RefRain -prism memories-
Gameplay 9
Graphics 7
Sound 9

RefRain is a great shooter that strays a little from the usual formula to offer an action packed experience that is based more on skill than luck. Mastering the use of the M.E.F.A2 and Concept Reactor attacks are immensely satisfying and also allows you to play more aggressively. Players used to power-ups and weapon upgrades will find that RefRain has a bit of a learning curve, but this also provides it with more longevity and replay value. Overall, if you are a fan of the genre, then RefRain certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Gameplay: Challenging, but very rewarding when mastered.

Graphics: The designs are a little bland compared to other shooters, but the game is very colorful.

Sound: Features a very fitting electronic soundtrack

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RefRain -prism memories-

Developer: RebRank | Publisher: Degica | Release Date: 2016 | Genre: Action / Indie / Shooter | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Dive deep into the M.R.S. computer network, defeat the five Central Keepers, and help the three heroines of RefRain -prism memories- unlock their memories of the past. Thanks to Degica we’ve been seeing more classic shooters from CAVE Interactive appear on Steam, but they haven’t overlooked smaller developers either. This is very heartening to see as bullet hell shooters are already a very niche genre and tracking down the more obscure titles can be almost impossible outside of Japan.

Initially RefRain -prism memories- looks just like a typical bullet hell shooter, but there is more to this game than simply dodging projectiles. The game actually encourages more offensive play thanks to its different attack modes, instead of always being on the defense.

RefRain is a vertically scrolling shooter, giving you a top down view of the action from the cockpit of one of three different fighters. Initially, you only have access to the “Must Viper”, piloted by Miria, but both “Blitz Lester” and “Bronx Terror” can be unlocked. While the Must Viper is the most balanced of the three, Blitz Lester excels in close range while Bronx Terror is better suited to picking off enemies from a distance. The three heroines piloting the craft also have their own stories, but these are told via system logs and character message logs, which is accessed from each character’s desktop. The stories aren’t anything earth shattering, but provide enough reasons to complete the game a few times to uncover everything.

Although the game only features five different levels, it offers quite a challenge on any setting apart from the easiest. You are provided with two lives and can take two hits per life, but only have two continues at your disposal. This will be more than enough for veterans, but it might take a few tries before newcomers will feel comfortable enough to tackle the higher skill levels.

Normally bullet hell shooters only require that you hold down the “shoot” button while weaving through intricate bullet patterns to survive. This can also be done in RefRain, but you won’t score as many points and on higher skill levels you will encounter bullet patterns that are virtually impossible to dodge. This is where the “Mood-Emotion-Feeling-Affect” attack and “Concept Reactor” comes in handy. In addition to your main shot, which is great for taking out weaker enemies, the M.E.F.A2 allows you to unleash a more devastating attack. This attack can be charged up to six levels and unleashed as six individual attacks or in rapid succession for even more damage. For example, with a single tap of the M.E.F.A2 button the Must Viper shoots out a powerful laser straight ahead. Two taps and you unleash a barrage of bombs, while at level four you not only shoot out an extremely powerful laser, but it also knocks targets back if it hits. Obviously the M.E.F.A2 attacks is somewhat overkill on normal foes, but essential for the bosses. Since the M.E.F.A2 meter charges up quite quickly by attacking enemies you don’t have to hold back on using it either.

Next up is the “Concept Reactor” which is another attack with a gauge of its own. This one charges up by collecting items dropped by defeated enemies or knocked back bosses, but can only hold three charges. The items range from level one to five, with higher levels yielding more charges, but requiring you to be closer to the target when they are destroyed. Activating the concept reactor turns all incoming projectiles into prisms, which can then be shot and destroyed. This will in turn increase the M.E.F.A2 gauge even faster, so using these two attacks at the right time is the key to mastering the game. It is immensely rewarding to wipe the floor with bosses using a few well timed attacks, but without proper timing you’ll be left high and dry. It also makes the game even more addictive because whenever you fail you know you could have done better with practice.

While this is the first time that RefRain is available on Steam it is still an older title, so the visuals are far from cutting edge. It also uses simple polygons for the enemies and some backgrounds, so it lacks the intricate detail found in some 2D shooters. The game doesn’t support TATE mode either and resolutions are restricted to 4:3 aspect ratio only. However, it makes up for this with some very colorful bullet and laser patterns, which gives the action an almost hypnotic feel. This is further enhanced by the excellent electronic soundtrack that complements the visuals and feel of the game perfectly. The game even features a music player to listen to the tunes and check out the descriptions that reveal just how much thought went into each track.

RefRain doesn’t have the best looking levels or ship designs, but it is an undeniably fun game. It is a pity that it doesn’t feature a multiplayer mode as the action is very addictive and would have been great to experience with a friend. The M.E.F.A2 and Concept Reactor makes it more a game of skill than luck and with three different ships, as well as plenty of achievements, RefRain has a lot of replay value. If you enjoy a good shooter and don’t mind putting in a bit of practice before everything clicks into place you will love RefRain.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7/8/8.1/10
  • Processor: Pentium 4, 2GHz or later
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Geforce 6600 or better
  • DirectX: Version 8.0
  • Storage: 200 MB available space
  • OS: Windows 7/8/8.1/10
  • Processor: Core 2 or later (Core 2 Duo E8500 as a guide: 3.0GHz)
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT, NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 or better
  • DirectX: Version 8.0
  • Storage: 200 MB available space

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