+Absolutely beautiful character animations and character growth
+Absolutely stunning visuals and use of sound designs
+A solid combat system that grows as the game gets underway
+The school is an absolutely joy to explore
+Lacks Gusts previous time restrictions from the Atelier series
-Offers absolutely little challenge in combat
-Enemies variate very little outside of bosses and offer almost no change
-NPC dialogue changes very little and remains almost the same throughout the game
Have you ever wondered what the daily life of a Japanese school student was like? What if it involved taking on a spot as a video game successor to the smash-hit anime series Sailor Moon? That’s where Gust’s latest title comes into pay. Players take on the role of first-year student Hinako Shirai as she begins to attend Hoshinomiya High School.
For some, the thought of one such game where magical girls exists, dark forces await them, and lethal foes lie in way is a tad-bit overwhelming. But that’s where the charm of one such game comes into play and is the very reason we have come to know and love Blue Reflection as we do.
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While the games overall story may be troubling to some, it’s a game that takes the everyday hardships of being a teenage girl in highschool and throws in an anime styled theme. From there, we get a solid look at a fairly well told story, one that allows us to see the troubles young women may face in high school, but with RPG mechanics thrown into the mix.
Unlike most young women, Hinako isn’t your average young lady seeking a relationship, or a spot as the queen of the prom. Instead, she’s a former ballet dancer whom has injured her leg and must attend school as a “regular” student. During her time at the school, she ends up meeting with two fairly odd class mates whom just happen to be sisters: Yuzuki and Lime Shijou. The oddness behind these two ladies happens to be rather quickly explained as the two are capable of wielding magical powers.
The two quickly coerce Hinako into joining them by promising her the ability to granted one single wish when their task is completed. For Hinako, the game follows a rather all-too-familiar twist as a game that follows through with both traditional anime and JRPG telling mechanics. This means Hinako joins them in order to have her leg fixed so that she may dance once again. Along the way, however, the trio is faced with unimaginable odds: supernatural threats that seek to destroy the world.
While the games overall theme seems rather week, for fans of animes, and games of the sort, may find themselves enjoying one such game. As it does present itself in an anime like fashion, it’s hard to look away from one such game, and shake your head at it. The game isn’t just a game. Gust has ensured that ones experience feels rather authentic due to the issues they’ve put before the player.
Some of the girls find themselves in trouble talking to boys or facing down their bullies. Others find themselves battling against hardships that may be holding them down. But for these girls, these instances offer up the reasons behind why these leading ladies have their special powers. As the problems manifest within each of the games encountered ladies, an item is produced called a “Fragment,” which are highly sought after by these magical ladies in order to show down against boss type enemies.
When one of these fellow students is consumed by their emotions, they go “Rampant”. Due to the threats that come with a student having gone “Rampant” Hinako and her friends are able to attempt to fix the problem by traveling to a world that exists beside our own known as “The Common.” From this location, the girls are able to solve the worlds issues around them as they uncover the location behind each of these fragments.
Aside from these minor details, there is a lot going on inside of Blue Reflection. You have to manage your party, help the games leading ladies, and you even have to uncover the cause by why students are going “Rampant”. Blue Reflection doesn’t change Gust’s overall approach to games. Much like their Atelier series, we find ourselves given a visual novel that incorporates a rather solid RPG battle systems that we’ve not seen outside of the Persona franchise as of late.
Unfortunately, battles do feel as if they are an optional choice that players aren’t obligated to take part in. While experience is best utilized to assign stat points, players may feel that battles are only used to obtain some of the games crafting items, and nothing more. In order to level up, just like any RPG, players must complete the games main and optional missions.
After completing said missions, you get a chance to distribute your available points across each of the three girls in order to level up their attack, support, defense, and technique stats. Each of these stats do have their own benefits for each of the games characters. But they each serve their own purpose as far as skills are concerned. Each of them unlock new abilities, new upgrades, and even allow players to approach combat differently with each of the ladies.
Luckily, unlocking these points requires little to no interaction with the games enemies. Mostly due to the fact that most of the missions require players to go into “The Common” and hunt down a specified target. This may sometimes include one or two other types before you return from “The Commons” and free your fellow students from their inner struggles.
But the best part about Blue Reflection isn’t the fact you can simple skip through each of the games side missions or primary story missions. It’s the battle system and the animations that follow through with it. Gust went all out for this new series in order to bring it to life in every aspect. Attacks themselves come with a handful of various animations which aren’t limited to the use of sword slashes, beam attacks, or a teddy bear bellowing flames.
On top of the fact that the games featured animations are astonishingly well done, allowing players to find use in all of their abilities, and never find one under utilized. Sadly, even with the dozens of abilities to learn, you may not ever find a need to use every single one of them – instead, I found my favored abilities, ones that dished out high damage and even allowed me to control the flow of combat.
