3 game Shining Resonance. While the game deserved localization due to the sheer fact the series rarely comes Westward, how does it hold up being a four-year-old game?
The logical first place to discuss this release is what is included in the actual game package. There is not really that much outside of improved graphics, duel English and Japanese voice acting, all the original game’s DLC, and a new “Refrain Mode” that unlocks Princess Excella and Dragonslayer Jinas as party members. The updated graphics are a mixed bag as the character models look great, but the scenery and settings in the background in both the cut screens and playable world does not come off as greatly upgraded. The biggest selling point for this edition is the “Refrain Mode” that is claimed to add to the story and, as such, was suggested to play after the standard mode. With that said, the “Refrain Mode” is just the main story with Princess Excella and Dragonslayer Jinas added as playable characters very early on without any explanation, and, in fact, contradicts the storyline.
Speaking of the story, let us inspect the dualist character POV in relation to the cutscene rate. The player starts off controlling Sonia Blanche, who is a sworn knight of Astoria, for the first part of the first chapter before switching to Kirika Towa Alma, an elf who is also a dragoner of Wellant. The POV switching from Sonia to Kirika midway through the chapter helps trim potential cut screen time from a game that is very cut screen heavy, especially in the beginning when the player only gets roughly twenty minutes of actual gameplay in the first two hours of gameplay. It also helps the player get accustomed with both characters. However, once the actual main character of Yuma Ilburn/Shining Dragon is in the party, the game really pushes the player to have him as the leader and no one else. Yuma is also a main gripe because he is very whiney in his dialogue; he comes off much better though when he shuts up and transforms into the Shining Dragon.
Another character issue is the recurring monologue introductions- an issue that extends far beyond Yuma and occurs even when no one is around. It is just added dialogue and cut screen real estate that could be better served for actual gameplay. That may be by choice, though, as the gameplay is…well what you would expect from this type of game. The real-time combat is slowed down by the fact that the player must manage action points and, while the armonic instrument-weapons made by the Shining Dragon and using music in combat through the B.A.N.D system is a unique take, it is hurt by the unsatisfactory combat feeling with absolutely no flow. It also does not help that the enemies, even when the levels are the same or similar, feel like damage sponges. While the gameplay is a highly mixed bag, it is at least serviceable enough for players wanting to play the game.
However, what is NOT serviceable is the technical issues that pop up. Our play-through was on a first model Xbox One and we experienced at various points in time stuttering cut screens, input lag when trying to advance the dialogue, and slowdown during battles with a lot of enemies in the confined area. With that happening on the Xbox One version, imagine how the Nintendo Switch version must fair…not a pretty thought. Speaking of dialogue, the way the game handles it outside of the cut screens is some of the poorest I have seen in a game. Most JRPGs have passive dialogue appear in the corner of the HUD if the player is interested in reading, with more crucial dialogue in the traditional bottom center position. Shining Resonance Refrain puts all dialogue, passive or not, in front of the player where the player has to advance it to continue. God forbid two characters are speaking as they stack the boxes on top of one another and blocks out the entire screen.
Which brings us to the quality of life gripes the player will find with the game. The most immediate gripe will be found before a game is even started. Navigating menus is done solely by using the d-pad while most games allow for d-pad and analog sticks to be used for navigating the menus in games. Then, once the player gets into the game, they find that when they want to move the camera, the movement is on the slow end and cannot be adjusted in the settings. The biggest sin of them all is the fact the player can only save at save points and places where they rest. In a game that can be classified as open world, having neither a quick save option anywhere in the world nor an auto-save is a big no-no in a game that already has big faults. It really makes the game come off as a poor man’s Tales Of or Ys game, which hurts the series more than the fact it gets rare localizations out west.
In the end, the audience for this game really depends on the system owned by the player. If they solely own an Xbox, then this is a rare Japanese game of this sort to the console and would be appreciated more; if they own a Playstation 4 and/or Nintendo Switch, there are much better options for fun games that are similar to this game. This includes the likes of Ys VIII, Nights Of Azure 2, and Atelier Lydia & Suelle which are all on both of those consoles. The biggest thing, though, is Shining Resonance Refrain has a bang average story with unsatisfactory combat. Not to mention, it is yet another generic anime ARPG that focuses more on cute girls then trying to present a good plot for gamers. For God’s sake, Sonia has a damn boob window for what appears to be her anatomically incorrect breasts that just makes things weird and is completely unnecessary! (Ryan Williford, Gaming Editor)
Review copy provided by Sega; reviewed on the Xbox One.