Blue Reflection is Gust's last title in the "Beautiful Girls Festival" series following after Atelier Sofie and Nights of Azure 2. Taking part in its production includes character designer Mel Kishida (Atelier series) and writer Keiichi Shigusawa (Kino's Journey, Alison, Sword Art Online: Gungale Online). Should be something good right?
BR basically takes on the "magical girl" genre where girls can transform into magical heroines that save the world. Hinako starts at her new school and meets an old classmate who she never knew. Suddenly she laughs maniacly and Hinako finds herself transported to a strange world. A voice speaks to her and a ring appears, granting her a "Refractor" clothes that allows her to defend herself from the alien beings.
After defeating the alien beings she learns that this world was called "Komon" created from the human sub-conscious and that whenever someone becomes mentally unstable, a Fragment appears and it's up to "Reflectors" like Hinako to save them. Not only that, if they manage to defeat all the demons they will be granted a wish and Hinako will be able to recover her legs so that she can do ballet again. And so the not so mysterious magical girls Hinako and the Shijou sisters Yuzu and Raimu go around passing out rings to classmates to help boost the power they need to battle against the enemies.
The flow is kind of like Persona except not quite as in-depth or such a big world detailed world to explore... You go about daily life as a high school student until the next event, meeting girls who are stressed over problems and then you're transported to a dungeon to defeat enemies and re-collect their Fragments. You can also raise friendship levels to unlock new fragments but the upside is even if you make the wrong choice, you don't have to worry about time like in Persona since you can just keep hanging out with them.
Time doesn't go by, there's no calendar to track anything. You just go about doing whatever you like and depending on what you do once you return home, an event happens the next day that upgrades a random stat the next day - in fact, you can just over power Hinako just by choosing to stretch at home.
Combat is fairly standard turn based JRPG except you don't have to worry about MP and HP since they are replenished after every battle. It also introduces new features as you move on with the story. such as Active Action where you can use points to increase your defence, heal up or speed up your turn while you wait so you won't be bored with the turn based pace.
There's no levelling up either... Well, kind of. Instead every time your friendship deepens with another character or you've earned a certain number of mission points, you gain a skill point to spend. Mission points can be obtained so quickly from side quests that it doesn't feel laborious at all unlike most JRPGs. The objectives are very familiar - defeat so many of this enemy or collect so many items etc.
You can then spend these on attributes to unlock new skills. Instead of a skill tree you just see a list of skills and see how many points you need in a certain attribute to unlock a particular skill. It works but there isn't much variety in enemies. It's mostly some palette swapping where there's some change in colour.
Since you don't gain XP from enemies in this game, fights with the demons feel pointless most of the time unless you're doing it for a mission or have certain items you want to synthesise new items. Otherwise you'll be dodging enemies most of the time.
Side quests are so short and simple you'll probably end up doing all of them even though you really don't need to spend time grinding for skill points - defeat a few enemies, collect fives items etc.
Fragments also become stronger depending on Hinako's bond with her friends, again similar to Persona games. They can then be equipped to give existing skills a boost much like FFVII's Materia system. Then there's your usual limit break where a gauge fills up and you can use Over Drive mode which is quite amusing... Basically you can choose which of Hinako's friends provide support during OD and you need to press a button quickly during attacks. In one instance, one of Hinako's friends appear and does a smash with a tennis ball to attack! And with move names like "Strawberry Comet" and "Grape Wave" it can be very amusing.
It's an easy game because none of the bosses are that challenging to be honest.
One bizarre thing I found was that the game actually has to download data after every chapter which is extremely weird...
The game looks very pretty - both the dungeons look very fantasy-like and the menus are clean but filled with vibrant colours. Event backgrounds look great but would have been better if there was more animation involved rather than just dialogue. Social events aren't very exciting with no animation at all, just a lot of text with a still background and that's it. You see more animation in the main story events so you can feel the budget squeeze.
There isn't much variety in the environments and enemies which might be why the camera is restricted and why you can't run because there really isn't much to see. There are only about four dungeons that represent the main emotions happiness, sadness, fear and anger to explore in the entire game... Each of them only has two zones looping between each other.
What little music there is reminds me very much of Gust's Atelier games... Or maybe Sigma Harmonics. Most of the time you're just listening to characters talking and voice acting is average at best. It's like the voice actresses are just speaking in quiet voices most of the time.
Character designs done by Mel Kishida that resemble his more well known Atelier games are cute but does little to help liven up the environments... You're just looking at the school most of the time and everything feels so still. Everyone just stands around apart from the characters that are part of side quests. On the other hand there's plenty of diffused lighting that helps the vibrant colours make the scenery and characters look pretty. Also, despite all the different skills there isn't much change in battle animation either. Most of the time you just see the girls twirling some colours and that's about it but the friendship attacks offer some amusement in the form of silly attacks such as kicking a can at the boss to attack.
Blue Reflection kind of feels like Gust's attempt to jump on Atlus' Persona success by adding in some social link elements just like Falcom has been doing. It's a pretty looking JRPG with your usual Gust elements added in mainly lots of cute female characters and silly animations. An enjoyable leisurely game as there's no race against time, no level grinding and the battle system evolves as a good pace. Atelier series still has the edge with its better presentation but Blue Reflection isn't far behind.
- No rush to do anything. Just progress at your own pace.
- Visually looks good with vibrant colours, detailed event backgrounds.
- No laborious level grinding.
- Freely leave dungeon whenever you want.
- No down time after battles, HP/MP fully replenished.
- Amusing Over Drive support attacks.
- Only 4 very small dungeons.
- Can't run.
- Game world not very lively, feels barren. Little animation.
- Odd instance where it had to download data after finishing a chapter...
- Some slowdown, frame rate problems when exploring.