Blue Reflection: Second Light Review
Our Score: 9/10
In our review of Blue Reflection: Second Light we will provide no spoilers. We will only provide a brief synopsis of the first half hour of the game’s plot and characters. We’ll also show screenshots of the game, but they will not have any plot-specific spoilers in them either.
Overall, Blue Reflection: Second Light is a very lighthearted game, just like the original Blue Reflection. It has a great User Interface (UI) and really amazing character designs, who have regular forms and very interesting “magical girl” forms. The enemy and boss designs are also sleek and terrifying. The developers have really learned from the missteps of the original Blue Reflection, and have made many improvements to the gameplay to make this title more fun and approachable.
It’s really great to see Gust growing over the years as a developer. Compared to their last generation of games, the 3D character models and graphics are getting significantly better. The graphics are not cutting-edge at all, but the developers did great work in showing off a very vibrant world through their creativity.
In Gust’s older titles, the 3D character models on-screen would look blocky, but now the characters have better resolutions and have a lot more animations instead of just having static models on the screen talking like a visual novel.
The cutscenes in the game are all voiced in Japanese, which Gust have been doing since the release of Atelier Firis and Lydie. All of the main story cutscenes are voiced, but the optional character event cutscenes and optional request cutscenes are unvoiced which is reasonable.
All scenes will have English subtitles. The translation in this game was handled very well. The lines of dialogue flowed very naturally and there was no awkwardness in the translation. All of the cutscenes, both voiced and unvoiced, have a convenient auto-advance dialog option, so you can sit back and read as you progress through cutscenes.
I really enjoyed the work from the Japanese voice actors/seiyuus because you can really hear the passion they put into this project. My favorite in this title was Rena’s voice actor, Maki Kawase, who, without spoiling, did a very good job of voicing several impactful scenes.
Like with Gust’s recent games such as Atelier Ryza, this game has a lot of cutscenes which are very detailed with character interactions, being full of many voiced lines of dialog. At the end of the day, this game is a JRPG and you will have lengthy cutscenes. A lot of the scenes in this game show the day to day life of the protagonists. Sometimes it can feel a bit bloated, but a lot of the banter between the characters is well-done.
Because the cast is mostly different from the previous game, you don’t necessarily need to play the first game to understand this one. However, there are still characters returning from the previous title as you progress through this game, as well as existing plotlines that carry over because this game is a direct sequel. I would recommend you to play the original Blue Reflection first if you have the extra time because it’s fun to understand all of the extra references from the returning characters, but it’s not critical for understanding the main plot and the game does explain some of the events that happened in the first game.
There’s also an anime adaptation of the franchise to consider as well, named Blue Reflection: Ray. It is a spinoff of the Blue Reflection video game; however, it actually is linked to Blue Reflection: Second Light. I’ve watched through it before playing this game.
The anime has some of the characters that are in this game and covers their backstory. The issue is that these characters’ backstories are still covered in this game as well in the same manner. In fact, watching the anime somewhat spoiled some of the side character’s backstory in this game (not the main plot, but some of the side plots). There’s a bit of repetition between the anime and this title that can lead to burnout if you watch it and then play this game in quick succession.
The order is to play Blue Reflection, then watch Blue Reflection: Ray, and finally play Blue Reflection: Second Light (release order). I wouldn’t recommend watching the anime unless you’re really craving more Blue Reflection content because it really does cover a lot of the same material, but it is certainly a good anime adaptation of the series nonetheless. The anime doesn’t negatively affect our score of the game at all, but we’re mentioning it for your knowledge if you’re looking to get into everything the Blue Reflection franchise has to offer.
In the beginning of this game we’re introduced to a new set of characters: Ao, Rena, Kokoro, and Yuki. Ao is the protagonist and is the controllable character. The girls have only met each other 3 days ago in a school and they’re getting along quite well. For some reason, the school has no other students or teachers.
To put it briefly, our cast of girls find themselves in a strange world. The exit of their school has been destroyed and is surrounded by an ocean of blue, and they refer to the area as the Oasis. From Oasis, they are able to enter different worlds as well, which have a surreal combination of real-life and fantasy elements. For instance, one of the worlds called the Faraway had destroyed worlds and traffic lights, while still having trees and overgrown nature.
