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

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Budget Persona Can't Compete

Blue Reflection is like Persona if it was made by a team that absolutely lacked the means to make a Persona game.

You play as Hinako, a high school girl who moonlights as a Sailor Moon-esque magical girl who dives into the common consciousness (a realm known as 'The Common') in order to read the hearts of her classmates and use the powers of empathy to calm them from supernatually manic episodes of emotional turmoil. Hinako herself is still emotionally reeling from a leg injury that has ended a promising ballet career before it ever began. It sounds so promising, but the supporting cast is entirely one note and their problems are low-stakes slice-of-life stock. You start with Hinako, whose dreams and identity have been torn away from her. You think it can only get more harrowing from there, but then ten hours later you're dungeon diving to help a girl who just can't get as enthusiastic about being on the track team as she used to be.

The translation is often spotty and filled with typos. There is no english dub if you care about that sort of thing.
The translation is often spotty and filled with typos. There is no english dub if you care about that sort of thing.

The game's systems also de-fang the Persona formula. Your time is divided between fighting monsters in The Common and socializing at school, but without the time restrictions or deadlines that would make it interesting. No matter what is happening in the plot, there are no limits placed on your ability to socialize. You can exhaust every single cast member's daily events and max out their friendship meters in one go the second they become available to hang out with. The daily events themselves aren't very interesting. The characters are very shallow and the landmarks you visit are a small collection of still drawings. Take the sporty girl to the watch store and she says, "I hope they have stop watches! I like sports!"

Travelling The Common is not much better. You recover all of your HP and MP after every battle-- even on hard mode. This eliminates all danger and endurance challenge from the JRPG formula, allowing the player to simply spam their most powerful moves with no pushback. The Common itself is underveloped, consisting of the same handful of small areas recycled constantly throughout the entire game.

The combat system itself is pretty cool, although its finer points are a waste on the game's encompassing design. It's strictly turn-based, but includes a Final Fantasy X-style timeline showing the current turn order. Many moves can push enemies down the timeline, and each attack has a distinct 'Wait Time' that dictates how far back you'll be sent after execution. A move may be powerful, but it may leave your character waiting in the wings for longer. The timeline flows in realtime between turns, and in these moments you can hold a direction on the D-Pad to recover health and MP, speed your party's ascent up the timeline, or prepare a shield against enemies' attacks, all at the cost of Ether. Ether builds itself up through a battle somewhat like a super meter in a fighting game. Other than the aforementioned functions, its primary purpose is to fuel an Overdrive, which allows a hero to act up to four times in their turn depending on how much Ether is spent.

That's all well and good, but it rarely comes up. Common fights rarely last more than a couple turns; the lack of MP scarcity allows you to go all-in on your most powerful moves all of the time. The only decent fights you'll get in Blue Reflection are the Sephirot. At certain points in the story a giant monster will somehow cross over from The Common into the real world and attack Hinako's school. None of these fights are particularly challenging to anyone even mildly versed in JRPGs, but they have huge health pools and thus live long enough for the more interesting combat mechanics to surface. Unfortunately, there are only three Sephirot and each one gets recycled once. Even in these 'good' fights, I couldn't help but find very shallow dominant strategies that allowed me to coast through.

The huge crutches: the limitless HP and MP recovery, the lack of time pressure, the shallow characterization, the soft touch the game gives to conflict... It's tempting to attribute all of that to its target demographic. "Of course it's like that, it's a magical girl game. It's for 12 year old girls!" But if you play the game, that doesn't really track. There's so much ass in this game. Every girl in the game has their own dedicated scene where they get caught in the rain and their white shirts reveal their bra. Every girl gets a swimsuit scene. Every girl gets a shower scene. An entire hang out event is dedicated to observing wacky antics in the changing room. I'm not necessarily condemning an anime game for having ass; I'm just pointing out a contradiction. The gameplay, story, and content don't seem to agree who the target audience is.

I think it all comes down to one thing, though. This game was made by a team that absolutely lacked the means to make a Persona game. In spite of the graphics, which look amazing in screenshots but only 'pretty decent' in motion, Blue Reflection was very clearly punching above its budget. I don't know why Gust thought they could put together a Persona 5 competitor when they couldn't afford to have more than 9 environments, but they did. Blue Reflection is respectable in that regard. It's the kind of obscurity you want to root for, but I don't recommend going out of your way to play it.

Other reviews for BLUE REFLECTION / BLUE REFLECTION 幻に舞う少女の剣 (PC)

    Blue Reflection 0

    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. 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 ...

    2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

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