valorianendymion's BLUE REFLECTION / BLUE REFLECTION 幻に舞う少女の剣 (PC) review

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Blue Reflection

Blue Reflection is a very unusual game, one might dismiss easily, only seeing "jrpg with some magical girls", but if you look more in depth, there is a lot more to it and it is very unique game, you simple might won´t find anything close to it. It A gorgeous game with very unique design, while not perfect, unique in it own way.

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The game is about Hinako Shirai, a girl which had to give up ballet due a leg injury and now spend most of her time in sadness and melancholy, however, the one the day she return to school, she meet up with two mysterious girls name Yuzu and Lime. The sisters end turning Hinako in a "Reflector" a magical girl tasked to defend the world from the attacks eldritch monsters know as Sephira. So the three girls go on this task, which also require collecting fragments, produced by people whose emotions goes off control, so they help them to stabilize their emotions, as they collect those said fragments and make bonds with people not only help the trio grows more strong to face the Sephira attacks, but provide them with helpful support from those friend they make along the way.

Much of the game is spend following a certain cycle: School -> "Common" -> Sephira Battles. During the first you wander around the school, you meet friends, this is where you play most of the story, as you need to help them, at the beginning it everything is rather simple, and this might be a slight weak point in the game, the emotions the trio need do deal, might appear as rather flat: one of the first friends you make, Sanae Shinida, is simple a old fan of Hinako which became harder distressed with her current situation, seeing that she is finally in the same school and class as her idol, which is now a rather bitter person and this causes her emotions go rampart. Kei Nariyama, another girl you meet, rather which to be friend with everybody in such a way she often force herself to Hinako a scenery which end leading her emotions also go rampart.

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However, later friend you meet, provide a much richer stories and themes, Sarasa Morikawa at first appear to a rival to Hinako (both are ballet dancers), but you find she is in fact, trying in her on way to help Hinako, and seeing giving up her dream, make Sarasa desperate to help her in anyway she can, but she does not know how.

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Other girls, such Fumiyo Taya provided a very unusual commentary on "crunch culture" - yeah, a game about magical girls saving the world, does have a commentary on that. In case, Fumiyo, daughter of software engineer, is very skilled pianist, however, between her strict upbringing, high expectations and an upcoming recital, feel very frustrated and scared she is good enough, so much seeing her father going in "crunches" (the game call it as "Death March") she decided herself to go in her own "Death March", a terrible idea, which Hinako, Yuzu and Lime need to convince her to stop. That said, not all stories where very good, some where a bit bland or odd and the tone is often all over the place. But what make this concept, of stabilize fragments interesting, is that in order for Hinako do it so, she has to relate her experiences with the ones she is trying to help, often developing some form of empathy, in one case she needed to help two girls which found out the person they admired in their club to be awful person, Hinako needed to relate how herself found awful people in ballet which she also admired until it find out. There is also a catch, you see, when she does this, the person is question is also aware that Hinako is seeing their hidden emotions and each person react in their own way.

But this is not all you do in school, you also can pick up some side quests, dealing with rather small emotional problems, most of this side quest provided you with some materials and items, and most of them are rather simple and quick to do, however - while optional, each chapter require you a certain amount of points, before you can progress.

In the "Common" is the place you go to solve those said problems, there you fight battles and hunt materials and items, which you can "craft" in either other materials you use them to reinforce a fragments, which can be equipped to the skills which Hinako, Yuzu and Lime have, each fragment provide bonus or extra effect to them, this became rather crucial in later game as fight get more harder.

Fight in the game are done in turn with a active timeline system, where in latter stage, you can use the down time to active some unique functions, such as Guard (which reduce damage), Recovery (which heals HP) or even speed up the timeline.

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The final part of the cycle is the "Sephira battles", this are your boss fights, while monsters in the Common are rather easy, this ones are slight more hard, but not much, along as you due each chapter requirements and collect fragments you will be at the right level for those fights. During this battles there is also a new mechanic, remember the bonds? as you make them in the game, now you can link up to four friend to each of the three magical girls, each bond you make provide a unique extra attack or support skill, which can be rather hilarious to watch, as they can go from one friend kick a can in to eldritch abomination, other pulling a rifle and a third one ordering a aerial strike. Most important in this battle are the Ether gauge, which you use to trigger a Overdrive, where you can use several skills at once with reduced MP cost and in later stages you can trigger a special attack when you perform a full Overdrive.

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As I said in the beginning, what mostly like to strike out in this game is the visuals, it is one of the very few games, which try to emulate the shoujo manga aesthetics in a full 3D way - which make for a very beautiful game, with very pastel and soft colors schemes and great character design - there is a certain theme of sadness, melancholy to the game, which also extend to the music.

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However you can see the limitations (of either time or budget), often characters, while having great models move and pose in awkward fashion specially in cutscenes, there is lots of moments where they talk about doing something but you never see them doing it. Several Npcs look very similar, so much you getting confused of who is who.

That said, the game features amazing cutscenes, the transformations sequences, the special attacks and the unique animations during Sephira battles, talking about them, each Sephira, does have a very unique design that kind clash with the game, as they often appear something you might expect in the end of raid of game such as Lineage or a boss from a Jrpg, however, it does help to set them up as out of this world begins.

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The game itself isn´t very long, while there 12 chapters, each one is not very long, specially, since while you need certain points to progress, during later chapters, is likely you already reach the prerequisites even before the said chapter start. You don´t need to grind as you gain level from helping your friends and just doing the side quest provide you with materials for fragment improvements.

Would I recommend it? if you are curious yes, specially if you like mahou shoujo like stories, Blue Reflection feel a very good take on the theme, it does pulls a few punchs in a very subtle way, which in my opinion, help this punches to hit harder, even if the tone is often changing a lot, which might annoying some people more than others, while the gameplay cycle might feel repetitive, it not too long to feel like a burden. The visual and art style of the game it is one of major strengths, even if with some clear limits.

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