Monday, 10 September 2018

Shining Resonance Refrain ★★★★☆

As a young gamer, I would spend a lot of time playing video games made by Great British Games Developers such as Psygnosis, Team 17 and Codemasters. Particularly the latter as nothing made my head spin with excitement more than a new Dizzy game, of which there seemed to be a thousand.  That little egg's adventures seemed to be endless and I even remember my father discovering how to wake a sleeping egg by electrocuting him with a lightning rod.  In this respect, my Dad was undeniably better than your Dad.

Eventually, however, through reading magazines such as Amiga Format and ultimately The Official UK PlayStation Magazine, I discovered there was another country that was even more prolific in the video games department. Australia. No, wait. Japan. I was constantly taunted by games that appealed to my most important thirteen year old organ. The Brain. I discovered an unending list of 'Japan-Only' games featuring concepts, art and "mental shit" that my young teenage organ could barely comprehend. One of these games a full two decades later was called Shining Resonance on PS3 and has just been released on PS4 and in the west for the first time ever with loads of extra DLC built in and with a shiny new name. ShininResonance: : Refrain.

As you may be able to tell already this game is a JRPG, full of musical puns and more anime tropes than you could cliché a stereotype at. Set in the city of Marga, you play as Yuma, one of those anime boys that is wildly effeminate (not that there's anything wrong with that), wildly powerful, and absolutely terrified of girls.  He is then inevitably placed in the company of incredibly attractive women who seem to be obsessed with him due to an impending cataclysm. The Empire is out to destroy the world through the use of dragons, and Yuma is secretly host to the soul of the most powerful dragon in the world.  The Shining Dragon. 

So far so Japan. Everything about this game is just on the right side of generic, there is alchemy, a levelling system very similar to Materia in FFVII, a world ending event that can only be stopped by a reluctant hero and an evil empire of sexy men and women.  The control system is very similar to the Tales of Xillia games, in that you have a very reduced amount of choices that change depending on which character you decide is the leader, that feel streamlined as opposed to empty. There are so many moving parts, with the alchemy, dating sim, visual novel elements, side quests, Focus (akin to magic), etc. etc. There is almost too much but there isn't quite. It's hefty, but there is a healthy amount of heft. 

Then there are the DLC costumes that come packaged as standard, where you can allow Yuma to dress up as an Idol (a military version of One Direction in this case), or as himself. Then, of course, there are the women, that have five different kinds of bikini, a French maid or a school girl outfit to choose from. When I typed that previous sentence I subconsciously wrote 'out tit' which you can imagine how subtle these costumes aren't.  It's a different culture in 2014 Japan. 

The story is generic and the cutscenes are definitely inspired by visual novel elements as I spent more time than I would like between battles watching nearly fifteen minutes of exposition from gruff men, ditzy girls, overly intelligent kids, and all the usual anime characters.  However, there is just enough character development to keep me interested though, and of course, there is Refrain mode. Refrain is a 'What if?' timeline where you play as the characters from the Empire instead, but Sega suggest that you don't touch this until after you've plunged fifty hours into the normal story, as the Refrain story will make almost no sense at all, and anything that does Resonate will be a spoiler for the main campaign.

Ultimately, this game is worth playing if you are into JRPGs, or cartoon lady-parts and I would like to see more of the Shining series worm their way over to the west. I don't think anyone will remember playing this game and you wouldn't be missing out on anything groundbreaking if you don't play it. But if you are nostalgic for PS3 era Japan-as-fuck games this is a great place to do it. If you want to electrocute an egg though, try out Magicland Dizzy on the Amiga 500+.

David Roberts

Shining Resonance Refrain at CeX

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