Shinning Resonance Refrain Review
Due to the undeniable success of the Nintendo Switch in it’s place of origin, Japan, I believe it’s only a matter of time before this hybrid console becomes the new home to the countless niche JRPG’s that have spent the later part of the last decade on the PlayStation Vita. Enter Shinning Resonance Refrain.
Originally releasing on the PlayStation 3 in 2014, the game never made it out of Japan. Though now in 2018, an updated version of the game has finally come stateside; including an additional game mode that adds two previously unplayable characters to your party (although the story remains almost exactly the same, just with these two new party members spoiling events that take place later in the game, hence why this mode should be saved for additional playthroughs). The localization team did a fantastic job in their efforts to translate the game, with no typos to be found and a sound case of English voice dubbing. Unfortunately, Shinning Resonance Refrain’s plot and gameplay limit it’s audience considerably.
The combat of Shinning Resonance Refrain is most comparable to that of the Tales franchise, in part because both feature action-focused combat that takes place in real-time. While I enjoyed the combat here more than I did in the latest Tales game, Tales of Berseria, it is still undeniably vanilla. They try to spice things up with additional features, like protagonist Yuma’s ability to transform in a dragon and being able to buff your entire party through music by performing what is referred to as a B.A.N.D session; unfortunately, the music is surprisingly weak and for the most part lacks vocals, which makes the entire system pale in comparison to other JRPG’s that have incorporated music into their combat, such as Tokyo Mirage Sessions and Stella Glow. One good thing the game does have going for it is that the characters all control quite differently, unfortunately, the combat as whole relies on repetitiveness, not giving you many opportunities to experiment with these differences.
The bosses are also quite unbalanced; if you’re below their recommended level you’ll get wiped out quickly, while if you’re on the level than you are the one doing the wiping out. There is no in-between, leaving the game with only an artificial sense of difficulty. The entire journey ends up feeling like one long grind, as you’ll be required to fight every random enemy you encounter if you want to keep up with the game’s frequent level jumps.
The other gameplay elements are a mixed bag. Most of the time when you’re not in a fight, you’ll find yourself trekking back-and-forth from the hub area, a generic city that doesn’t evolve as you progress, and all the areas you’ve previously visited on your way to the newest locale. The environments are bland and spacious, and with no reliable means of fast-traveling, you’ll see the same sights over and over. Speaking of the hub area, there you can find many quests to undertake, except they’re all of the same variety that task with you fetching items or defeating a certain number of enemies, and none of these quests reward you that well for your efforts. While also in the hub area, you can hang out with your party members and “date” them. For those interested in relationship building, this is probably the best thing Shinning Resonance Refrain has going for it, but this system still has myriad of issues I don’t have time to get into.
The story doesn’t fare much better in terms of originality. The plot is one any respected JRPG connoisseur has heard before – an belligerent empire is on the verge of crushing a smaller, peace-loving kingdom, when a young, timid hero emerges with a special ability to turn the tide of the war – in this case he’s the human vassal of the all-powerful Shinning Dragon, who was thought to be a thing of legends. All the expected character archetypes are present, including the idealistic princess and the fun-loving jokester who just wants to bro-out. Shinning Resonance Refrain’s story is more about the various pit stops along the road then the actual journey, as every twist and turn (and I do use these terms lightly) are explicitly foreshadow or just par the course for the genre. Nothing remotely surprising occurs throughout this 30-hour adventure.
That’s not to say there is nothing redeemable about the story. Take the characters for example, they may be as cookie-cutter as you can get. but they still provide some fun banter and character moments to keep the journey interesting; although some of the dialogue can get a bit tiresome and does venture into realm of pointlessness every now and then. The villains themselves are also a pretty interesting group. Led by the Emperor’s own daughter, who has sympathetic reasoning for her actions, she is joined by a group of mercenaries with their own motivations, which include Zest, a warrior who cares about nothing but finding a worthy opponent for himself, and Joachim, a mad scientist-type who steals the spotlight whenever he appears. It’s just too bad the writer’s limited imagination doesn’t do anything interesting with them.
Shinning Resonance Refrain is the epitome of the typical JRPG experience with all the Anime-trappings. For most, this is a game I can easily recommend skipping. But speaking as a diehard JRPG fanatic and not a critic, I just want to say I actually enjoyed my time with the game more than the body of my review indicates. There’s not one thing I can point at that it does better better than any other game in the genre, however, it features a nice enough mixture of other better games for me to say playing this game isn’t a complete waste of time.