Blue Reflection, from Atelier series studio Gust, came out at a time when this developer really started building momentum. The Atelier games were getting bigger, and as the PS3 transitioned to the PS4, JRPGs steadily caught back on. Not only did Gust kickstart lots of changes for Atelier, it tried some different things on the side, like Nights of Azure and Blue Reflection. Several years later, here’s a sequel to one of Gust’s more thoughtful titles.

Second Light is a sequel to the original, but it’s also related to an anime series that aired earlier in the year. There’s a linear story here, but Second Light does a solid job standing on its own enough for newcomers to be okay. Blue Reflection as a whole is a more “mature” take on the Magical Girl genre (think Sailor Moon), but not one that uses shock value to stand out (Madoka, Site). Instead, it’s about high school girls with real-life high school kid problems. The transformations and monster battles are secondary.

Blue Reflection: Second Light Review

In the first game, we followed Hinako as she adjusted to life following an injury that ended her ballet career before it could truly begin. This time the scenario is wildly different, as new protagonist Ao wakes up in a school that seems physically divorced from reality. She finds other girls trapped in this strange space, and most of the game’s front end A-plot is about figuring out what the heck’s going on.

This is how Second Light attempts to be a sequel and standalone story at the same time. Everyone in this space has amnesia, and it turns out that thanks to their mysterious magical girl (Reflector, here) powers they can explore each others’ inner selves and retrieve those missing memories. The overall series’ story doesn’t truly come in for several hours/chapters, and it’s eased in gradually and with plenty of background information provided. It’s a really slow burn however, so players hoping for something a little more action-packed aren’t going to find that here.

That said, Second Light is a lot more active in the gameplay sense compared to the first game. The original Blue Reflection was very experimental, playing around with things like filmic camera positioning, deliberately slow movement and combat progression not tied to grinding EXP. It was fascinating for sure, but the creators often spoiled their own ambition with things like horny leering and weird difficulty shifts. The game’s vibe, pastel-colored and driven by truly soothing piano music, helped overcome the more awkward parts.

Related: Haibane Renmei | The Moving Anime About Death and Salvation That No One Has Seen

For the sequel, Gust dialed back some of the pretense where it matters. Also, the weird leering is almost entirely absent, which is very refreshing. Restraint is good, especially when trying to tell a serious story. The combat system is fast and reliant on timing, leveling is more traditionally EXP-driven, and party building has much more of a presence. There are even various stations you can craft for the school grounds that offer passive bonuses with synergy boosts, making customization a huge factor.

Combat is super intriguing. It’s almost like you’re building momentum or driving a car. I didn’t come up with the car metaphor myself; you literally spend combat building up characters’ recovery speed and shifting “Gears,” leading to bigger skills, faster skills and of course, transformation sequences. While the first game had the cast in permanent Reflector mode for combat, you have to earn it in Second Light with smart meter management.

Visually, Second Light brings what was appealing about the first game and then some. The screen is full of color and light, giving your surroundings an almost dream-like atmosphere. Nothing looks real, even mundane things like plants and water. The music is once again pleasant and soothing rather than energetic, although you can move around the world a little faster than before. When you’re back at home base though, Second Light slows down more, its objective to make you bond with the cast.

As you do things like perform little fetch quests or crafting assignments, Ao bonds with the other girls living at the school. This fuels a second form of progression aside from leveling, granting you “TP” to spend on passive boosts, new abilities and more equipment slots. You can also unlock more skit-like scenes between various characters as you develop their relationships, including going on “Dates” that have you exploring the school grounds at a much more relaxed pace.

An early review out of Japan for Blue Reflection: Second Light called it “the ultimate comfy RPG,” and I’m inclined to agree! These games have some seriously dense vibes, and those vibes are all about taking things at a slower, more relaxed pace. Even when the story is about something serious or surprisingly dark, the endearing relationships between the girls and the whimsical environment they explore throughout the game do everything they can to chill you out. And since Second Light has pulled back from the wackier ideas the first game had, it’s a lot more straightforward and comfortable to play. 


Pros:

  • Vibes
  • Simpler game systems that don’t betray Blue Reflection’s identity
  • Switch version runs quite well, despite its obvious compromises

Cons:

  • Very slow storytelling takes ages to start getting to The Point
  • Bizarre and uninteresting stealth sequences

Score: 8/10

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review