You don’t need to have played the original Blue Reflection to enjoy this sequel, but it certainly helps.
With the story centred around a young schoolgirl named Ao whose wish is to be someone special, Blue Reflection: Second Light presents a new cast of characters and a new world to explore, but there are some familiar faces and story strands that tie into the original game. Still, there’s enough exposition here to make this story thoroughly entertaining and rewarding in its own right.
The premise of the story is perhaps a little cliched; waking up in a school, Ao can’t remember how she got there, nor anything about her life before she arrived. She’s not alone, either. There are other girls at the school, too, and they’re all trapped. Ao wonders if the strange app that suddenly appeared on her phone, called FreeSpace, could have anything to do with it? And then something else strange occurs; a place they dub The Faraway appears, enticing them to explore. The only problem is, it’s filled with demons that attack on sight.
An emotionally-driven JRPG, there are two sides to Blue Reflection: Second Light, then. Taking control of Ao, at school you can talk to the other girls to deepen your friendships with them. You can also craft items using the materials you’ve gathered in The Faraway, accept requests which will award TP and other goodies when completed, and change your outfit. The school can be upgraded, too, with new facilities that offer various benefits. Much of that, however, relies in exploring The Faraway. There you can explore, pick up useful materials, engage in battle, and rediscover your memories, all in the pursuit of progressing the story.
To avoid spoiling the story, let’s just say that The Faraway isn’t actually just one, large magical land to explore; it’s actually multiple smaller ones, allowing for some pleasing environment and enemy variety. You can’t spend too much time gawping at the pretty scenery though, as enemies roam freely. Bump into them and combat will commence; smart players will hit them with their weapons to get an advantage when entering combat instead. Ao herself wields a wicked-looking scythe that magically appears when required thanks to a ring that found its way onto her finger. The other girls that accompany her each have their own unique weapons that materialise out of thin air when necessary.
The combat system is fast-paced, strategic, and a hell of a lot of fun. Driven by a resource called Ether, you need to wait for it accumulate for each of the three girls in your active battle party before they can act. It builds up naturally over time, though it begins to accumulate faster as combat goes on and as skills are used. The longer a battle goes on, then, the faster-paced it gets. As each girl performs actions, they’ll occasionally move up a gear, too, allowing more skills to be used. Progress a girl up to third gear and she’ll become a Reflector, donning a fancy new outfit while becoming more powerful. Meanwhile, a support character passively assists, and can be prompted to use items.
There are other unique aspects to Blue Reflection: Second Light‘s combat, too, such as a one-on-one duel system when fighting some powerful enemies. Along with the usual JRPG battle mechanics to look out for such as weaknesses, buffs and stagger states, Blue Reflection: Second Light‘s combat system is somewhat familiar but also surprisingly fresh. Emphasis is also placed on building combos; the higher the combo meter goes, the more damage you inflict with each attack. With that in mind, you’ll sometimes want to make use of skills that protect your combo meter from powerful enemy attacks.
With Ao being the central character of the game, you’ll always be in control of her whether you’re at the school, exploring The Faraway or in combat. It’s up to you whether you take direct control of her two companions in combat, however. Both manual and automatic combat modes are available, with the latter forcing the CPU to take control of your two chosen battle buddies. It’s very handy for the myriad of battles you get into as you explore, but when fighting bosses it’s better to have full control so you can make more effective use of skills. You can rather handily switch between the two modes during combat, too.
While combat is inevitable in Blue Reflection: Second Light, there will be times where you’ll either want, or even need to avoid it. For such occasions you’ll be glad that you can enter stealth mode, which shows enemy aggro cones. You can then more easily avoid their attention. Areas often present alternate routes to avoid confrontation as well, such as crawlspaces under structures. Stealth mode isn’t just for those who like to shy away from combat, however. It’s also useful for starting battles with maximum advantage; hit an enemy with your weapon from behind while in stealth mode and they’ll be prone to getting knocked down when the fight commences.
Like in most JRPGs, winning combat encounters rewards experience, and over time Ao and the others will grow more powerful by levelling up. Talent Points, or TP, can also earned by completing requests, which can then be used to purchase skills spread across four categories – Energetic, Rational, Gentle and Creative. All four are available to Ao from the get-go, while the skills available to your companions are limited until you progress further into the game’s story. The benefits range from stat boosts to improving the items you craft, which makes earning TP very worthwhile.
Blue Reflection: Second Light‘s anime-inspired visuals aren’t likely to wow you on PS4, but they are pretty nice. Character models are a highlight, and some of the environments you explore are pleasing on the eyes, but enemy design is pretty bland overall. Much more impressive is the game’s soundtrack, which has everything from melancholic piano-based tracks to more rousing battle-centric numbers. Only those expecting the option of English voice acting will be disappointed – it’s Japanese only with English subtitles.
For fans of the original game, Blue Reflection: Second Light is a must-play, with yet another engrossing story and some meaningful gameplay enhancements. But even those who haven’t played the original may want to delve into this sequel if they’re into emotionally-charged JRPGs that dare to experiment a little. This is a more serious affair from Gust, with some touching moments as pasts are revealed and new relationships are formed. And with its energetic battle system that keeps you on your toes, it’s captivating from beginning to end.
Blue Reflection: Second Light Review – GameSpew’s Score