Blue Reflection, from Koei Tecmo’s Gust division, known for the Atelier series, is an RPG that follows Hinako Shirai as she deals with the struggles of High School and having to give up her passion for ballet, all while trying to prevent an evil force from destroying the world.
Much of Hinako’s journey involves trying to get stronger by finding fragments of people’s emotions in a place called The Common, which is a world where everyone’s feelings are gathered.
Rather than a traditional levelling system, where characters gain levels from experience through battle, instead levels are gained in Blue Reflection by spending growth points. These points are earned normally through the story as you help more people with their rampant emotions, but also as Hinako grows her relationship with her various friends she meets throughout the game.
My favorite aspects of Blue Reflection came from these interactions with her friends, and leveling this way was not only unique but I thought it was a smart choice. RPG’s can often feel grindy, but I never once felt that in this game, and it was nice to be rewarded for building her friendships.
Each one of the girls has their own little side story that unfolds as you build their relationship. The main form of building it is by talking to them and responding in ways they like, or by inviting them out after school. I enjoyed spending the time to do that, and even the little scenes of Hinako and her friends hanging out helps build their character a little.
The main story however was not as good, it felt too predictable and slow, and oftentimes it would just fall into the backdrop as the stories going on in the high school played out. The story of Hinako and her friends is the clear focal point in Blue Reflection, and I found myself more interested in seeing those play out than I was the actual main story.
It does start to pick up towards the end though, once some of the plot twists are revealed. While not entirely shocking, these twists did increase my interest in the main plot, and I felt it ended on a better note than it started.
Combat itself is a pretty standard turn-based system, with a few little changes to the formula. Things like the ability to knockback enemies turns, and each skill making characters wait time until their next turn different, changes the pace of battle and allows for some strategy. There are also some skills that come into play later that allows players to charge up a guard meter, restore health, or even speed up the team using a reflection meter. The reflection meter is mainly increased through a guard command, which also restores MP, which is used on skills.
You also receive fragments from her friends as your relationship grows, and these are used to power up skills, or give stat boosts to whoever has it equipped. They don’t change the game too much, but they do add another layer of customization to the game.
The graphics in the game are pretty good, and the environments in The Common especially look great. The environment in the high school however, and the city outside, look bland in comparison. All the characters look great, and each one conveys a bit of their personality in their looks. Bosses also are really well designed, with each one having a distinct look that made fights with them feel important and epic.
Although its combat felt pointless outside of boss fights, and its story was dull at times, I really enjoyed Blue Reflection. It’s unique leveling system creates a clear focus on Hinako and her growing relationship with the other girls in her school. This approach to leveling prevented the game from feeling overly grindy, and kept the game moving forward at a steady pace.
Like a good anime, I became invested in all the characters, and learning about their likes, dislikes, thoughts and feelings was my favorite part of the game. Once the main story starts to pick up it becomes much more engaging, and it ends on a high note. While not a perfect game, Blue Reflection is a unique RPG that focuses more on its characters than anything else, and ends up being a great experience because of it. 8.5/10
*This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, it is also available for PC*