Game: BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows), PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Gust | Koei Tecmo
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: US $59,99 | UK £49.99 | EU € 59,99
Release Date: November 9th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Koei Tecmo Europe
If you are a frequent visitor of LadiesGamers, you know that I’m a huge fan of Atelier games. Every time a new one is released I’m overjoyed. The gameplay developer Gust presents is right up my alley. The combination of fighting, crafting and simulation elements is ace. When I heard BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light was coming to the Switch I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this JRPG adventure. To see if the game is just as engaging as the Atelier games are and if the combination of the elements I’m looking for is there.
The Works: Anime and Game
This is the second Blue Reflection game, the first one was released in 2017 on Steam and PS4, so I never had the chance to play it. Plus, there’s an anime series on TV called Blue Reflection Ray, which I never had the pleasure of watching either. That being said, the game is just as good an entry point into the world of Blue Reflection. Even though at first I had to pay attention to what I was seeing, I liked the mystery of finding out how and why the world of Blue Reflection works.
BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light is called a magical girls JRPG, a game where girls are empowered in a certain way with fantastic powers. The powers manifest themselves at a certain event or time, making them the kind of heroines I like in my video games. In this game, the girls are Reflectors. They possess strong emotions that can take the form of Fragments. Each of the girls has a blue ring that allows them to connect to conjure weapons out of nowhere and even transform mysteriously.
Ao Finds Herself in a Strange Place
You find yourself in the shoes of Ao Hoshizaki, a Japanese schoolgirl on her way to Summer school. Not a happy place to go to, and meanwhile Ao ponders on the drudgery of her life. She has tried to be special somehow all her life but hasn’t succeeded yet. Well, that is about to change when her phone falls from her pocket. Luckily she discovers the loss quickly, and when she picks it up again a strange light appears….and Ao wakes up in a very strange place.
At first, it seems she is in her school building, but everything else is different. Girls, she doesn’t know greet her, the school is otherwise strangely empty. And most curious of all, the building is surrounded by water. The only link they have is an app on their phone called FreeSpace, where someone called ReSource is talking to them. Plus, they all have blue rings on their finger. Ao has achieved one thing: she is special. She is the only one of the four girls present that still remembers her old life. She decides to dive right in and unravel the mystery. In the meantime, the girls will try to get their memory back by exploring The Faraway, a place that mysteriously popped up out of the water.
The Faraway is a fantastical place filled with demons. A little while into the story the girls, Kokoro, Rena, Yuki and Ao, decide to call these places Heartscapes, as they are conjured up out of one of the girls’ memories. The first one is the place where Kokoro’s memories are. The girls venture in to retrieve them for Kokoro, quickly finding that they can fight and even transform the demons in there. Plus, there are a lot of materials that can be foraged too.
Mystery, Crafting and Dating
As I mentioned in the intro, the combination of various game elements is important to me. BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light has that, which is great. The mystery of course is obvious. Why are the girls there, why the blue rings and why are their memories locked in the Heartscapes? While searching through the Heartscapes they find fragments of each girls memories, played out before you with dark silhouettes. It reminded me of the memories Ryza sees when she finds ruin fragments in the dungeons she explores.
The game combines the elements well, as the things you achieve while crafting are tied into the battles, as is the friendship that develops while dating. Well, not exactly romantic dating, more like spending time with a friend. The girls may ask you to craft items for them or gather the resources to do so. Fulfilling these requests is a good idea, as the progression of the characters depends on this. The same goes for dating, so I would advise you to take time for that too. If you are not into reading this may pose a problem. At times it felt like reading a visual novel. I loved that, but it may not be for everyone.
As to be expected, the battle is influenced by the girl’s stats. And these stats in turn can be changed by multiple things. Growing friendships grants you Talent Points for which you can score extra stats, learn new recipes but also slots to store more Fragments. Fragments are crystalized emotions that can be equipped to increase a girl’s powers. You get them by progressing the storyline by doing the combination of things that make up the game, like dating, crafting etc. Tinkering around with the best use of Talent Points and how to divide the Fragments over the girls was fun to do, especially after your little community grows.
