- Developer: Gust
- Publisher: Koei Tecmo
- Release Date: 09/11/2021
- Price: £49.99 / $59.99
- Review code provided by Koei Tecmo
- Version reviewed: 1.0.1
Introducing: Blue Reflection: Second Light Review
Blue Reflection: Second Light is the second entry in the game’s series and the first one to grace Nintendo’s Switch. It was developed by Gust, of Fairy Tail and the Atelier series fame, so you can probably already deduct what the game is: A JRPG featuring crafting and a host of cute ladies.
The game starts with you, Ao Hoshizaki, waking at a school completely surrounded by water. Though a school was your destination when you set out from home—having failed an exam made supplementary lessons at a cram school necessary—it wasn’t this school. You remember that you lost your phone on the way, but found it again after retracing your steps. Someone had installed a new app, called FreeSpace, on it and made it the only app that can still be used on your phone. Luckily, you aren’t alone as three other girls are already present at the mysterious building of education: Kokoro Utsubo, Rena Miyauchi, and Yuki Kinjou. They also somehow ended up on the island, but different from you, they can’t remember anything about their past but their names. Why are you here? To what purpose did all of you end up there? How do you get back home? The only way to get answers is to visit the Faraway, an equally mysterious place that somehow appeared in front of the school. It’s a place of wonder and foraging, but also a place infested by strange demons.
Hello, have you seen my memory?
There you are. Stuck at a school with no idea how to leave. Well, one has to eat, so your group decides to enter the Faraway to look for food and crafting materials. But, those are not the only things you find there. Memories of the girls are scattered throughout the areas and hold vital clues about their past and a possible way to return to their former lives. Strange enemies are also present and will attack you once you move into their field of view. Alternatively you can stab them in their backs to gain an advantage in the resulting battle. Whatever you do, move through the Faraway—later renamed to Heartscape—and find all of the girls’ lost memories. Don’t be surprised when some of them are guarded by strong monsters. You simply have to be stronger than them!
Let battle commence!
Blue Reflection: Second Light’s battle system is one I haven’t ever encountered before. It’s not an action system, but it’s not turn based either. Let me give you a short overview: You and your teammates fight by using skills. To use skills, you need to spend Ether. You start a battle without any, but gain it as time progresses. All this is visualised on a timeline in the bottom right corner of the screen. The further right your icons have moved, the more Ether you have recovered. As you pass certain points on the timeline, you can open the skill menu for each of your fighters. The more Ether you have gathered, the more and stronger skills you can use against your opponents. The attacks are immediate and afterwards you start recovering Ether again. Of course, your opponents fight in the same way, so expect things to get quite hectic very quickly.
Needless to say that your skills have different types and the Faraway’s demons sport different weaknesses and resistances that you can use to push them back on the timeline. Select your skills wisely and eliminate them without ever giving them a chance to retaliate! This, together with the risk-reward arrangement of gathering Ether—wait longer to be able to use a stronger skill but risk getting hit while waiting—makes the battle system so completely engaging. Add to this the fact that you directly control your three fighters by button-presses: A for Ao, ZL and ZR for the girls to Ao’s left and right and you have an interesting and captivating battle system. Oh, and a bit into the game you can use Y to give orders to a supporting character.
That’s still not all. Sometimes you need to get up close and personal to subjugate a stronger opponent. That’s when you initiate a one-on-one battle! Here, it’s just you and the monster. Both of you are protected by a barrier and whoever breaks the other one’s first will be able to deal devastating damage. Just keep in mind that demons can also enter one-on-ones with you when the conditions are met!
I’m crafting, you’re crafting, we all are crafting!
What you find and what the defeated demons drop can be turned into useful things for your party. First of all, you can turn ingredients into food and use it to recover HP or Ether during or after a battle. Other material can be crafted into building supplies for school development. Yeah, you got that right. With the right supplies you are able to build additional school facilities, eg. an outdoor learning area. These structures are not only eye candy, but have various positive effects during battles, like raising your attack. Place the right facilities next to each other and earn a set bonus, too!
Crafting and cooking feel natural. You step up to the workbench, open the crafting menu, select the item you need, set the number of items to craft, select the material/ingredients necessary and voila, crafting done. School development works similarly. Select a facility, choose a place for it and there it is. No unnecessary drama.
Relationships are of utmost importance!
What would school life be without interpersonal connections? To facilitate these between the girls, you can listen to their needs and ideas and take up the corresponding side-quests. This will not only result in stronger bonds of friendship, but also net you rewards in the form of items and Talent Points. The latter are useful to unlock additional skills for battle.
That’s not all. To deepen your levels of friendship even more, you can go on dates with your friends. Ask out a girl and visit various destinations around the school to have lively conversations and get closer to each other. After frolicking around, you earn Fragments which you can use to boost your characters’ stats, making you even better fighters.
Sparkles for eyes and ears!
As mentioned in the beginning, Blue Reflection: Second Light was developed by Gust, which you can clearly guess simply by taking a look at it, as it clearly shows. The game sports a colourful anime style that’s comparable to the Atelier series. Light sparkles and every once in a while you get lens flares as if you were watching the scenes through a camera. Very pleasing on the eyes!
Second Light’s soundtrack is a different matter though. While it is nice to listen to and does its best to keep you entertained, it simply can’t keep up to the visuals. It sets the mood and is varied enough, but I’d be hard pressed if I had to remember a single outstanding tune.
Something’s going wrong at school!
Blue Reflection: Second Light has two distinct problems. The first one are stutters during gameplay. Strangely, I only experienced them while walking around the schoolgrounds during dates and only with the camera at a certain angle. A simple change of the camera angle helped mitigating the problem. This was a bit bothersome, but as it didn’t occur during battles, where timing is crucial, it only bothered me a bit.
The bigger problem is the tiny fonts used in some places of the game. For example during FreeSpace, the messenger app used by the protagonists to communicate with each other, the fonts are impossibly small in handheld play and only marginally larger playing docked. As a good chunk of the narrative takes place in this messenger, being nearly unable to read it is annoying.
Blue Reflection: Second Light promises a lot: role-playing, dating, crafting and building all meshed up into one single game. And believe it or not, Gust made it happen. The game is polished in a way that all aspects are superbly connected to each other. Nothing sticks out like a sore thumb. Some stutters and tiny fonts are the only rough edges.
- Engaging battle system full of customisation options
- Setting and story are interesting, if a little tropey
- Crafting and building are well integrated
- Build relationships between the girls via dating
- Some stutters during gameplay
- Some fonts are too tiny to read, even playing on a TV