For years, decades even, the concept of young students leading a double life has littered anime and western media. From Sailor Moon to the Persona series, there have always been stories of young people who become called to be heroes by night and students by day. At its base level, Blue Reflection follows this well-used premise. However, Blue Reflection takes Gust’s brand of storytelling and carries that trope in a new direction.
In Blue Reflection, you play Hinako Shirai, a young student at Hoshinomiya Girls’ High School, who starts her school year late after injuring her leg in a tragic accident. Hinako meets two sisters named Yuzu and Lime, who bestow upon her the power of a Reflector, to give her the opportunity to protect the world from evil and pursue a dream that she had thought she could never pursue again. In her Reflector Form, Hinako explores a place called “The Common” as well as taking on Sephira, bosses who terrorize the physical world.
The first thing that I noticed about Blue Reflection, is that despite being localized in English, there is no English voice acting. There are English subtitles, but all voiced scenes are in Japanese. I am not exactly a fan of Japanese voice acting in games (mostly because I find it distracting) but the players who prefer it to a dubbed English voiceover are likely to be pleased with Blue Reflection’s voice acting. I personally found the emotional points in the dialogue to be somewhat hard to pin down in places, because I couldn’t understand the voice acting.
Immediately, Hinako’s story caught my attention. She was a famous ballet dancer in middle school, but an injury caused her to have to give up on that dream. It is immediately obvious from the very first scene that Hinako is still having a difficult time processing that she might never dance again, and I applaud the developers at injecting so much emotion into the subtle nuances of Hinako’s character. The game does a great job at giving emotion and characterization to the heroine, but the other characters tend to be a bit more difficult to pin down effectively.
Blue Reflection’s art style and visuals are absolutely gorgeous. Normally, I find games drawn in an anime style to be cartoonish, but this game blurs the lines of realism, HD graphics, and the anime art style in a beautiful blend that is a feast for the eyes. This becomes immediately apparent during Hinako’s first experience in The Common, as the parallel world is teeming with life and beauty. Hinako’s transformation into a reflector is standard magical-girl, Japanese fanservice fare. However, the combat and mechanics of Blue Reflection can somewhat make up for the blatant stereotype of tropes presented.
Battles in The Common play out in a turn-based command system. On Hinako’s turn (or the turns of her party members) she may select a command to attack, use skills, or a number of other actions. After that, she has a certain wait time before she can act again. As in other JRPG’s, skills cost MP, and if you do not have MP, you cannot use skills. Some skills and abilities have a knockback effect which extends the time the opponent has to wait until their next turn. You can use the Ether Charge ability to recover MP, but you won’t be able to act again until your next turn.
The Common is a world made up of people’s collective subconscious feelings and thoughts. This has a sort of Persona-esque vibe to it, in that Blue Reflection’s storyline alternates between Hinako’s mundane life in school, and her life as a reflector exploring The Common. Exploring the common and fighting demons will lead you to recover fragments. Stabilizing fragments is one way you can gain “growth points” which are akin to EXP. However, Hinako and her friends will also go up against Sephira, more powerful boss monsters that threaten the lives of students, and the safety of The Common.
You can allocate Growth Points into one of four stats; Attack, Defense, Support, and Technic. These influence how your stats grow, as well as determine what skills you unlock for each character. The growth system lets you specialize your characters and make sure that your party is well balanced. As you unlock fragments, you can equip them to your skills, and enhance their abilities. For example, one fragment may enable your attack or skill to heal you upon using it, alternately you could equip a fragment that provides a defense boost when the skill is used.
As Hinako makes friends and unlocks fragments, you will unlock support abilities and the Overdrive skill. The overdrive skill is usable during Sephira boss battles and allows you to perform more actions in a single turn. Additionally, support abilities allow Hinako’s friends to assist her and her allies in doing damage, support and attacking enemies. Sephira battles are intense, cinematic, and a test of your skills. As you progress through the game and become more used to the mechanics, Sephira battles will attempt to test your mastery of what you’ve learned. The game has multiple difficulty settings, so players new to JRPG’s may feel more comfortable sticking to Easy, while more veteran players are likely to want to try Hard mode.
Blue Reflection even found a way to integrate social networking into the game’s mechanics. By utilizing FreeSpace, you can chat with your friends, start chats about various points of interest in the environment, and utilize all sorts of fun features. Other FreeSpace features consist of a Jukebox, a Monster-Raising game, and a Customizer. FreeSpace also allows you to coordinate and take on missions.
Missions are the sidequests in Blue Reflection. Undergoing missions during school allows you to get information on fragments, collect growth points, and gain other important items and things that will help you during your adventures in The Common. Additionally, after completing missions, you can report back to Yuzu and Lime, and discover new fragments to track down and advance the storyline.
When talking to friends, you can undergo bond episodes, which allow you to forge new, stronger bonds with friends and allies. These conversations are similar to social links in the Persona series, as you get dialogue options which affect how the relationship progresses with your friends and allies. After School, you can also invite allies on “Date events” which will further increase the bond you have with them.
Blue Reflection is full of interesting content. From combat and exploration in The Common to ordinary life, with friendships, and passing time with Hinako’s daily life at home (which influence events for the following day), there’s a lot to do. Fans of games like Persona, or anime, such as Sailor Moon, are more likely to enjoy Blue Reflection despite the blatant fanservice strewn throughout the game. Blue Reflection isn’t exactly the deepest of Gust’s JRPG offerings, but it is a different, fun experience that will give you hours upon hours of interesting gameplay.
A review code for Blue Reflection was provided by Koei Tecmo