Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Having been released back in 2017, GUST and Koei Tecmo’s Blue Reflection is a JRPG that has been on my to-do list for a long time. Starting off later in the school year due to a leg injury, our tale begins on Hinako Shirai’s first day only to find that this won’t be your average school year. With bizarre glowing energy forming around her fellow students from intense emotional reactions, it’s somehow going to come down to her to fix these issues and stabilize their hearts with powers that she didn’t even know that she had as a magical school girl known in this world as Reflectors.
Blue Reflection is all about Hinako and the citrus sisters Yuzu and Lime (yes the puns start early) who will guide her through the process of stabilizing people’s emotional hearts and always seem to know more than they are telling. Between the three of them though, they’ll be forming bonds with twelve other students in order to gain enough power to not only repel giant monstrous beings known as Sephiroth, but eventually defeat them to keep the world safe from destruction.
Knowing next to nothing about this title other than it’s been sitting on my shelf since release, I went into it with no expectations or bias. Having now sat through the 30+ adventure that I found myself upon, and will find myself returning to in order to mop up trophies for a platinum one, I can say that it was a decent turn from the usual GUST experience of the Atelier Series. Blue Reflection is not only something with a more serious tone and slice of life approach, even if we are talking about magical school girls, but it also does away with the usual grinding experience that one can find in a JRPG which was rather refreshing.
Taking place almost exclusively within a high school, the adventure unfolds at your pace. From the first day that Hinako walks across the school’s threshold until the end, you get to choose what to do and when you do it. Do you blitz through doing the minimum? Or do you slow it down and do everything you can as unlike Atlus’s Persona series from (3-5), there’s no school year calendar and also unlike some of the Atelier series during that time, no due dates to potentially game over on if you miss reaching certain objectives.
The overall premise is a rather simple one and while it works, because of its design style it may have felt a bit too simplistic. Unlike the rest of the Atelier series that GUST have created over the years, Blue Reflection takes place within very few locations that doesn’t offer much in terms of exploration. You have the three floors of the high school in the real world and then you have a few zones in the commons that don’t change or really evolve. What’s there is what’s there and that’s that as it’s really all that’s needed to tell this story.
So it’s with this change in style that instead of leveling up traditionally, you instead get more powerful by creating new bonds and hanging out with the other twelve people who make up your group. Essentially four people that act as support cast per party member when it comes to the large scale boss battles. While it could have been easy to get this wrong such as going up against bosses unprepared, every chapter instead has a minimum requirement in order to move forward so at the very least, while hard, you should be able to pull it off.
Now there’s one thing that I kept coming back to as I went through this older JRPG. While I could see where various elements have come from and where various elements have led to such as Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout and Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy, I kept coming back to that if you removed the combat, you would have had an interesting visual novel as the overall experience didn’t even need it. The short dives into the commons to find materials and dispatch a few monsters always felt tacked on against the real purpose of this adventure. The purpose is to make strong everlasting bonds with your new friends in order to protect them and the world.
Most of the gameplay in that regard boils down to make a few hours for several boss fights and material gathering to make items for the one trophy that you need. The rest is reading and listening to your friends, going out after school, hanging out at lunch, and prepping for whatever comes next like the school festival play. Spread in between all of these moments are times where you need to lend a hand to someone’s emotions getting out of hand which will raise your bond points thus making you strong. So if you were to remove a lot of the combat, you would still have a great narrative experience which is why once the credits rolled I wondered how much was actually necessary and if this should have been a JRPG or just a Visual Novel.
In either case, I regret having taken this long in order to sit down to it but I have no regrets in having blitzed through thirty hours in a week between everything else in life in order to experience this older title that by our standards is more of a Retro Reflection than a review at this point. If you’re interested in what we thought back in the day, I would recommend reading Nick’s review who also thoroughly enjoyed his time with GUST and Koei Tecmo’s title.Score: N/A