I didn’t expect to find myself playing Blue Reflection – Second Light as I wasn’t a fan of the original game (reviewed over here) Blue Reflection was packed with unnecessary cheesecake, it was unoptimized on PS4 and it was clunky as hell. Though Blue Reflection as a concept (a yuri focused magic-girl JRPG in a modern setting) sounded fine on paper and when I read in an interview of the director for Blue Reflection – Second Light that he was describing how the tone of Second Light had shifted to focus more on the relationships and less on the fanservice (It’s a great read by Jade King at The Gamer here) I was all signed up to see if in a second light everything was a little less blue.
I’m happy to report that not only does Blue Reflection – Second Light cut out the unnecessary fanservice (for the most part) it also runs pretty smoothly to. Second Light is set almost as a filler in a series with events taking place after both the first game and the anime series but in a different dimension to both. As with the Atelier games you don’t really need to have played the first to jump into this, everything is painfully explained at great detail and you’ll just get a step up when certain characters and story beats if you’ve had any prior experience with the series.
For the most part Blue Reflection – Second Light is a by the numbers JRPG with the most incredibly futuristic looking UI design you’ll ever see. Every menu, option or animation is incredibly polished. Story text pops up in the areas, text boxes spin, sparkle and the UI is full of cuts and shapes that you’d expect to see from the latest Apple presentation. The writing leans more towards the slice of life despite the bizarre otherworldly setting and although the story deals with some of the most common themes of dramas set in schools it tends to cover them with a softer touch than most. It rarely explores a topic long enough for the power of friendship to blast past onto the next problem.
Blue Reflection – Second Light mixes things up with a focus on stealth where you’ll be taking your time to explore linear areas, avoiding stronger monsters to gather and then crafting supplies back at the school. It’s quick and easy to switch between wandering to stealth with monsters visible field and the filter on the screen washing between without missing a beat. The combat when it does occur is a mix of turn and timed based action with every move on a cooldown bar. You’ll be waiting to trigger everything as it occurs and queuing some characters to wait and build up more AP to attack stronger. You can stagger the enemies with enough hits, use various effects and everything has different elements and you’ll be looking to chain everything together. It should be a fun way of keeping you in the action but until you unlock the one vs one and support characters it’s confusingly grindy.
Thankfully you can speed up the combat to make it feel less of a chore and visually everything in Blue Reflection – Second Light balances well. The ultra modern looking UI and fake mobile messenger system along with the surrounds give Blue Reflection – Second Light almost a Star Ocean spin-off aesthetic. While the soft doll-like faces of the characters, the constant use of bloom and school aesthetic make everything look like an otome game the darker aspects and monsters twist it into something else. It can be strangely jarring at times and you can find yourself fighting with a sci-fi monster with a character in a lumberjack fashion parade outfit with a standard rifle.
Given how often you’ll be wandering around the same areas and getting into combat Blue Reflection – Second Light thankfully has some great music. The Japanese voice cast does a great job as well. There is a lot of voiced dialogue here from little clips in scenes to long interactions when characters go on dates. The ‘date’ in question can be up to the player in how romantically focused they can be but some of the dialogue is hilariously cheesy and the camera manages to behave itself making these moments some of the most wholesome parts. For a game that has pacing issues throughout these slow interactions are some of the best moments Blue Reflection – Second Light has to offer.
There is a lot of menu hopping, tinkering with stats, levelling up everyone and making sure to keep on top of each new mechanics that Blue Reflection – Second Light throws at you but this isn’t particularly a bad thing. When you jump into a JRPG you’ll typically have a good idea of what sort of story you’re going to get from it and Blue Reflection – Second Light does what it says on the tin. Each chapter progresses the overarching story as you explore each girls trauma area but despite the polish and well made areas everything feels like 3 different games mashed into one. A dating sim, JRPG and stealth game all fighting to be the main focus.
There’s a lot of gathering and crafting to expand the schools facilities, building relationships and deep diving to progress and it’s all just fine. There’s just strangely nothing that compelling or terrible about Blue Reflection – Second Light. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, it ran smoothly and everything is what you’d expect from a big name JRPG. It’s a huge leap from the first Blue Reflection and if that game wasn’t your cup of tea this one very much could be. If you want a good looking JRPG about girls and their past traumas while flicking between different styles then Blue Reflection – Second Light is definitely for you.
7/10 – Reflecting how sometimes a second light helps
Code provided by Koei Tecmo Europe Ltd. Check out their games here