These explorable areas seem to reflect the memories and emotions of our cast of characters as well. Our cast of girls need to survive by gathering resources from these worlds. They continue to explore farther in hopes of finding a way to escape from this mysterious world.
Ao remembers that she got an app called FreeSpace (parody of Myspace) when all these problems started happening. She talks to someone or something called ReSource, who teachers her and the other girls how to fight demons and survive in this strange world.
As you progress, you will recruit many more characters and you’ll also learn about each character’s backstories which you’ll confront and solve. Although the premise I’ve explained is simple, the plot is full of many twists and there is definitely seriousness to the plot during the main story.
I felt extremely sad at some points in the story because there was one character who had symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. She had significant trouble reading others’ emotions and communicating with others, but she had no ill will. The disorder was never named in the game, but that was my interpretation based on what that character’s memories shown in the game were. The developers did a very respectful job of showing all the conflicts these girls had to face in their daily lives and it was never degrading or disrespectful at all. Don’t be put off if the plot starts off slow; Atelier Ryza started off slow as well, but when the plot gets going it really gets going.
In addition to the main plot, there is a lot of side content. If you’ve played Gust’s other games such as Atelier Ryza, you’ll know that their JRPGs are full of optional events involving the cast of characters, and this title is no exception.
This game has a lot of lighthearted fun with the cast of young adults with great dialogue and banter. You control Ao, and you can talk to individual characters around the school to learn more about them. I’d definitely say it’s worth talking to all the characters to learn more about them. Kokoro, for example, is a country girl who is very good at cooking, to the point where she can cure and smoke meats. I’m giving an early non-spoiler example here, but as you can imagine these girls have a lot of hidden sides to them!
Talking to characters level up the T. Level, or Talent Level, which unlocks Talent Points you can use to get more Talent Skills. These Talent Skills can include permanent passive bonuses to characters as well as improving how well they can create items.
The school environment is one of the best additions to the game. The school is fully explorable and is your hub world for you to relax in when not progressing the main story. The plot is set in summer time and it makes for a very relaxing though ominous environment.
The gameplay has a lot of quality of life improvements over the first game. You can use fast travel to travel to any area of the school instantly, as well as travel to any field zone you’ve already explored.
You can also see the locations of all your teammates using the menus and you are able to teleport next to them. They roam around the school so it’s great you don’t have to spend time hunting them down. The menus also show when your friends have any new dialogue, or if they only have generic dialogue, so you don’t need to make unnecessary trips.
When you talk to other girls in the school, you have the option of going on dates with them. Early on in the game the dates are not necessarily romantic, but as you level up your Talent Level with your friends you will hold hands with them as you walk around the school.
Some of the dates also have a flirty dialogue so there may be elements of romance in some of the later date scenes, but for the most part the dates were really just fun outings with friends. This gives you an opportunity to talk to them about their personal life and learn more about them. You’re also able to make choices during some of these character events, and often you’ll be able choose between teasing the girl or acting more serious towards them.
Your friends will also have optional requests for you to do. These include collecting items in dungeons, defeating a number of a certain type of enemy, or even sneaking through previously explored dungeons to find an item they lost. Here’s where the game shines from its predecessor: you can track any quest to get a marker that tells you where to go. These requests often don’t take much time to complete at all as a result of these useful features.
In the school hub, you will be able to develop new buildings on the school property and place them in certain locations using the materials you found from exploring dungeons or collecting from enemy drops. One of the first structures you can build is a beachside cafe, where you can lounge and enjoy drinks with other party members.
As you progress through the storyline you’ll unlock more types of buildings, some of which get pretty funny such as a Comiket market (indie comic stand), a giant teddy bear to hug, and even beds you can sleep on and watch the stars. You only start the game with a few spots you’re able to build in, but as you progress you can demolish useless areas to make room for many new structures.
By making more buildings, you’ll be able to hang out with friends who are interested in that kind of activity. As well, these properties will have extra effects, which you can set to be on or off, and can range from increasing damage received for increasing the damage you dealt, or even raising the critical rate of your skills. If you don’t like the effect of the structure or if it doesn’t suit your playstyle, you can turn it off at anytime by interacting with it.
