Shining Resonance got its original release as a Japan-only PS3 title but a couple years later we now have the current-gen remaster: Shining Resonance: Refrain, for old and new players alike.
A brief tutorial shows some basics to the combat and introduces us to a couple of our main characters and protagonist, Yuma. In terms of plot and character design it’s apparent from the start that Shining Resonance is as seasonal anime as it gets. You’ve got the main protagonist thrust into a war he doesn’t understand with a hidden power he’s afraid of; yet he’s the only one who can stand up the the enemy. Alongside that a lot of characters tick the trope list when it comes to Japanese media. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it isn’t predictable enough to turn you away and the world design has a few interesting elements woven into the gameplay. The combat is the most stand-out part of the game though.
On the surface the combat is simple and just consists of performing standard attacks or break attacks to stun and enemy then throw the occasional spell. However, it’s surprisingly more complex than that. First of all there’s commanding how you want your party to act since you can only control one character at a time. Then there’s also making sure you have the right members for the job since each character specialises in different things and uses different weapons. You’ve also got the freedom to change your party leader at any time so you can take control of any party member as long as they’re not incapacitated and use their abilities for yourself. Even these few things added a layer of depth that made the combat so much more enjoyable than the tutorial made it seem.
There are several other factors that affect the combat on a deeper level. Character bonds can change the synergy of your party members depending on what kind of bonds they share. So for example: one bond may make a character more of a supportive role while another may make them more aggressive. Different bonds are unlocked as you play through the game and interact with the characters. Interacting with them helps expand on them as characters and can lead to dating scenes. Be careful though cause some bonds can leave your team worse off if they clash. Each character’s weapon can also take different ‘tunings’ which allows you to build different playstyles around each character. Since each character has only one weapon it’s important to consider the tuning for where you’re going. Weapons can then be tuned even further through ‘aspects’ which give various boosts in different stats. There are two final big parts of the combat which are really important in the big fights and that’s Yuma’s transformation and the B.A.N.D System. Yuma’s transformation allows him to turn into a powerful dragon at the risk of going berserk and attacking everything in sight until it wears off. The B.A.N.D System is a special meter you can use to give a party-wide buff and support Yuma in his dragon form.
The B.A.N.D System is the unique example of world design and combat I was talking about. Since the world of Shining Resonance is all about magic and music the two come together cleverly through this system. Since each party member’s weapon doubles as an instrument, they come together for an interesting mechanic which can turn the tide of battle. The kind of world that has been built for the game is what allows it’s very typical, trope filled storyline to remain interesting enough for you to get through.
It’s very noticeable that Shining Resonance was originally a last gen game in some areas however the bright colours and good designs in the characters allows it to not be off-putting. The main problem I had was the lack of animation cancelling and how often you get locked into your action. This is especially bad when it comes to some spell casting times. Overall there’s honestly not that much wrong with wrong with the game but not much that stands out either. One bonus available that wasn’t in the original release is the Refrain mode which expands upon the plot more. It’s recommended to beat the original game before starting this new story though. All other extra content is available as well to use.