Primarily known for the Atelier franchise, Gust has prolifically developed Japanese role-playing games. They have periodically developed new intellectual properties such as Blue Reflection in 2017, which drew heavy inspiration from the magical girl genre. It had familiar JRPG mechanics alongside a distinct presentation and a unique character cast. Blue Reflection: Second Light further explores the intersection between mundane reality and surreal fantastic imagery. Despite being a sequel, Second Light approaches established tropes with a new lens that can be accessed by veterans and newcomers.
Second Light warps players to a new reality. Ao is a seemingly ordinary schoolgirl who is confused by her new setting. While this setting resembles a Japanese high school, there are some strange circumstances. For example, the only other residents are a few other girls, a strange phone-like interface gives life advice, and the perimeter is a vast expansive ocean. To top it all off, everybody has lost their memories prior to entering this world. However, by adventuring into unexplored territory, they gradually regain their memories and discover their emotion-fueled powers.
The game follows a fundamentally familiar structure. Ao and her friends can craft items, explore, and strengthen their bonds via optional sub-quests back at their home base. The objective is clearly shown on screen and on the map, and the game has handy fast-travel prompts, too. Players then travel to otherworldly spaces. Taking a page from recent Atelier games like Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy, Second Light has larger, more open spaces. These spaces are full of crafting materials and opportunities to climb, crawl, and tiptoe on roofs. These actions diversify the dungeon experience a bit.
The map design feels carefully crafted, and the environments fascinatingly juxtapose ordinary-looking objects with surreal, bewildering imagery. Furthermore, these environments are interestingly connected with the characters’ stories as well. As players navigate these areas and view cutscenes, the game also shows surprising distortion effects on screen. These effects practically make the visuals feel like experimental art. The photo mode resembles that of recent Gust games, but it has some striking borders that allow players to create some standout shots.
Players can engage, sneak past, or surprise enemies. The combat is a unique mix of real-time and turn-based elements. The overall structure runs in real-time, but the screen pauses while giving commands. Players can manually control everyone or allow the game to automatically command two teammates. The combat involves using skills to score damage or defend against incoming attacks. It can take a while to become used to the combat as it initially seems visually chaotic. However, the combat becomes gratifying once players understand how to manage their resources and land combo attacks. It has a liberating freestyle flow. Unlike the original, the characters have magical girl transformations in mid-combat, which is a fun visual touch.
Much like its predecessor, Second Light’s playable roster features an all-girl cast designed by Mel Kishida, who worked on the Atelier Arland subseries. This game explores the whole cast’s backstories rather than closely following one character’s. The characters’ expressions are also quite poignant, and the bolstered lighting really brings the characters to life. While there are connections to Blue Reflection and its supplementary material, Second Light stands on its own. Despite a slow start, the story quickly becomes intriguing as the characters remember their histories and the past and present collide in unexpected ways. There are all sorts of touching moments as the characters mature and grow. The game’s base-building also leads to silly interactions and dialogue selections as well.
The original Blue Reflection had a memorable soundtrack with incredibly catchy battle music. Second Lightcontinues to experiment with symphonic and electronic instruments. The school traversal tunes in this game are quite relaxing and laid back, and the battle songs feature some interestingly eclectic instrumentation. These battle songs are generally not quite as high octane as the original Blue Reflection’s, but they are well composed nonetheless.
Blue Reflection: Second Light is an entertaining JRPG, and its craftsmanship shines with an elegant interface, sweeping tunes, and environments that feel simultaneously ordinary and bizarre. The game’s take on the familiar school, parallel world, and magical girl motifs is fascinating, and the game feels like a worthy successor that truly expands upon the original Blue Reflection‘s concepts. The characters’ interactions and the surreal presentation are entertaining. Even though the game sticks to a familiar JRPG structure, the combat flow feels freeform and unique. Gust’s prowess with creating unique JRPGs shines again, and Blue Reflection: Second Light will entertain anybody seeking a stylized adventure.
Blue Reflection: Second Light Review
Blue Reflection: Second Light Review
Blue Reflection: Second Light is an entertaining JRPG, and its craftsmanship shines with an elegant interface, sweeping tunes, and environments that feel simultaneously ordinary and bizarre.
Wonderfully crafted visuals and music
Fascinating character interactions
Interesting mix of real-time and turn-based combat