What is Blue Reflection?
Blue Reflection follows the story of Hinako, a once-gifted ballerina forced to give up on her dream as a result of a leg injury, as she tries to get her life back on track - starting high school, making new friends and doing all kinds of normal teenage girl things. However, after getting mixed up with a couple of mysterious sisters, she soon finds herself moonlighting as a 'magical girl' - a kind of high school witch, fighting demons in a parallel dimension to save the emotions of her classmates. Part 'slice of life' school day sim, where you'll be making friends, going shopping and studying, and part more traditional dungeon-crawling, role-playing adventure, Blue Reflection tells the tale of a young girl coming to terms with her shattered dreams, with the help of a growing circle of friends.
How do you play Blue Reflection?
Blue Reflection is a game that revolves around your everyday (and often extraordinary) life at school. While you don't sit through lessons and the like, you'll be playing through any spare time Hinako gets, perhaps meeting a lovesick friend on the school roof to offer some advice, having a swim-off with a competitive classmate, or offering a critique on a friend's dance routine. Between major plot points, you'll have a list of various objectives to complete around school, which range from spending time with a particular classmate, to heading into the game's monster-filled parallel world to defeat various monsters, or bring back certain materials - only when you've completed the allotted amount of side quests, will the main narrative move along.
Heading into the aforementioned monster-filled world - known in the game as 'the Common' - you'll do battle with robotic enemies, demonic creatures and ghostly beings, in simple turn-based conflicts, as you, your team mates, and the enemies take it turns to whack each other, use magical attacks and healing moves. When it comes to boss battles, the classmates you've grown close to can lend a hand too, as pressing one of the square/triangle/circle/x buttons when they pop up will see them appear in the battle, either firing off an extra attack at the enemy, buffing your party's stats, or healing some wounds.
As a side note, Blue Reflection doesn't have your characters level up and increase in strength in the usual way, as you fight more monsters. Instead, helping out your school friends and deepening your relationships with them will reward you with a 'Growth Point', which you can use to boost your characters' stats and learn new moves for battle, so socialising is the key to getting stronger.
How easy is Blue Reflection to pick up and play?
In terms of actual difficulty, Blue Reflection is pretty easy-going and straightforward on the normal difficulty level, although you can dial it down to easy if you're struggling (or hard if you feel like more of a challenge). Your health and pool of magic points are restored after each battle, so you start each encounter afresh. When characters get defeated in battle, they're also not out for good - characters simply 'run away' from the front lines for a few turns, returning to the fight after a short time. The game is also pretty clear about where you need to head now and what you need to do next too, with a handy 'Headline' that outlines your current objective on the front page of the pause menu, which you can bring up with the triangle button.
In terms of reading, Blue Reflection is a very wordy, and highly story-driven role-playing game. With only Japanese voices and English subtitles, there's a heck of a lot of reading to be done.
- "(I'm pretty sure the Teachers' Lounge was on the 2nd floor, but which way should I go?)"
- "Sara's a top ballet dancer, too! I'm sure you would get along great! ...Wait, you already know each other? Then here's your chance to be even better friends!!"
- "And I disliiiike… super delicate work that gets ruined with one mistake. Gotta admit, I'm kinda clumsy."
In terms of bad language and bloody violence, Blue Reflection doesn't really have much to write home about. Bad language only goes as far as the odd utterance of the word b*tch, while battles see you bopping enemies with staffs, slashing them with swords or punching them with an oversized teddy bear, accompanied by bright lights and the odd cry of pain. Defeated enemies simply fade away.
However, where Blue Reflection gets a bit more mature is in its frequent 'fan service' moments. With a cast full of nubile teenage girls, there's many a lingering camera angle, a clingy wet shirt with a bra showing through following a rainstorm, or a steamy shower scene, with cubicles and steam obscuring anything too risque. Before battle, characters transform into their girly, frilly 'Reflector' outfits, following a short scene that shows them partially nude, surrounded by glowing light, as their outfits magically appear. Dialogue between the girls can stray into breast size and/or underwear comparisons too, with lines such as "I'd never really noticed before, but seeing you like this, your breasts are…big" and "I'm just checking out your underwear. We're both girls, it's normal.".