By using more materials, you can upgrade these properties to make their passive effects even stronger. As well, by placing similar properties together strategically you’ll get even more bonuses. A simple example was putting the beachside cafe next to beach chairs for a bonus effect, but there are more complicated arrangements you can do as well. You don’t get punished for rearranging the structures either because once they’re built you can freely move them between the storage area and the school.
The game doesn’t feature conventional equipment like most other JRPGs, but you can equip Fragments, which are unlocked primarily through character events. They have passive effects and by leveling up your characters’ Talent Skills you can unlock more Fragment Slots to equip more of them at once.
When you enter zones you can see a list of materials that can be found as well as a list of which enemies appear. This makes it very easy to find what you’re looking for to complete the optional requests which I had a lot of trouble doing in the original Blue Reflection. When you get what you need in the fields, you can also quick warp out with the down directional pad.
When you’re out in the levels, you collect blue and gold orbs as collectibles. Collecting materials in this game is similar to modern Atelier games, but if you’re not familiar with that series, you collect items for item creation. The items you can create can include consumable items or new buildings for the school. Sometimes areas in the current area will be locked, and you will need to come back to unlock those areas. Such areas will have more difficult enemies, but they’ll also have unique materials you’ll want to use for item creation.
There’s a new stealth mode added to the game, where you can crouch and see the enemy detection range as a glowing red colour on the map, but you cannot dash while doing so. It’s mandatory to sneak in one of the earlier game segments, but from there on it’s only used in optional requests afterwards.
It helps mix up the gameplay from time-to-time and if you get caught you’re returned to an earlier part of the level with no other punishment. It can a bit challenging in the later side requests to complete stealth segments, but they’re optional and you can always save during a stealth segment to “cheat” because the game will always remember your position when you save.
In addition to regular materials being found on the field, there are also Memories found as collectibles in these levels. These will show the backstory of one of your teammates.
For example, early in the game you’ll see a lot of Memories from Kokoro. Her issue was that she cared a lot about others, but was not looking after herself, to give an example. To overcome her problem, she needs to learn that it’s okay to rely on others every once in a while.
It’s very fun to see these Memories while exploring the levels. They have to confront their problem and they’ll regain the memories they lost as you explore more and more worlds. Although I gave a simple example from early in the game, as you can imagine some of these girls have gone through horrible trauma and it gets extremely emotional as you progress.
The item creation mechanics in this game are not as detailed as in the Atelier franchise. Rather, in this game it’s just basic crafting of items. You can have properties on the items you synthesize, but your materials don’t have quality or traits so to speak. Instead, you use your Talent Points to improve how well your teammates can craft items, and then you’ll be able to craft items with better properties, such as turning an item that “Heals Medium” to “Heals Large”. You can freely take your time because there are no time penalties in this game.
On the fields you can encounter enemies by attacking them to have the first move, or they can attack you first. You can dash around them as well if you just want to go on a collecting trip.
The combat in this game is turn-based, but the turns are not discrete. Rather, you, your teammates, and your enemies are on a continuous timeline. You choose when to have you and your teammates have their turns, so if you want to wait to do a more powerful skill, you can do so.
Ether is pretty much the MP of this game, and refills automatically as you wait. You use Ether to use your skills or to use items as well, and it will continuously keep refilling as the battle progresses. You can use buffs from school buildings, items or skills to increase the rate at which your Ether recharges, and the more skills you use the faster it recharges.
At the same time, enemies can debuff you with their moves, which could make it take longer for you to build up Ether. It sounds difficult, but the game was very easy while playing on its Normal difficulty.
You also have a combo meter, and as you perform more skills you actually build up a damage multiplier. Enemies and bosses will telegraph “powerful attacks” as well, but you can use certain skills that allow your combo meter to remain unbroken from your enemies’ attacks.
By building up a combo meter strategically, you can become very overpowered over the course of a battle and this mechanic prevents you from struggling too long on an enemy or boss. Sometimes if I had a battle go on for too long, my combo meter would let me do 5 times damage, and then I’d save up Ao’s Ether to use a very powerful attack to defeat the boss in one turn when I had previously been just doing chip damage to the boss. It’s a nice feature to make use of if you’re struggling with a boss fight.
