Sega’s Shining series consistently received new installments for a while, though not in the way some fans wanted. It’s still well known for being a strategy/RPG series, especially among the small-but-vocal western fanbase, but they haven’t made an installment like the older titles since they broke it off with Camelot in the late 90s. That’s not including the remake of the first game for Game Boy Advance, since it’s, well, a remake. While Shining Force Feather was an SRPG, it took a different approach to the genre, one similar to the Super Robot Taisen titles.
Notably, the Shining series started with first-person dungeon crawler Shining in the Darkness, though the only other such title in the series was Shining the Holy Ark. Sadly, no one asks for a new dungeon crawling game.
Since the fade of the Camelot era (the video game one, you know), Sega’s mostly made a series of action/RPGs with no connection to the other titles in both 2D and 3D forms. For the most part, they succeeded in establishing a new generation of fans, though even they weren’t the highest-selling titles around. The series of action-based titles culminated with Shining Resonance on PS3, an action/RPG developed in cooperation with Media.Vision, but the companies involved moved to other projects afterward. Recently, they took an alternate approach to the Valkyria formula instead with this year’s Valkyria Revolution, an experiment that went awry.
(There was also merely-okay fighting game Blade Arcus from Shining, but that was dissimilar enough from recent Shining installments enough that it couldn’t be blamed for killing the franchise.)
Given how poor an effort Revolution was outside its wonderful soundtrack, it’s no surprise the developers involved want to give the Shining series another shot. That won’t happen in the form of a new game yet, but in a more polished version of the last title in Shining Resonance Re:Frain, an enhanced port/remaster for PlayStation 4.
Re:frain will receive many of the same enhancements as other remasters. It will be presented in a higher resolution than the 720p original, which could mean either a maximum of 1080p or 4K, and in 60fps. It will also include all 150 pieces (!!) of DLC in the package, which range from innocuous bonuses like swimsuits and idol outfits to more meaningful content like extra character events and new dungeons. The main game will also receive adjustments, like how some bosses will be a little easier to deal with, and the option to restart battles after the party falls. The original game was noted as being rather difficult in many import reviews I’ve read, so this should ease that a bit, but not make it too much easier.
This version is also called “Re:frain” because of the new “Refrain Mode,” a new “What if?” story. This will add Excela Noa Aura and Jenius Aeon, two characters with very Japanese RPG names, to the main story, which will alter some parts of it. Precisely how the story will change wasn’t specified, due to their need to save details for upcoming promotional efforts, but they probably won’t explain why there’s a bizarre colon between “Re” and “frain.” The game will also receive a new opening theme song called “Towairo no Aria” from voice actresses Saori Hayami and Asami Seto, who voiced Kirika Towa Alma and Sonia Blanche.
The Shining series temporarily halted with producer Tsuyoshi Sawada, who apparently departed Sega. Makoto Suzuki has now assumed those duties, and is using this opportunity to determine if enough interest remains in the brand. Character designer Tony Taka, who designed two new swimsuit sets for this title, also expressed interest in a franchise revival, and hopes a potential next installment could be the real start of that. While that’s partly due to his desire to have more steady work, he also seems to genuinely enjoy drawing artwork for the series. The original title fell out of Japanese sales tracker Media Create’s top 20 charts after selling a little over 83,667 copies, so hopefully Sega’s expectations aren’t too high.
There’s a chance this revival could lead to the games being localized in English again. Suzuki explained how recent titles have been made for the Asian markets, but expressed interest in releasing future titles for the world. A Shining title hasn’t received an official English localization since Shining Force EXA on PlayStation 2 in 2007, over a decade ago, so a return would be welcome if these titles are good.
Shining Resonance Re:frain will release in Japan on March 29th. Since Sega is localizing more games these days with Atlus USA helping them, there’s a chance Suzuki’s wishes could be honored. If not, that could have to wait until the next title.
P.S. If you’re in the camp that would rather have an old school-style Shining title, keep in mind Camelot’s producer recently said the company is interested in making Shining Force IV. Whether they can will be up to Sega, so cross your fingers.