• Developed by GUST Studio
  • Published by Koei Tecmo Games
  • Release Date: 9/26/16

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Greetings gamers! Today we’re looking at the latest title from GUST Studios; Blue Reflection! Blue Reflection is, at its very core, a true JRPG, though there’s so much more to this game both in terms of gameplay elements and features that it’s hard to decide to truly begin as far as describing it, though I’ll do my best to start *somewhere*.

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As many of you know by now, I’m a gigantic sucker for soundtracks and visuals, though honestly I care far more about sounds than graphics. That said, Blue Reflection isn’t lacking on either front. My first experiences within this game were spent in (relatively) silent joy as, (after the initial pre-story finished) the opening “video” of the game played out. Considering that the initial art that I had seen for the game was slightly minimal and could ostensibly be called “cartoon-ish” I was not expecting the CGI imagery that greeted me at the games start. And while I won’t claim that the majority of the graphics compare to works such as the latest Final Fantasy, I will unabashedly claim that they stand on even footing with, and at times exceed Persona. Truly though, it’s the soundtrack of this game that instantly told me I was in for a big treat.

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Mechanically, the game follows the rules of your standard JRPG, to an extent. Battles are fairly standard turn-based encounters between your team and one or more enemy monsters, and involve using standard attacks, skills (offensive, defensive, buff, debuff, etc,), Charging up your MP, as well as some other options that are unlocked throughout the game. Different attacks do different types of damage, which effect enemies all in different ways.

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Outside of combat is where Blue Reflection truly starts to shine however. Unlike most JRPGs, the time between quests isn’t spent grinding monsters. In fact, grinding in this game is (at least from the time I’ve spent playing so far) nigh impossible. While defeating monsters (which, in itself can only be done during certain missions) will *usually* drop loot, experienced is never gained from fights. Instead, levels are awarded one at a time in the form of Growth Points, upon completing objectives. That said, abilities can be upgraded (after a certain point in the story) using the objects dropped from monsters, so you can *technically* attempt to grind up your abilities, if not your actual stats. And while I enjoy the fact that this game doesn’t require you to grind to constantly stay evenly matched with your encounters, the fact that you don’t have much of an option to attempt to is a bit off-putting. But back to the point of this section; outside of combat is where you get to access a variety of features: a monster-raising mini-game, building up relationships with your friends (that don’t use up an entire segment of your day), exploration missions to familiarize yourself with the map, and (my personal favorite) accessing an in-game jukebox to listen to all of the music you’ve heard game so far.

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Now, let’s go back to discussing leveling up, because this is another area where Blue Reflection differs from most of its kind. Rather than investing growth levels in individual stats, you are given a choice of four categories: Attack, Defense, Luck, and Technique. All four categories will improve all of your total stats, but the distribution of actual stats will be geared more towards the category of your selection. The techniques you learn however will vary depending on the combination and category of what you choose. For example, while some skills might be learned with 5 points in Attack and 5 in Technique, while alternatively others would be learned with a solid 10 points in Attack. It is assumed (though not confirmed) that it’s possible to eventually get enough Growth Points to learn all the skills in all the categories, but with my progress so far, I get the feeling it’s a much safer bet to build your characters in way that suits your play style and supports your team as a whole, rather than planning on *eventually* rounding them all out.

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Now, before this starts sounding too overly biased, there are some issues with Blue Reflection. Most prominently among them is that, while most of the game translated fairly easily into english, there are moments where it feels like the translations are likely inaccurate. Sometimes this is a minor case of spelling confusion (for example, an enemy using an attack called “Bomb Through” instead of “Bomb Throw”) but other times, and much more confusingly, the descriptions of attacks are worded in a way that don’t really make sense, and require a bit of “field testing” in order to fully understand what they do. The game also takes a lot of liberty interchanging certain words. Primarily, the terms “Ether” and “MP” appear to be synonymous within the game, but there are enough instances where they’re used within the same set of ability descriptions that it’s hard to tell if they’re actually separate gauges or not. Additionally, while the landscape of the regions within the “battle” fields are lovely, the “real world” locations in the game are fairly limited; all of the action seems to take place in one of three locations so far: the roof, a class room, or the athletic field. Considering this game is about a group of high school girls, that’s not entirely surprising, but it does get slightly repetitive after a while.

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All in all, I really enjoy Blue Reflection; it promises hours of a fun yet emotional story line, a refreshing twist on JRPGs, and an impressive-to-the point-of-awkward amount of fan-service. The graphics are great, the soundtrack is lovely, and the characters actually have a degree of depth to them that I honestly didn’t expect. While the translations could use some work, there’s nothing that’s too difficult to figure out, and there’s always the possibility of future patches to hopefully offer smoother explanations and translations. The tutorials cover just about everything either as you need it, or slightly beforehand, and your current objective is always listed in the start menu, so you can take your time doing side missions without worrying about forgetting what you actually *need* to do.

Total Score: 9/10

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