Blue Reflection is a JRPG that emphasizes school life, making friends, and assisting them with their problems.
You start in an all-girls high school in Japan, playing as Hinako. Her wish is to one day do ballet again — she cannot due to an injured knee. But, if she assists Yuzu and Lime in defeating the Sephira, she’ll have one wish. During the dialogue with Senae (a friend of Hinako’s), an odd aura forms about her, after which you transport to a mysterious and vivid field where you get a glimpse into what the title means, and engage in a short introductory fight.
The interface of the main menu and your HUD, along with the songs you can play in the jukebox on your phone, mimic and reflect the gracefulness of Hinako’s ultimate goal and ballet itself. Blue Reflection plays a role not only in the storyline but also in the flow and how every detail blends seamlessly. There’s a soothing aesthetic that masterfully underscores this grace. The overall feel immerses you and keeps you an active participant in what this title offers.
You routinely cycle between being at school, in the Common, and at home. Depending on your actions, it’s possible that you won’t venture into the battlefield for a day or more. At home, you may prepare for the next day by studying or stretching, take a relaxing bath, or simply go to bed. You won’t always have the option to prepare, but the other two options are consistently available. What you do here can affect the events of the following day: studying typically produces a classroom cutscene that increases a player’s max MP, while stretching might produce a cutscene that raises a different parameter.
At school, you may chat with others, explore, access your mobile phone, and occasionally obtain items from the school store or vending machine, which increase a stat of a girl by a few. You have the opportunity to increase bonds with other girls, consequently obtaining more fragments, which you may equip to skills to customize them. More interaction during cutscenes at school and during conversations would truly immerse the player into the narrative, not to mention allow the player to play a greater role in the narrative, making it one’s own. However, you might have options from which to choose during a conversation.
The Common, made of people’s collective unconscious, has four different zones, each of which represents a different emotion.
Events arise as you converse with others, prompting you to go into the Common to sort out an issue. Often, the issue involves fear of failure or anger toward someone or from someone. Once you sort this out and complete the related mission, you may leave the Common and observe the resolution of the problem. Other missions involve becoming friends with a girl or exploring the school. Completing particular ones, or obtaining a set amount of rating points (from completing missions), grants growth points (allowing you to level up) or an item for a stat boost, or progresses the story. You’re free to complete available missions in whatever order you desire.
The Common, made of people’s collective unconscious, has four different zones, each of which represents a different emotion. There are also mixed-emotion zones, such as fear blended with sorrow. Your job, as a reflector, is to keep these zones safe from demons. The landscape, color scheme, and enemies all vary across these zones. Which you enter depends upon on the emotions of the person with whom you’re interacting. You don’t level up in the traditional sense by killing enemies. Rather, you obtain growth points when you complete missions and engage in certain activities. Each growth point levels up a player by one, and you may choose to invest this point in attack, defence, support, or technic. All stats increase when you level, but to varying degrees, depending on in what you invest this point. At certain milestones, such as five points in one parameter and five in another, you unlock new skills.
This title is about life; everyone can relate to its content to an extent.
Combat is straightforward and easy. Both HP and MP replenish fully after a battle, and the only time when a strategy is necessary is for longer battles, at least on normal difficulty. If you try to complete each mission and befriend everyone you can, you’ll have a decent amount of growth points. Battles don’t seem noticeably harder as you progress, so overleveling perhaps is at play. But, Blue Reflection isn’t mainly about battling — it’s about befriending people, watching these friendships blossom as the story unfolds, and helping people with their problems. This title is about life; everyone can relate to its content to an extent.
Another customization feature besides the growth points are the fragments. Most skills have a max fragment slot capacity of two or three. The effects of fragments range from increasing damage to increasing HP or MP. You’re unable to enter the Common until you progress a few chapters into the story. Hitherto, you enter this area solely due to a mission. So, if you want to farm for loot before then, you may jump maps within the Common at a portal to replenish the map of its enemies, and build a stash of items that way. The items that you need to strengthen a fragment you typically obtain outside of a battle from shards, which don’t respawn if you switch maps. After you reinforce a fragment once or twice, it’s unlikely you’ll have the items you need to strengthen it again until later. Despite the fact that you could grind for materials, in the hopes you’d acquire the ones you need to reinforce your fragments continuously, it’s unlikely that this grind is necessary, although upgraded fragments prove useful for facing Sephira.
The cutscenes, especially the ones within the school, feature stunning quality and proceed without stutter or lag (as does the rest of this release, save for on occasion before a battle). Particular scenes are lewd. Another issue is that the largest resolution in windowed mode is 1366x768, which simply isn’t big enough. Fullscreen hosts a larger resolution, but once you set the setting to fullscreen and launch the game, there isn’t a way to minimize the application or window if you must. Another is that the Table Chat with Chihiro didn’t load when I tried.
The Verdict: Excellent
Blue Reflection is an excellent release in both design and execution. The title, and what it means, run along the story and plays a prominent role in nearly every aspect. Not unlike the Persona series, this is not an RPG where your main focus is nonstop battle. Unlike that series, however, there aren’t deadlines about which you must worry. I typically enjoy constant action; yet, I enjoyed this. I had difficulty taking a break from playing. Aside from the minor lag before battles, the screen resolution problems, and the issue involving the Table Chat with one girl, I faced no other issues. If you’re looking for a JRPG that balances its combat with school life and befriending classmates, while providing a relaxing time, this is for you.