Blue Reflection: Second Light, which is basically Blue reflection 2, is a game with many mysteries. Why did Ao and a number of other girls wake up and find themselves in a deserted school? Where are they? What made them lose their memory? How can it be that some young women can turn into magical girls called Reflectors? While players have as little insight as they do (unless they have played or seen before Blue reflection stories), Gust’s latest is good at handing things out in a surprisingly casual way.
Ao had a strange day. While going to school, she dropped her phone. When she went to pick it up, she saw a message. “Be born again.” When she “woke up”, she was in an abandoned school with three other girls. Kokoro, Rena and Yuki all suffer from memory loss. Also, all four girls wore strange rings when they showed up there. Apparently, things were “boring” until Ao showed up. When she did, things started to happen. An extra land mass, filled with demons, materials and memories appeared. Ao, Kokoro and Rena discovered that their rings allowed them to summon weapons. While fighting battles, they would even eventually shift gears. Which would trigger magical girl transformations for Reflectors.
This leads to a satisfactory feedback loop. Blue Reflection: Second Light tend to follow a certain path. Chapters can focus on specific characters. A heart landscape is displayed. You explore it, get strong from its struggles and gather new materials. When you come across memory fragments, you might find new recipes or see hints about a person’s past. Each area looks “familiar” in a way. You will see elements from the real world. But they are combined in ways that could look alien or even supernatural. Even if you can not jump, you will happen across spaces where actions such as balancing, crawling or jumping are possible. Not to mention, you can activate a stealth mode that shows the field of view of all enemies so that you can sneak past enemies that you can not defeat yet to reach the goals.
Blue Reflection: Second Light‘s matches are based on systems from both the original game and other Gust games such as Atelier Ryza 2. Ao and two other Reflectors will be with her at once. She is directly controlled. Players press the action button when she collects enough Ether to perform a move. When you bring up this menu, you can select a skill to attack or support the group. If an enemy is weak to or will resist it, there will be a message. The two allies are tied to the shutter buttons. You can let the game control them automatically. Which I do not recommend. (Especially early, as you will need Rena to heal as needed.) That’s fine. The camera becomes a bit hyperactive as there may be constant movement when characters attack. I also wish there had been another method of triggering allies. Constantly having to keep an eye on the action line and pressing ZL and ZR on the Switch, in addition to pressing A when needed, came to be a lot when I had to struggle to build up character levels or gather materials.
When characters attack, they go into different gears. First gear limits them to 1,000 Ether. Second, let them accumulate 2,000. Which allows you to perform various attacks or attacks more than once. Third transforms them into their Reflector shape. (You can turn off the transformation sequences in options or set them to once per turn to a Heartscape.) Not to mention constant attack and protection of the combo meter with skills ensures that the group will gradually keep doing more and more damage every time they attack enemies. There are also opportunities, when facing a boss, to go into a one-on-one battle that ends with the enemy being defeated. It really gives a sense that characters are building up to a crucial moment in a fight. You feel them getting stronger.
While the pace of Heartscape never feels completely rushed or hectic, things are even more relaxed at school. This is where all the characters gather and live their new lives. You can visit people to talk to them. It’s easy to find people, as pressing the trigger will let a player travel quickly to specific areas or people’s locations. It also shows if they have an active request. You can make from recipes here. (Be sure to check who you are doing things with. It may change the results.) You can build facilities. These can provide some fan service moments. More importantly, they will make the people who matter to you happy. Which means the person affected by the facility will get some sort of buff in combat. But more importantly, when in school, it can feel like the characters have a moment of peace. They can relax. They do things. They speak. They enjoy what they have.
Like the original Blue reflection, Blue Reflection: Second Light is dedicated to its heroines. You get lots of moments to learn who they are. You see them connect to each other. It’s a very emotional game. Which makes sense as you explore Heartscapes and the nature of the series. It becomes especially gripping when the focus is on someone who is a Reflector. It ends up being a study of what life is like for a magical girl. What are they going through. How did they potentially become one. Even characters’ talent trees refer to who they are, with certain traits associated with personality traits. You can also spend one-on-one time with grades on Dates. This allows you to go somewhere with another heroine and talk in certain places like certain rooms or facilities. Once you are there, select Aos’ answer and see people connected.
It also means the relationship between people in Blue Reflection: Second Light net many rewards. Receiving requests can unlock new skills and award talent points. Same with Dates. These also provide Fragments, which make Reflectors stronger. Icons in the menu provide tips on what you might need to do to acquire more talent. So you have to constantly spend time with each other and run errands for talents and talent points to get them.
The downside of going on dates is that at least on the Switch it does not feel very slippery. The girl you are going out with and Ao will go at a more stylized pace. She can also get in the way of you when you try to move around. Since you can also not run while on a date, it also means a much slower pace. So what should be a sweet moment can be marred by the game’s performance.
Technical limitations also get in the way of the switch during general exploration. Sometimes when the camera is moving around in a heart landscape, the camera may get in an odd position. Which can make it difficult to get a good overview of the space around you. You may encounter a spot in the school or Heartscape where moving to a position or turning the camera may lead to forced blurring until you adjust the Ao or the camera.
Occasional camera problems or technical details aside, Blue Reflection: Second Light is a pretty beautiful game. It can be very calm and pastoral. Everything about its appearance feels designed to encourage someone to take their time and focus on characters. It focuses on snippets of life’s moments.
That with Blue Reflection: Second Light is that it often feels as if it requires prior knowledge of the series. While this is essentially Blue reflection 2, it comes after both the first game and an anime. Characters from both show up here. Although it starts with four people and takes time to introduce them and concepts, it helps a lot to know general ideas about the universe. For example, it can be very helpful to understand what a reflector is. Awareness of other elements from at least the original Blue reflection can provide additional insight. I think people who come fresh can still enjoy it. But you will get more out of it by doing the necessary “reading”.
Blue Reflection: Second Light is pretty much exactly what I expected Blue reflection 2 to be. It’s a very casual kind of RPG. Although there are mysteries to solve and danger, I did not feel pressured. On the contrary, I felt encouraged to talk to people around me and take my time as I created, explored, and struggled through its world. But I also feel like I got into it with the best mindset. I played the original game and watched Blue reflection beam. People who are not as fond of Gust games and all that they entail – which may involve craft, collection and maybe sometimes a slower pace than other RPGs – may not be so into it. But those who know about Gust’s work or maybe are looking for a new adventure after Atelier Ryza will maybe at least check out the demo.
Blue Reflection: Second Light coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PC on November 9, 2021. A demo is available on consoles.
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