Blue Reflection Review (PS4)
You had me at magical girl
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
I’m kind of surprised I didn’t know about Blue Reflection until the news of its sequel being localized was announced. Not only do I like RPGs, but I love magical girls and there’s surprisingly not that many magical girl games, let alone magical girl RPGs. So of course, I had to pick it up and try it.
Blue Reflection puts you in the shoes of Hinako Shirai as she’s going back to school. However, before the events of this game her life changed in a big way. We get clued in that she sustained a knee injury months ago, which we don’t get to know the details of other than it must have been bad, and despite how much physical therapy she did it would never be the same again. Making her walk with a limp (though you wouldn’t know until a character mentions it again) and she can’t really do anything other than light exercise. This might not seem as a big deal as she did seem to recover pretty well (I’m guessing since we don’t know what kind of injury she got), but Hinako was a ballet dancer, and somewhat famous too, and that was all that she wanted to do. And no matter how much she tried to get her knee back to how it was before, she can’t do the moves she could before and thus she was forced to quit ballet. Hinako quickly fell into depression and it took her months to push herself to go to her new school, Hoshinomiya Girls’ High School, where she is more introverted and awkward than (presumably) before.
It actually doesn’t take long for you to dive right into the magical girl aspect. One of Hinako’s old middle school classmates, and now current high school classmate, Sanae approaches Hinako expressing how much she admired her. Sanae’s strong feelings causes her to act weird and produce a weird fiery aura around her, which you learn afterwards is called going rampant, and Hinako is brought into a strange world named the Common. The Common actually have different states to them, depending on what emotion the person you’re diving into is feeling, and is inhabited by demons that will attack you. After suddenly finding a ring on her finger, Hinako transforms into a magical girl, or Reflector as they’re called here, which gives her the ability to defend herself, be able to do ballet again, and lets her stabilize Fragments by hearing their inner thoughts and resonating with them. Hinako meets two other mysterious twin Reflectors, Yuzu and Lime, pretty much right after stabilizing Sanae and they team up; with Yuzu and Lime helping Hinako out with learning how to do her Reflector duties and getting her out of her shell, and Hinako by acting as a Reflector that can stabilize Fragments that also allow you guys to collect them and use their strength. While Hinako isn’t convinced to help out, Yuzu and Lime mentions that if they defeat all four Sephirot (or Sephira?) demons they’ll be granted a wish. Of course, Hinako wants to wish to have the ability to do ballet again so she agrees to work with them.
So throughout the story, you’ll be meeting other characters hearing about their troubles and helping them solve or come to terms with it after stabilizing their Fragment in the Common. While also slowly getting to see Hinako get out of her awkward shell, learning more about Yuzu and Lime, and defending the school from the Sephirot demons as Hoshinomiya High seems to be in a rare area where the normal world and the Common is more blurred. This is very much a slice of life game and you don’t really go outside of the cozy and relaxing vibe, with corners where you can cry when some of the moments hits hard, that this has. This does make the storytelling boring, and honestly it did bore me at times, once you get more into it, but there are still some stand out moments and characters that stand out, and the ending chapters.
Blue Reflection is divided into the slice of life high school social aspect and the RPG Reflector aspect. You’ll mainly be in the social aspect. Between the story chapters, every night you can choose to take a bath (which seems to just be one of the many fanservice scenes) or get reading for tomorrow which will let you see character interactions and maybe increase your stats the next day. You’ll also be able to explore the school and you’ll get a couple of side missions for you to do. While there is a minimum you have to meet to continue, you don’t have to do all of them if you don’t have to. Side missions will basically either be finding a rampant girl and stabilizing their Fragment by picking up items or defeating certain demons or crafting an item for them. If you’re someone that doesn’t like the same type of side quests being used, you won’t like how repetitive Blue Reflection is in this aspect, but I didn’t really mind it(which probably also helps that I used this time to listen to podcasts) and actually completed all but one crafting side mission.
The characters you meet during the story will also be there for you to talk to and take them on dates. Each of them will have a Feelings meter which will fill up with each date, which will include you two going to a couple locations. Interacting with them will allow you to become stronger, as it not only will let you level up after certain thresholds, but you can also get more fragments through their Bond Episodes. Hinako also has a phone which you can see the texts the characters send her, find conversation topics to bring up, and a little minigame.
