If you’ve read any of my Atelier reviews, you probably know how much of a Gust fan I am. I even loved the massively flawed Nights of Azure. I jumped at the opportunity to play Gust’s newest IP, Blue Reflection and completed it a few days ago. Blue Reflection is a JRPG from Gust that is set in a modern high school in Japan. There’s a lot to love, but also some baffling decisions from Koei Tecmo which have soured my experience to some extent.
Set in a modern Japan, you play as Hinako who suffers an accident rendering her ability to partake in anything Ballet useless. There are some parallels to draw from Persona 5, Sailor Moon, and some of the more melancholy slice of life anime when it comes to the story. Hinako soon discovers that she is a Reflector that allows her to fight in the Other World with the power of a ring and a few of her classmates. The plot has a lot of character development for Hinako and her growing close to the other girls in the school. What I love about the story aside from the actual content is how there is no padding at all. My only complaint is how some of the NPCs weren’t as developed as others. It felt like some of this stuff was cut out for potential DLC. Even though some of the plot is pretty clichéd the storytelling is great.
I mentioned Persona 5 above and there are school segments that have you spending time with friends and helping people out. These simple quests either involve some dialogue options to grow closer or helping out through defeating certain enemies in the Other World. You earn fragments that can be used as equips similar to Materia from Final Fantasy VII into each of your abilities. The Common or Other World is the equivalent of Palaces in Persona 5 which are basically dungeons here. After progressing the main story a bit, you encounter giant monsters in the real world called Sephira where time stands (Persona 3 anyone?). There are also quite a few fan service scenes. Some of them are pretty random.
Combat is turn based and it plays out like Final Fantasy X with the turn order being represented by icons on a bar on the top. The highlight in combat outside the lovely costumes is the way the camera changes angles depending on the characters and it looks fantastic in motion. Enemy variety could be better but combat was fun nearly all the way. Even the highest setting might be a bit easy for JRPG veterans though. The only real problem in combat is the frame rate on the PS4 (standard not Pro). It is pretty erratic and reminds me of the signature Gust Vita experience in many situations.
Speaking of the performance, cutscenes suffer from random stutter as well. The camera will pan across a room and a few of the characters will be walking at a much lower resolution than the camera movement speed. There are some cases of asset reuse as well with textures on the window and the likes. Thankfully the overall look is great. This has a lot to do with the spectacular character models and the stunning in game interface. I’d say this is the best UI I’ve seen in a game this year outside of Pyre and Persona 5. Enemy models could look a bit better though and I hope eventually Gust manages releasing a game where the enemies feel lower budget than the localization.
Aside from character models, Gust has always excelled in music. The score here is very different just like the overall feel. There’s a melancholy theme throughout with heavy use of piano and in some cases no music to just let the atmosphere sink in. The battle theme is upbeat and matches the transformed costumes. Voice acting is very well done but there needs to be more of it. The relatively short length (compared to older JRPGs) deserves a fully voiced experience as opposed to just the main story scenes.
With Koei Tecmo Gust localizations we started with full English and Japanese voice over options. Then they started slowly reducing the voiced English lines like with Atelier Sophie where the English voice track had less spoken dialogue than the Japanese one. Nights of Azure had only Japanese voice acting. Blue Reflection has only Japanese voice acting but there are some lines that aren’t subtitled at all. You notice this initially where school girls are talking in the background while Hinako walks into school. Even her idle animation and dialogue isn’t subtitled so players who are completely unfamiliar with Japanese will not know what is being said. I mean if the pattern continues, 2018 will see them just releasing the Japanese release with translated menus. That may seem like a joke and extreme but if you want to charge full price, at least do a complete localization with everything subtitled. Even the subtitled text has word wrap issues with words like “it’s” being split up into two lines. Very shoddy work from Koei Tecmo for a game that deserved a hell of a lot better.
Despite the localization issues and performance issues in cutscenes and combat, I loved Blue Reflection. I hope the DLC makes it over because I am definitely not done with this world and these characters. Gust truly are masters of creating some of the best looking character models. It is flawed but looking past these issues will give you an experience you probably won’t forget.
Stunning character models
Excellent story and UI
Very good soundtrack
No padding or pacing issues
Visual and performance issues