By Chris Melchin / October 3rd, 2017
Blue Reflection’s visual design is absolutely beautiful. The environments in the Common are brightly-colored and otherworldly, contrasting with the drab colors of the real world. Each environment has its own aesthetic for its enemies, although there’s only a few different types in each area. Enemies are categorized by design, with different specific enemies distinguished only by slightly different coloring in most cases. This means that, in side quests that require you to hunt down a specific enemy, it can be tough to judge since they can look so similar to each other. The character designs are well-done, if not the most distinctive, and the Reflector outfit designs are colorful and match the brightly colored and otherworldly Common. Each of them also has a transformation sequence that’s shown from time to time, further enhancing Blue Reflection’s feeling of being a magical girl anime in game form.
The Sephira stand out in particular, in all respects. It’s in these fights where the combat system is most interesting, when it throws in supporters on top of the fights being significantly more difficult than any others in the game. Especially for the later Sephira fights, the difficulty really comes out of nowhere and caught me off-guard when I wasn’t prepared. They’re the only fights where I found myself needing to use buffs, recovery skills, and the ability to burn Ether to attack multiple times. It’s the only time that the intricacies of the combat system get the chance to shine, showing off depth that you don’t see in the regular encounters. Their designs are also great; incredibly striking and intimidating, and completely alien in their designs. Each fight also ends with a spectacular cut-scene showing Hinako using the combined power of all three Reflectors to fend off the Sephira, resulting in a flashy final attack.
The music in the game is also great. It primarily uses piano and synthesizers and creates an interesting atmosphere; the background music while in the school is subdued and calming piano music, while the synthesizers come in for the background music in the Common. The first time I started the game up, I sat on the title screen for a couple minutes listening to the game’s relaxing main theme. There’s also an in-game music player, so you can listen to any music you’ve heard in your playthrough while you walk around the school in your free time. The voice work also seems well done, although I’m not the best judge of Japanese voices.
A large portion of Blue Reflection is cut-scenes. It’s primarily a drama focusing on the relationships between high-school girls, while the magical girl elements – and the bulk of the gameplay – are secondary. It’s very much a character-driven story, and it helps that the characters are all well-written and feel human, if not particularly interesting. Hinako in particular grows a lot throughout the story, without it seeming particularly unrealistic; even if she’s somewhat frustrating, the ways she reacts to things were still relatable even to me. I wasn’t expecting to see quite the volume of cut-scenes that the game ended up having, and the game feels more like a fully-animated visual novel with RPG side-quests than an actual RPG. It’s fine if you know what you’re getting into, but the lack of interactivity was somewhat off-putting at first when I expected something more involved.
Blue Reflection is not a game without its flaws; I wish there were more Reflectors and more variety in the enemies and environments, and while the characters are realistic I wish they were more interesting and fleshed out. Also, there’s a very large number of typos and errors in the text in this game, on the level of some of the less refined visual novels I’ve read, along with an inconsistent frame rate on my original-model PS4. It’s unfortunate to see, and I hope Koei Tecmo patches it at some point. All that said, in spite of its flaws, there’s quite a bit to like about Blue Reflection; the visuals, music and boss fights are all fantastic, and it has a very down-to-earth story considering you’re also fighting alien-looking monsters that are trying to wipe out humanity. It’s a decent 25 hours for $59.99 USD, on PS4 or Steam; I played the PS4 version, so I don’t know if there are any issues with the PC version that aren’t on console. With its issues in mind, if you’re on the fence about Blue Reflection, I’d recommend it, because there’s a lot to like about it, even if it isn’t perfect.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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