Blue Reflection (PlayStation 4) Review

By Shane Jury 13.11.2017

Review for Blue Reflection on PlayStation 4

First founded in 1993, Japanese developer Gust Co. Ltd began as a PC games maker, focusing on Dojinshi-themed works (that is to say primarily anime-themed designs from smaller contributors) before moving onto PlayStation the next year. After a number of titles, Gust would make the first in the Atelier series, which still continues to this day, and in 2011 the company was acquired by Koei Tecmo with a complete absorption not long after. Gust still operates to this day under its own name, and alongside the Atelier franchise also dabbles in other RPG projects. Blue Reflection is the latest of these, and one of an increasing number to make it to Western shores. Is the result a shining example of an original IP, or the blind spot in the rear-view mirror? After a look at the PC version when it launched, now Cubed3 tackles the PlayStation 4 iteration for the sake of console-only owners.

Blue Reflection presents a modern day take on a fictional game world, with players guiding the character of Hinako Shirui as she attends a new all-girls High School in Hoshinomiya, Japan. After a bizarre phenomenon involving another student, Hinako finds herself teleported to a new realm named the Common, where the negative emotions of the local populace are embodied into antagonistic creatures. Gifted the special magical abilities of a 'Refector,' Hinako can defeat them and aid her fellow students with balancing their mental states.

This story is wildly reflective of the typical 'Magical Girls' trope, one more well known in shows like Sailor Moon, for example, and provides a solid basis for the narrative to begin. How it progresses, however, is more tied to individual character advancement, as Hinako and the people she helps all undergo notable levels of development as the story progresses. In time, two more characters join her as fighting and advice companions, and this forms the basis for the turn-based battle system.

Screenshot for Blue Reflection on PlayStation 4

The anime visual style utilised in Blue Reflection makes superb use of the hardware to render a clean, crisp image, backed with emotive animation and strong lighting. Aside from frequent screen-tearing issues, particularly with cut-scenes, the game looks great on a base PlayStation 4. It is clearly aimed at a specific crowd, as the all-schoolgirl population, gratuitous and suggestive sweeping shots of the girls in costume, and even the transparent-when-wet uniforms point to that conclusion - uncomfortably so at times. The all-Japanese voice work with English subtitles and frequent spelling errors in the latter doesn't help that image any. Thankfully, there is a lot more to Blue Reflection when going beyond the looks.

One major, and surprising, point is the atmosphere. Blue Reflection has arguably one of the more serene and relaxing sound directions yet seen in an RPG of any region, instilling a sense of wonder and calm when moving through the world with low-key yet placid melodies. This serves to give a far different JRPG experience than most would be accustomed to; the opposite of a high stakes save-the-world narrative that other games usually portray. This does lessen the sense of urgency in mission completion as the story progresses, but doesn't suffer for it as on the flip side this allows for a steadier pace in how one approaches the tasks at hand.

Screenshot for Blue Reflection on PlayStation 4

Although not as unique, the turn-based battle system in Blue Reflection is easy to grasp, with enough variety to keep interest going as the story moves on. Using highly energetic themes that seem at odds with the rest of the more laid-back soundtrack, battles can be initiated on the Common with on-screen foes. Access is given to a move list that grows as the character gains levels, usually consisting of attacking and defensive techniques that often relies on the Ether Magic meter for use. Keeping this meter up is the crucial tactic in winning fights, and the game is generous in offering options to replenish it, be it a defensive posture during battle, or auto-restoration between encounters.

The Overdrive method takes a percentage meter that can be built up during the course of battle, and allows for an increasing number of moves per turn instead of the basic one. Using this effectively determines how long a standard battle can last; over in moments with a powerful group strike, or drawn out with smaller moves. Overall, whilst not bringing a ton of originality to the table, this battle system is engaging and satisfying, and a welcome brief break from the exploration of the School and Common overworlds. One concern of note is the rapid gain of new skills; a boon for choice in battle, but a hassle to navigate with a list view.

Screenshot for Blue Reflection on PlayStation 4

The prime longevity of Blue Reflection is situated in how its adventure unravels, but there is still plenty to see and do between the story checkpoints. Fragments obtained from helping other students can be equipped to power up certain techniques, and more can be gained from aiding less major NPCs in the school grounds via the Missions tab in the main menu. Deepening bonds with friends can lead to more fragments gained, and there's even a whole separate menu with a virtual pet-like simulation and a chatroom that can lead to more character development. Japanese RPGs typically aren't quick games to finish, and Blue Reflection is no exception to this rule and could easily be lost in the sea of anime-styled games in this genre, but its atmospheric presentation makes it stand out considerably from the pack.

Screenshot for Blue Reflection on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

A number of issues with Blue Reflection quickly present themselves, such as some screen-tearing witnessed in the visual stakes and a questionable focus on the level of fan service wedged into the adventure, yet underneath these opinion-splitting matters there is an extremely enjoyable, memorable, and rather uncommon Japanese RPG adventure that will certainly leave an impression for the duration of the journey, as well as for a while after playing it.

Developer

Gust

Publisher

Koei Tecmo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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