This meant using abilities to knock enemies back in the combat order, forcing combat to flow in my favor, and leave my enemies underwhelmingly incapable of attacking. However, the downside of doing this is quite clear – your attacks aren’t powerful and these abilities use a lot of MP.
Sadly, this also causes the game to never seem difficult in any way possible. It’d be easier to appreciate the game in a few other ways, especially if fights had seemed a bit more challenging, and forced players to utilize the entire library of abilities or even items within the game. But the charm that Blue Reflection has, isn’t the fact that its combat system is large in scale, and quite fun to partake in.
Rather, it’s the fact that Blue Reflection allows us to actually enjoy the game since we aren’t forced through the Atelier series. This allows players to explore the games wide array of cast members. The only downside within this game is the fact that dialogue never changes across many of its NPCs. While it rarely does, we do find a reason to cringe a bit during each of the games chapters as they unfold. This was a problem I even had with Persona 5 when I ventured through it for our review.
However, Blue Reflection doesn’t just stumble when it comes to the games approach to NPC dialogue, but it also struggles with its day in and day out system. But don’t let this fool you. This game has some really, really good stories to tell, and some that are funny enough that you almost can’t believe Gust even went there. To offset the games comedic relief that peeks its head out quite often, the game does have some deeper stories, ones that quite a few young ladies may be able to connect with, and understand better than most.
Because of these conversations, the game portrays exactly what’s going through a high schooler’s mind, and the concerns they lived with day in and day out. This includes topics such as sports, grades, boys, makeup, clothes, and so on. But you may be wondering, what about the boss battles, the big baddies that serve as part of the games overall appeal? These baddies are actually quite awesome.
All of these fights take place in the schools fields. All of the fragments you’ve spent time collecting and training to use, are to protect the school from these big baddies, and stopping them at the moment they appear in order to protect the school. The ultimate goal? To protect the school from impending doom from the Sephira. To protect everyone within it and prevent the decimation of both students and teachers. Luckily, each boss looks outstanding, and they standout among the rest.
Each one comes with their own sense of immaculate detail, each of them featuring their own useful mechanics. However, you may find your first few bosses to be slightly similar in how players approach them. But again, difficulty isn’t really there, each boss battle is easy to overcome as long as players pay close attention to both their health and energy bars. Luckily, not all your days will be spent at school or in “The Common”.
Instead, players will find themselves spending some quality time with their friends. Some of your time will be spent off site at specified locations, which may, or may not include going to the movies, heading to the local karaoke lounge in order to learn more about their friends. Additionally, you do get to spend a bit of time at the local pool, taking part in swimming events and shower scenes, which makes up for some rather interesting dialogue and interactions between each of the leading ladies.
while I’m rather used to Gust creating massive worlds with limited time to explore them, I’ve rather enjoyed the fact they spent time to create a single well rounded environment that serves as your central hub. I can’t but help love what I’ve experienced. Rooms full of detail, audio that brings the classrooms to life, each one beckoning for players to take their time exploring each of them, seeing what they have to offer.
Even then, The Common is just as nice, but as seen in Gusts’ previous works, each section is once more divided into separate pieces, leading players to encounter a few minor load times before they can continue on exploring and completing their quests. The biggest downside of Blue Reflection is the grammatical errors that can be spotted throughout the game. While there is noticeably a solid amount of Q&A as far as gameplay mechanics and sound is concerned, the game does find itself struggling with its English side of things.
I found myself growing slightly disgruntled with the dialogue boxes saying press “X: Settings” instead of “X: Select”. This is a minor annoyance on its own since the story itself is the largest highlight of the game and one of the reasons I even stuck through it as long as I had. Especially since the character growth seen between all of the cast members is astonishingly well done. Hinako herself is one that is the best to admire as she is constantly haunted by the ghost of her past.
Her inability to dance, her knee causing her to quit the thing she loves the most, puts her friendships at the forefront and make her more human than most characters in games to date. Nor does the story ever give out on the players. Instead, the story does quite well at reflecting on past events as the story progresses, nor does it even show signs of forgetting what it does.
Blue Reflection isn’t just your average JRPG, instead, it’s a game that brings its past elements to life in every way possible. Thanks to its balance of fighting, stories, and storytelling, the games visual novel approach works quite well. It’s a game that shouldn’t be passed up by fans wanting a game that offers compelling character interactions that don’t lose any form of how meaningful they are, the depth of character they portray nor do they overstay their welcome in any form.
Blue Reflection – PlayStation 4 [Tested], PlayStation Vita and PC
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: Available Now
Over the course of the games twenty to twenty-two hour duration, the game is enjoyable, graphically appealing, and offers some of the best graphics ever seen from Gust themselves.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.