While in battle you will control three characters of your choice. You’ll always control your main character you select, and you’ll also control your two partner characters using the left and right triggers. You can set the battle to Auto to have your two partner characters do actions automatically. So if you are just fighting regular enemies you know you can easily defeat, you can set the gameplay to Auto. On the other hand, if you’re fighting a powerful boss you might want to micromanage your party.
Still, the game was easy to the point where I still set my partner characters to Auto even on the bosses. Like Atelier games, you can craft items to buff your characters or even debuff enemies in battle, and you’ll be thankful to know that even bosses aren’t immune to all ailments all the time like in most other JRPGs. This is because they’ll wear off automatically after a few turns, so the use of ailments won’t break the game or make it too easy.
You can also knockdown enemies with repeated use of skills. You can also perform a one-on-one with the enemy, which can be initiated by you or by the enemy. When a one-on-one happens, the gameplay turns into real-time. You’ll need to time your attacks and dodge the enemy’s. You can’t move your characters around though, it’s about timing and dodging using button inputs. It’s not hard by any means, and it only lasts for about 30 seconds until the battle returns to normal.
Each time you defeat enemies and bosses you will level up your characters, which will let you permanently gain stats like any other JRPG. You can level up to a maximum level of 50. I was able to grind for levels early and even max out my level, but grinding really isn’t necessary at all because the gameplay is not hard at all. You can even use Talent Points or build certain school properties to increase your experience gain further.
I’d say that this game is very approachable to newcomers of the JRPG genre. Even collecting materials wasn’t grindy either. My approach to the game was to fight each enemy on the map and collect each material on the map during my first trip, and I was never required to have to return to grind more after doing a thorough first trip, with the exception of having to return to a newly unlocked area for the odd side request here and there.
One aspect of this series that I always felt was underrated was the UI for the game. I’d say this game has some of my favorite UI’s next to the Persona games.
The menus all look very sleek as you go through them and it has a great presentation to make the item creation mechanics bearable. You can check anything you’d like in the menus including organizing your characters’ skills, checking your inventory of materials, and checking the databases to find material locations to name a few.
The soundtrack of this game is really great. It matches the tone and atmosphere of this game quite well. Many somber scenes will have a sad piano playing. The battle and boss themes also sound very hectic with great violins. The game has the same composer, Hayato Asano, who also composed for the the previous Blue Reflection and Atelier Ryza, and he does a terrific job in this game.
It took me 50 hours to complete the game with all sidequests and all optional character events. It may be possible to beat the game in perhaps 20 hours if you’re rushing through it and not pursuing optional content, but this game is a lengthy JRPG no matter how you approach it.
The optional events are intertwined with the main plot. Say you’ve finished a dungeon and are returning to the school. You’ll probably get approached by a character who wants to talk to you. This happened a lot in Atelier Ryza as well, where you’d get a lot of optional cutscenes even if you were trying to just do the main story. It’s not a bad thing at all, the optional events help flesh out the character and the world, but if you’re not a fan of slice of life content it might not be for you.
The game also offers a New Game Plus mode, where you’ll carry over Fragments and also carry over half of your team’s Talent Levels, as well as all your Database entries so you won’t have trouble finding where everything is again. It offers an extra layer of replayability to the game.
In the end, Blue Reflection: Second Light was a very fun JRPG to play through. It has a great mix of content, from funny optional content to a serious overarching storyline. The character designs are beautiful and the enemies look cryptic. I always felt that the original Blue Reflection video game was rushed, but this game has a lot of improvements. In the original, spending time was very annoying and there was a lack of content. In this title, you have an amazing school hub brimming with content.
The school hub is so much fun to explore through and the character interactions can be downright hilarious at times. As you progress you get a much wider cast of characters compared to the first game, and you’ll continue to build more and more fun properties onto the school to relax in. The gameplay is very approachable and is easy for longtime JRPG veterans. You’ll always be given tools such as item creation to help you during difficult boss fights, so the game isn’t inherently grindy and you’ll naturally get equippable Fragments as you go through the game.
I had a great time playing through this game, and I’d recommend you to give it a shot, even if you didn’t like the first Blue Reflection.