FIRST IMPRESSIONS – Shining Resonance: Refrain

Shining Resonance: Refrain is a remastered version of the original PS3-only release of Shining Resonance, making it available for Nintendo Switch owners. The game features both the original Japanese and English audio, as well as all the previously released downloadable content. The new refrain mode is also included, which adds the following characters to your party at the start of the game: Princess Excella and Dragonslayer Jinas.

At this time, I have only gotten around five hours into the game. Given the girth of traditional Japanese RPGs and based on my personal time, I do not believe I have gotten sufficiently far enough in to the campaign to call for a full review. So this is more of a first-impressions review.

Shining Resonance: Refrain initially drew me in with its fantasy art style and incredible soundtrack. Its battle systems are simple enough for someone new, yet are complex enough to keep you hooked. The story, so far, is exciting but not fun for those who dislike cutscenes. Technically, the game works well on Switch, but there were a few little hiccups.

My experience so far has been fairly average, but this shouldn’t stop you from buying it, and here is why…

The game’s fantasy atmosphere and music is a one-two punch combination that draws your eyes and ears to the screen. Regardless of whether you are playing in portable mode or in docked mode the game looks and sounds great. I haven’t seen any visual differences between playing the retail Switch version and the demo version that is available on other platforms. The music and voices sound as they should, which means they don’t sound terribly compressed like many other Switch games. Although, a lot of this lends to the fact this is a port of a seventh-generation game to current hardware that is much more capable.

The battle system is a hybrid style that calls back the era of classic action RPGs. There is no loading between going in and out of a fight. The fights, themselves, are confined to a circle in the area where you encountered the monster. It is simple enough that you can win many fights without tapping into your abilities, but you should still learn them, as bosses are almost impossible without them. You also learn more advance moves, such combining attacks and abilities with songs (learned within the first few hours). Overall, the battles are fun, both simple and deep, and they will keep players engaged.

My only problem, so far, is how the story is told and the length of cutscenes. The story is engaging, but the long, overdrawn cutscenes make it difficult to follow. Like I said, I am five hours in, and I have no idea why I am fighting and for whom I am fighting. The writing and voice acting is good enough, but at this point, I would rather just mute the voices and read all the subtitles myself. I often found myself rushing through just to get to the quest. My opinion of cutscene length has changed through the years, as I used to like longer ones. These days, though, they are a burden to a busy lifestyle.

Lastly, let’s discuss the technical aspects of the game. I can’t confirm the resolution, but coming from the PS3 where a majority of titles were 720p and lower, this game looks miles better than the original version – a lot cleaner than I expected for a remastered port from a platform with foreign architecture. Sega did a great job with this game, and it shows. Like the original, it does run at 30 frames per second. During battle, there is some slowdown, but the game picks back up immediately. Pop-in is there, which it cannot be avoided, but it is not excessive. In portable mode, it maintains everything from effects to texture quality very well. The game is definitely one of the better remasters I have seen.

Overall, the Switch version of Shining Resonance: Refrain is the absolute purest experience you will get. The added DLC and Refrain mode is a nice touch for those who have played the original. Its visuals and soundtrack are a treat to the eyes and ears. The battle system is engaging and fun, while being both simple and complex at the same time. The cutscenes overstay their welcome, but the story is interesting enough to keep you going. The technical achievements for this game are definitely something to applaud. From portable to docked mode, you are going to get the same experience. You definitely do not want to refrain from picking this up!

GAME: Shining Resonance: Refrain
ESRB: T for Teen
Developer: Sega
OBTAINED: Review code provided by Sega