Blue Reflection is the latest game from developer Gust. I’ll admit that I’m not too familiar with the studio. In fact, I assumed that Blue Reflection would be an action RPG, similar to the studio’s Nights of Azure series. To my surprise, the game is a turned based RPG set in the popular “Magical Girls” genre. As someone who adores the fantastic anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I immediately became sucked into the game world.
Blue Reflection follows Hinako Shirai, a ballet prodigy, who has been transferred to the Hoshinomiya Girls High School a year after a tragic accident took away her ability to dance. Leading up to the events of the game, Hinako has been struggling to come to terms with her disability. Upon enrolling in the high school, she meets an old acquaintance who suddenly seems to be possessed by an unknown entity. Shortly after this, she’s convinced by two classmates to take up the mantle of a reflector, a “Magic Girl” destined to protect the human race.
Although hesitant at first, Hinako decides to become a Reflector when she learns that defeating the Sephirot (a legion of evil creatures plaguing the Earth) will grant her a single wish. Ever since the accident, Hinako has been unable to dance, and her motivation to perform on stage once again makes her decision to save the world more justified. Hinako, Lime, and Yuzu travel to The Common to kill the demons. The Common is made up of different areas, inspired by various human emotions, including sorrow and anger. In each section, creatures try and take control of fragments created from hardships experienced by the students in the school.
Regarding combat, players have a variety of options to choose from. There’s the attack menu. Pressing this will bring up a multitude of abilities used to kill enemies. Most use magic points (MP) while one or two are strictly physical attacks. There’s a support menu which features magical abilities used to buff teammates and debuff foes. Additionally, you can overdrive an ability to use multiple attacks in the same turn. To use overdrive, you must build up Ether. To do this, players must use Ether Rush, a skill that skips your turn in order to build up Ether and restore MP. If that’s not your style, you can sacrifice MP to use and move (once unlocked) that fills your Ether gauge. As you progress through the game, there are unique perks that change up the flow of combat, and you also gain the ability to utilize supporters (other girls from the school) during boss battles.
Hinako’s story is an unexpected emotional journey. From the opening chapter, I found myself connecting with Hinako. As the main protagonist, she’s well written, interesting, likable, and relatable. Although her desire to dance again is the reason behind her becoming a reflector, she’s the type of character that will put every other person before her own needs. This is evident in every single side-quest. Most of Blue Reflection is made up of side-quests. Hinako’s primary objective is to gather enough fragments to take down the Sephirot. Doing this requires her to find students that are stricken with emotional distress and then absorb their fragment to save them. This enables her to bond with that character to grow stronger.
Each chapter follows the same format. You must complete side-quests to obtain enough reputation points to progress through the storyline. Additionally, Hinako can talk to her friends and invite them on “dates” to increase their feelings for each other. Going out with your friends results in obtaining more fragments from the girls to strengthen combat abilities.
One of the biggest compliments I can give Blue Reflection is that the story is such an emotional experience. Topics of suicide, loss, acceptance, love, determination, grief, friendship, and bullying are all touched on. The cast of girls that Hinako interacts with are instantly likable, and it’s easy to invest in their storylines. I enjoyed Sarasa’s motivation to help Hinako so that can become ballet rivals again. I adored Kaori’s unconditional love for all of her friends, and I found Shihori’s obsession with Hinako’s underwear creepy, yet hilarious. I loved everything about the universe within Blue Reflection, but the repetitive nature of the game put a damper on the whole experience.The visual style of Blue Reflection is wonderful to look at. The character models are vibrant and appealing, and the flashy combat sequences are often a sight to behold. The audio in the combat features a mix of classical and dubstep beats. Although you mainly hear the same songs throughout the entire game, the score never outstood its welcome.
While the game itself is fun, long play sessions tend to become dull. This became evident after spending nine straight hours playing Blue Reflection. Since every chapter requires players to do the same tasks, there isn’t much variety. Even though the narrative is gripping, I wish that the gameplay kept me as engaged as Hinako’s story did. Another negative are the moments at Hinako’s house after each school day. These sections let the player put Hinako in the bathtub to reflect on her relationships or prepare for the following school day. These short asides rarely do anything for the overall experience. Occasionally, Hinako’s skill points may increase because of a choice you make, but this was rarely the case. I found these interludes to be a complete waste of time. The difficulty is another issue. There are three difficulty options in the game, but all of them are too simplistic. After leveling up your team, enemies become easier to destroy. Even boss battles were cakewalks after Hinako and company became stronger. The lack of a challenge made the game boring at times.
Blue Reflection is a mixed bag. There are so many aspects of the game I admire, but there are a handful that frustrate me. I found the combat intuitive, the main characters likeable, the story engaging, and the visuals appealing. Unfortunately, the repetitive mission structure, the interludes in Hinako’s house, and simplistic difficulty restrict Blue Reflection from reaching greatness. If you don’t have a problem with any of the negatives I listed, give the game a shot. Everyone can learn something from Hinako’s journey. Blue Reflection isn’t perfect, but it’s an entertaining experience that fans of JRPGs and Magic Girl genres will absolutely enjoy.