And of course, it’s time for you to go into the Common where you’ll be doing combat. Don’t forget to level up everyone first and attach fragments to their various skills to add an added effect to them though! I actually found the combat pretty fun along with the animation the girls have to go along with them. Combat is turn-based, but takes place on a timeline that dictates turn order and gives it some real-time aspects to it. You’ll, of course, aim to hit the enemy’s weak points (though here, we have the more unique attack types like Heart and Impact) and managing each girl’s ether and charging it when needed (or trying to time it when there’s a lull in battle). Each skill will also have their own wait time, which will dictate how far from the center that character will be after performing it. Of course, there are some strategies that Blue Reflection pushes you towards regarding the timeline. There are a lot of skills that will have the knockback effect, which will knock the enemy back on the timeline. You’ll also notice that there’s a Reflect percentage that will increase during battle and this is very useful, especially during bosses. The Reflect ether gauge will let you activate Overdrive, which lets you do more skills and will cause them to be more powerful (though you can’t do the same skill twice). Later on, you also get the ability to do active commands, which also feeds off the Reflect ether gauge, making this quite the balancing act. Will you want to guard against an upcoming attack, or build it up for Overdrive?
During boss battles, the characters you help during the story will also come to help you out. Dubbed as Supporters, you can use their ability tied with them once they’re ready. Hinako, Yuzu, and Lime each can have four Supporters and they can range from buffing your character(s), healing, or attacking the boss. While it’s pretty easy to forget what each of their specific abilities are, they do end up being a lot of help (especially when you do a support skill and you can get hits in with a Supporter). These bosses also admittedly have really cool designs and will have you do a cool looking final Reflect attack to defeat them.
Before I bought Blue Reflection I heard a lot on how it was a super easy game and I brushed that off thinking it was an over-exaggeration. Most of us came across posts where they say that certain hard games or hard challenges as “so easy, how could you find it even a dash hard” so I thought it was one of those situations. Well it really is easy, which I believe is due to your level being tied with your relationships with your characters (giving you Growth Points) than battling enemies. It is an interesting idea, and does fit in well with what Blue Reflection is about, but you get overpowered pretty quickly if you engage with it as much as you can. The only real difficulty you’ll have is with certain demon combinations and during bosses. The Growth Points also makes battling regular demons pointless unless you’re doing side missions or fighting them to get their crafting material drops.
Though, as harsh as this sounds as I’m reading this, I do wish that Hinako had a distinct limp. This would have required making a unique walking animation for Hinako, but it would put more of an emphasis on the difference between the normal world and the Common. The conversations where characters brings up her limp will also make more sense rather than them mentioning something that Hinako doesn’t seem to have a problem with when you’re controlling her in the school. I also would have put more ballet-esque animations for her moves as well, to put more emphasis on her love of ballet and how she does it every chance she gets when she’s in the Common.
While performance on the PS4 is overall good, you will frequently notice some framerate dips, mainly during the character conversation cutscenes (which is pretty weird) and during the attack animations. They’re not so bad that it ruins the experience, but they’re just noticeable enough and frequent enough to mention. There are also some small problems with the localization as you will notice misspellings, not using the correct word, and weirdly the end of some words being on the next line rather than moving the whole word down.
While I did find myself growing bored with how the characters and the story were written as I got further into the game, aside from some stand out moments, I would still recommend Blue Reflection when it’s on a discount. This is the kind of game where it’s disappointing full price, but pretty good when you get it around half price. The story premise and the world definitely will bring you in, especially if you wanted (or didn’t know you wanted) a magical girl rpg; the art style makes the game so pretty to look at, the soundtrack is surprisingly good and fits well, and there was a whole lot of promise that it couldn’t fully realize or balance like diving into characters to find their fragments to resolve their various issues and having your level tied to your relationships. And from the little I paid attention to when I played the Blue Reflection: Second Light demo (as I just wanted the cute rabbit headband and I would have to go through the story again anyway as save data won’t carry over) there were improvements and changes made so that’s good.
While the reason I came to know Blue Reflection was the news of its sequel being released, I suspect that I would have still played it fully and as much as I did if I didn’t know there was a sequel. I probably wouldn’t have went as overboard as completing it in two days and having a whole 13 hour (almost) nonstop session, but I still would have gotten tunnel vision and completed it. So, if you want to play a magical girl RPG that has Persona elements, has a relaxing slice of life story, and don’t mind it being easy for the most part, I’d recommend picking this up when its discounted.
I can’t wait to get into Blue Reflection: Second Light and see what improvements have been made. Which… technically would be right after I write this.