Sailor Who? - Blue Reflection (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
The life of a magical girl ain't easy, there's all the social problems a school-aged Japanese girl runs in to, coupled with the impending dread of world ending evil that can seemingly only be thwarted through the power of shouting out special attacks and ultra cute outfits born from stardust. Blue Reflection is a JRPG developed by Gust Co. Ltd, the devs behind such JRPG power house series like Atelier Iris, Mana Khemia, and Ar Tonelico. If you've ever played a Gust game, there are a few constants you can always count on... cute female characters and all manner of anime-fan-servicey goodness.
The story follows Hinako Shirai, a former ballet dancer who hangs up her slippers after a career ending knee-inury renders her unable to dance like she used to. Our heroine attends Hoshinomiya Girls High School, hoping to find a new start as she comes to terms with never being able to dance again. At school Hinako meets the Shijou sisters, Yuzuki and Lime, and after unlocking her ability to transform into a magical girl the citrus sisters inform Hinako that she was given the power to fight as a “Reflector,” heroes who face down the deep/dark emotions in people to save them from their own inner darkness.
Gameplay is split between two parts; missions and every-day life scenarios. Missions all take place in an alternate realm within the consciousness of others. When a classmate faces feelings of sadness, self-doubt, anxiety, etc... these feelings manifest as monsters. Your job as a Reflector is to enter this stream of consciousness and save your school-mates before it negatively affects them. If that sounds all too familiar... you may be thinking what I'm thinking. Blue Reflection feels like it borrows some thematic elements from the recently released Persona 5 and the stellar Persona series. This wouldn't have been much of a problem if the final package wasn't so lackluster. Combat is simple turn-based, but lacks any sort of identity of its own to stand out. The game's “dungeons” are literally repeating, exit one end of the dungeon and you end up at the entrance of the same dungeon with enemies respawned. This part of the game severely lacks any redeeming qualities, and once you've seen one dungeon you've pretty much seen them all. Enemy variations are next to none and while the game does boast some impressive ability effects, this polish is lost against a backdrop that feels awash if aggressive mediocrity.
Outside of combat, you go to school and build on the relationships you establish with friends. Like a dumbed-down social link system. Much of the dialog lacks any punch and the events feel more like they push the cheapest form of anime fan-service at the expense of a worthwhile narrative. I can dig my brain-dead-fan-service-anime like the next weab... but even this was a bit too much for me.
When you do get the chance to see your player characters transform, I do admit that it was cute and tickled my mahou-shojo loving self. But despite that positive, much of the rest of this game's package is like eating bland food with zero nutritional value... but at least the packaging was pretty.
Blue Reflection plays out like a badly planned vanilla doujin, from the lead characters to random side-characters, noone stands out in particular. Even the localization leaves much to be desired; with the game jumping back and forth with calling one of the Shijou sisters “Lime” or “Raimu.” It felt like the attention to detail wasn't there... leaving us with a final package that felt disjointed. Compounded with the overall lackluster gameplay, one is left quite disappointed after playing.
In a landscape where JRPGs are not nearly as prominent as they used to be, look forward to any possibility that one of my favorite genres in gaming gets another new title... but after being let down time and time again by mediocrity I tend to severely lower my expectations.
Even after lowering my expectations, Blue Reflection didn't have nearly as much going for it to justify a full playthrough. The game is cute with a passable combat system, but unfortunately Blue Reflections lacks so much more with its uninspiring level design, cardboard thin characters, and fan-service heavy narrative. The game felt more like an awkward amalgamation of Persona 5 with a healthy dose of mahou-shojo. I really wanted to like a JRPG that had me play as a magical girl... unfortunately this won't be the one I guess.
2 out of 5
Cute characters... but lacking substance
+ cute character design
+ passable combat
- lackluster story
- weak level design
- awkward character interactions