Review: Blue Reflection: Sword of the Girl Who Dances in Illusions (PS4).
Blue Reflection tells the story of three extraordinary girls who heal human souls by fighting demons who seek the feelings of high school girls. The creators of the Atelier series, instead of the adventures of other alchemists, this time prepared an atmospheric story about contemporary Sailor Moon.
Hoshinomiya is a typical, albeit fictional, modern Japanese city like many in this country. There is a female high school, where the main character of the game named Hinako Shirai begins her education. Hina promised to be a gifted ballerina, but a knee injury ruined her career and now the girl not only has to face the inconveniences of the accident, but also mentally reconcile with the life of an ordinary schoolgirl. What she doesn’t know is that she is being watched by two other high school girls who propose to her to fight with them as the “magical girl” Reflector against beings that prey on human feelings. Emotionally unstable schoolgirls are the perfect target for them, and ignoring the problem lures giant monsters called Sephira, which can eventually even destroy the world. The protagonist is not very enthusiastic about this idea, but the siblings Yuzuki and Lime Shijou mention a reward – healing her leg. How can you resist such a temptation?
Despite the rather hackneyed themes of the plot, i.e. young high school girls, urban legends and the Magical Girls theme, the story is very pleasant and light, though short. The three girls look into the souls of their school friends and restore their unstable feelings to stability, thanks to which we learn many interesting fragments of life behind individual students. Although we will not experience any dramatic events or twists here, the atmospheric, warm story can move a sensitive chord and attract the main character to herself, for example, for her dreams. On the other hand, rummaging in other people’s souls and fighting mental vampires over time causes Hinako to feel morally uncomfortable about the limits of interference with the emotions of another person, even if saving the world is at stake. It is a pity that the creators did not set the script in a broader plot context, which gives us the impression that we are following a piece of reality suspended in time. Contrary to appearances, we will not experience fanservice here, not counting visits to the bathroom or the swimming pool.
During the game, you can notice some inspirations from series such as Persona, Atelier, Final Fantasy or the once popular anime Sailor Moon. Still, it’s a completely new title from Taste with great potential, in no way related to their previous productions. Someone might say that we are dealing with a high school simulator and there is some point in this. As in the Persona series, Hinako has a day planned, although it is limited to school activities, improving relationships with friends in the style of Social Links, residual evening activities, occasional going out and gossiping on the phone. Unfortunately, the social part of the game is very limited here and the creators should obligatorily expand it in possible continuations. Fortunately, the choices made then pay off with various bonuses during the game – be it hidden scenes or bonuses to statistics. The core of the game is the performance of combat and courier missions, i.e. an idea copied from Atelier Rorona / Totorifor which we get points needed to move the scenario forward. Strangely enough, the tasks, although painfully repetitive, are not boring, because they are a perfect excuse to fight really nice clashes with opponents.
Before we move on to the description of the fights, let’s start with the fact that they take place in the mental world called Common, to which our female warriors move, wanting to calm the raging feelings of their colleagues. It has been divided into four separate areas, symbolizing basic emotions – although not very extensive, for the needs of a short game they are enough before they get bored. We start the fight, as usual, with a hack of one of the demonic regulars, and then the fight takes place in a turn-based style known, for example, from Ateliers – three virgins versus adversaries and an ATB bar. Surprisingly, however, they can be incredibly addictive for three reasons: great visual setting, accumulated aether that allows, among other things, to block blows and heal while waiting for the queue, and effective support of friends when called. Watching the actions of our “Reflektorek” is so entertaining that it eliminates two serious drawbacks of duels, i.e. their banality and in most cases – pointlessness, because for defeated opponents we do not get experience points, and besides, they are easy to miss. Besides, they do not pose any challenge and only fights with powerful Sephirs can slightly raise the pressure. However, magic warriors have some charm, thanks to which no one will avoid fights, which does not mean that Gust should not work on several aspects in this topic.
The lack of experience points for combat raises the question of whether the game is still an RPG. Yes, but we get these points for completing story missions. We are glad that we develop our three characters as we want, investing in four available statistics and learning new skills at the same time. That’s not all, because learned abilities can be reinforced with fragments of feelings that come from the relationship between Hinako and other students. In addition, we have at our disposal alchemy that allows you to create items that strengthen these statistics. But why if the difficulty level of the game is so low?
Finally, we will deal with the visuals, which show that despite the low budget, it will be able to create a Japanese RPG that would not look like torn from the previous generation. The graphics were taken care of by known from Rorona’s atelier character designer Mel Kishida, doing her job very well. The heroines’ models look amazing, both in school life and in combat, and high school classrooms and other facilities contain a lot of detail. In addition, an aura of mystery is added by the excellent handling of light. Animations of combat skills also catch the eye, as well as spectacular transformations of warriors, of course referring to Sailor Moon, or the powerful Sephiras. Unfortunately, the game only works in 30 frames, which makes Hinako seem to move like a fly in the tar, but you get used to it quickly.
Blue Reflection is a title with great potential that could not be fully used due to the low budget. Nevertheless, as an introduction to the new series from the creators of the Atelier series, it works well and I hope that any sequels will accomplish what has not been achieved now. Although the production is short, it has some magic that is worth getting to know.