In crafting you can make items to heal you in battle, and you can also craft items to make your little world, the school building, a better place to live. Crafting is done based on recipes, and in time you get the ability to make Facilities as well. These are placed on the school grounds and make for a nice backdrop for the dates the girls go on. Aside from that, they also grant bonuses to your battle stats and give extra points for crafting certain sets.
Battle Require Some Study
The component that is very well fleshed out in BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light is the fighting. As soon as you touch a demon the battle starts and the blue rings magically provide you with a weapon. You need to use Skills to lower an enemies HP, and to trigger them you need to accumulate Ether. Ether is a type of energy that exists in this strange world, also known as the power of feelings.
Accumulating Ether is an automatic process, shown on the battle timeline that is visible on your screen. On this timeline, you see the girls and the enemy, how much Ether every girl has accumulated so it’s clear who can make a move. Every Skill costs at least 1,000 Ether, but if you shift into gear, you can use higher “priced” Skills.
There they are, Gears. They are an essential part of the game, shifting Gears greatly influences the battle. When you activate a skill, the Ether recovery speed increases, which reduces the time until you can activate the skill again. If the Ether recovery speed has reached a certain level, you shift Gears. When that happens, your skill will become more powerful and your Ether limit will be raised. Plus, you might be able to use more types of skills. If you have enough Ether accumulated you can even use several skills in succession, giving you a distinct advantage. Plus, the girl magically transforms into her Reflector form.
You can choose to control only Ao and leave the others to fight automatically. I think it’s better to control all three that are at the offensive but be prepared for some dazzling button pressing. As the girls shift Gears, the battle flows faster and faster, so I often left it on Automatic.
After the initial getting acquainted with the battle mechanics more options and fine-tuning are added. You learn about combo’s, knockdown, support skills and One on One battles. Really, at times it felt like it was too much to take in. Fighting is in real-time, though thankfully when choosing a Skill to deploy, everything freezes momentarily.
Really, there is a lot to wrap your head around. But rest assured: you can choose the difficulty setting for battles in the options menu.
Character Development and Camera Angles
This JRPG does a good job at character development. Even without any previous knowledge of the girls or the story, I felt the hunt for memories was satisfying. The themes that are fleshed out feel real. I even felt the urge to explore Heartscape after Heartscape, but I had to pace myself: developing the friendship between the girls is just as important.
I know a lot of fans for JRPG’s featuring girls are quite happy to get some fan service and are very affronted that there is some censorship for the Western market. Must say it’s something I really could do without. Why sweep the camera from the bottom up, giving us just a peek under Kokoro’s skirt after each battle? Why focus the camera on the girl’s chests, and make it into a sort of miss wet t-shirt contest? It didn’t hinder the fun I had playing BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light but I could really do without this.
The soundtrack of BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light is a hit as far as I’m concerned. I will surely try to find is on my streaming service, as it will nicely complement my Ryza playlist. The graphics of the game on Switch in handheld mode are good, the world is detailed although at times faraway vistas can be a bit blocky.
I had looked forward to playing BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light and I can say it doesn’t disappoint. All the elements that make for a satisfying JRPG/simulation are here, and I can see Gust incorporated a lot of what makes Atelier Ryza a great game. Forming friendships, crafting things, making facilities, use of the FreeSpace app, exploring the Heartscapes, fighting….all merges quite satisfyingly. This also means that you must be in for the entire package. Focussing on the battles alone won’t let you progress, focussing on the simulation part won’t do the trick either.
Follow Ao and her friends while they explore the Heartscapes and turn them into the best Reflectors they can be. BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light is a great game for Atelier fans, and I’m guessing it will be a hit with JRPG fans as well!
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot