Ao, you get a scythe! Kokoro, here’s a rifle! Rena, have this… hula hoop?
Developed by Gust Co. Ltd. and published by KOEI TECMO, BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light is a Japanese role-playing game with a focus on identity, relationships, and highlighting how important and impactful memories can have on a person. You also exclusively play as high school girls.
In BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light, you play as Ao Hoshizaki, a high school girl who wakes up in a school that is surrounded by an endless ocean. At this school, there are three other students: Kokoro, Yuki, and Rena, who have been in this new world for three days and who have each lost their memory—having no clue why or how they ended up where they are. Each of these students woke with a mysterious ring on their finger, and these rings grant them the power to fight with reflector weapons, weapons that are summoned based on those characters’ emotions and feelings. These are the weapons you’ll use when fighting demons. Oh, did I forget to mention that these high school girls fight demons? Yeah, they encounter them when searching for their memories that can be found in mysterious worlds called Heartscapes, which appear when certain events are triggered.
As you uncover memories you unlock new characters, they will appear once certain memories that include them have been discovered. Like the girls that you begin the game with, they will also have no memory of what’s happened, and the hunt for their memories will begin, too! I found the concept and story to be a super interesting premise, and I was keen to uncover the lost memories of all the girls stuck in this strange world.
Second Light is a sequel to BLUE REFLECTION; however, you don’t need to have played the previous game as there are no returning characters and the story is standalone. The core gameplay is like the previous title, but one area they have updated massively is the battle system. In the first game, the battle system was turn based, and had numerous steps to using your skills, attacking enemies, and monitoring charges, among other things. It all looked a little complicated and messy. In Second Light, the developers seem to have made the system much more accessible for those new to these types of games, and the in-game tutorials are easy to follow to ensure you are getting the most out of this revamped system.
The battle system works on a timeline, where your party members will progress along at different paces depending on their stats. You and your allies are on one end with the enemies on the other. When your character reaches a certain level in the timeline, they can then act and use a skill. Skills use Ether and each level on the timeline is 1000 Ether, so the amount of Ether needed for a skill will determine how far into the timeline you must go before you can act. The more Ether needed, the better the skill. It is important to find a balance between the less costly skills and the more expensive ones as you don’t want to wait too long since the enemy will then be able to act sooner. I really enjoyed the design and layout and having to strategize in real time, deciding when to use specific skills. This system shone in boss battles, as the timing of those Ether-intense moves was crucial to success—unlike in the basic encounters, where you could simply spam the level one skills and win with ease.
Each time you use skills successfully in a single battle, you increase your gear level. When this gear level hits the desired level, your character will transform into a reflector. This is almost like an evolution to your character, in which you will have a costume change and increased stats alongside stronger skills. Your gear level resets after each battle. This was a nice addition to the battle mechanics and throws another level into those harder boss battles, especially when things may not be going your way. Your characters also level up by gaining experience points each battle, so don’t be skipping too many of those standard ones, as it will come back to haunt you!
Aside from the main story where you are in the Heartscapes battling demons and hunting for your memories, there is plenty to keep you busy back at the school. The first thing you can do is get to know the other girls more. This can be done simply by chatting with them, messaging them on your FreeSpace app, going on dates - purely platonic, and fulfilling requests. When you go on a date with one of the other girls, you go for a walk around the school and when you hit certain locations of interest, you’ll unlock unique cutscenes and conversations. These strengthen your bonds and earn those involved talent points (more on that soon). It’s important to highlight that every line of dialogue is fully voice acted—in Japanese, of course—so you’ll still need to do some reading if you don’t speak that language, but either way, voice acting is always welcome.
Fulfilling requests is also a great way to learn more about the girls, as their requests are usually based on their interests. For example, many of Yuki’s requests will be based on collecting food items for cooking. By completing requests, you earn talent points that characters can use to permanently increase their stats. This would include upping their defence, health, or natural speed on the timeline in battles, among other things. The requests are a welcome change of pace from the Heartscapes and battles, which can get repetitive quickly. All of the characters are likeable across the board, each with their own quirks, so it was great getting to know them all on a deeper level. This was especially true when their memories were slowly returning as certain personality traits that they displayed began to make more sense.
When in the Heartscapes, there are many items and resources that you pick up when exploring. These can vary from cloth and food ingredients to wood and other natural materials. These items are used in some requests, but the bulk of them are used in crafting and construction. The crafting and construction mechanics are simple: you can only make things that the girls remember how to make, so more are unlocked as you progress through the game. The ability to craft and construct can be accessed from a quick menu anywhere in the school area. The most common item you’ll likely craft is food. These can be brought into the Heartscapes and are usually your way of recovering health outside of skills. Constructing new areas and facilities around the school provides permanent stat boosts to those who benefit from the new structures, such as study desks, a small beach, mini bars, etc. Again, these two features are welcome additions, increasing the depth to the game as well as providing further insight to the characters around you, getting to know what they like, what they remember and how they could tie in with their life before ending up here.
BLUE REFLECTION is a very pretty game. Its use of colours and light are bold and complement the typical anime-style JRPG visuals. There is an internal clock in the game, so you’ll see the sun setting and rising at times, and those sunsets are gorgeous! In fast paced battles, the visuals are great, but when there are too many things happening at once, I did notice slight lag or stutters to some of the characters’ actions, almost as if the game is trying to play catch up or skip frames to do so. This wasn’t a huge problem at all and happened rarely, but nonetheless, it’s worth noting. I also feel like some of the stutters were implemented on purpose. Early on you are given a boost to reach a high ledge, on the frame where Ao is at full stretch and her skirt isn’t hiding anything, the game paused for a moment, then continued. I thought this was odd, but each time she ever needed a boost in the future, that same lag happened at that exact moment. Little bit of fan service, I guess (not that this game needed anymore!).
Although the visuals were stunning at times, and the settings were well built, there were a few more slight performance issues. Firstly, the game takes a long time to reach the start screen, which I found frustrating each time I booted up. Also, when in any setting, random objects in the background would be blurred and then pop into detail when you’re close enough. It didn’t massively affect my experience too much, fortunately, because those items were still identifiable, and the art style on the whole was bold and charming throughout.
If you’re like me and you love customisation and the ability to change outfits, BLUE REFLECTION has this in spades. Every character has alternate uniforms to change into once you unlock the Locker-room area. At first these are simple, usually just going from a school blazer to no blazer, but some characters have the option to completely change their outfit. Ao, the main character begins with a handful of options, half of them being swimsuits. There is also confirmation of many, many more outfits to come as paid DLC on the game’s release as well as future updates planned through to the new year, including photo mode, extra difficulty levels, and more swimsuits!
BLUE REFLECTION: Second Light is a surprisingly deep JRPG, both mechanics and story wise, without overwhelming the player in either area. The cast of characters are all unique and likeable, and alongside the interesting story, the attachment you gain for the cast aids you in your pursuit for answers. The battle system is fun and boss battles are especially tense. Despite the repetitiveness of some enemies, and the overuse of cutscenes, this is a great game that I’ll be diving back into the confirmed higher difficulty when released later this year.