Music, Magic, and Dragons in this new Demo
Next Month, Shining Resonance returns. Most of us will, however, never have heard of this particular game. Back in 2014 Media.m Vision and Sega launched the latest installment in the Shining franchise. It landed on Sony’s PlayStation 3 and was a stunning entry for the team behind these JRPGs, but this particular adventure never made it out of Japan. So, when a playable demo for Shining Resonance Refrain arrived in the Nintendo eShop, I had to see what we all missed out on.
Shining Resonance Refrain is a relaunch and update of the original 2014 JRPG, Shining Resonance. It takes on the same storyline with all the added DLC, a brand new refrain game mode, additional characters, and vastly improved graphics. The early sample of Sega’s latest title follows the same protagonists as the original game and centers on the fate of a young boy, Yuma.
Before we get into the cut and thrust of the action, it is only proper to frame my thoughts on Shining Refrain Resonance. This is, after all, a demo and as such it does not represent the finished game. A number of options are missing, refrain mode is not available, and the content is relatively short. It does manage to give us a taster of the upcoming adventure, and I’m definitely intrigued. Opening in the land of Alfheim, players find themselves in the midst of an epic siege. Playing as the Astorian knight Sonia Blanche, you must infiltrate a massive fortress and locate Yuma’s prison. While the battle rages outside, this set of missions gives players a moment to appreciate the updates that Media. Vision has applied to this game.
The push to 1080p provides the most obvious change to the original. Although Shining Resonance did not make it to western screens, Refrain has far greater graphical fidelity than the PlayStation 3 could ever imagine. After nearly 5 years, the basic character design seems to have aged well and the unforgiving edges of last generation’s polygons are clearly smoothed out. The surrounding castle benefits from the same lick of paint and avoids making the characters look out of place. Textures that look fitting for a modern release line the castle walls and overall, Tony Taka’s enhanced designs put major anime adaptations like .Hack // G.U. Last Recode and Accel World Vs Sword Art Online to shame.
It is not even the updated look that surprises most. Early on, Sonia stumbles into combat. It is a siege after all. Most JRPGs tend to revolve around a form of turn-based combat which can prove to be a little unengaging for me. This is not every other JRPG. Instead of falling into the trap of slowing down the game’s momentum with staged setpiece displays of might and magic, Shining Resonance Refrain takes an action combat approach to cutting through foes.
Movement into combat is obvious but doesn’t jar, with areas of engagement clearly marked. Approaching adversaries is generally achieved with the analog controllers and a number of options are available for striking down your foes. Standard and break attacks are controlled by a common set of two controller buttons. Crossing swords with these nasties requires an adequate resource of Action Points. This nod to traditional tabletop games is a nice touch without being too overbearing. Action Points are clearly marked using a resource bar that circles the base of each character, forcing you to choose what and when to attack.
Running out of Attack Points is not too much of an issue. These do regenerate and other, more powerful, Force Attacks are open to players with mana spare. Each of the game’s playable characters has a range of these Force Attacks, which provide a variety of ways to handle combat. Healing powers, huge AOE effects, forceful knockbacks, and charged assaults are all on offer, to compliment every avatar’s own style of combat. While controls are far from difficult to master, the action combat orientation and range of playstyles available success in keeping things fresh and engaging.
What seems less surprising about Shining Resonance Refrain is the narrative threads the opening demo weaves. A high fantasy setting, a young avatar with an incredible power but little self-worth is hardly a new concept. It ticks more than a few tropes that might see it falter if it wasn’t for the inclusion of massive dragons brought to life by the power of music and some quality voice acting.
Ultimately, this modern incarnation of Shining Resonance feels like a refreshing change to a lot of the seemingly unenthusiastic attempts at cut and paste JRPGs that I’ve had to endure. Combat feels refreshing with a higher degree of skill involved that simply number crunching. Quite a feat for a 5-year-old game. I don‘t want to drag on about this game but suffice to say I’ll be steeling my metal for the release of Shining Resonance Refrain on 10 July across PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.