Blue Reflection: Second Light

released on Oct 21, 2021

Blue Reflection: Second Light follows Ao Hoshizaki, a girl who attends summer school for supplementary classes and becomes lost in an unknown world. She meets three girls — Kokoro Utsubo, Yuki Kinjou, and Renya Miyauchi — who have lost their memories and live in an isolated school surrounded by water. One day, a path and portal leading to another world appears and the girls decide to go through it. They eventually come across a monster and unlock a power that lets them fight back. In addition, Blue Reflection protagonist Hinako Shirai will appear in the game having also lost her memories.


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Genres

RPG


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This review contains spoilers

I want to leave something here for the beginning. This will be long and personal. I apologize for how long this could get or maybe too personal but I really want to talk about a lot with this game. I would recommend not reading this if you seriously don't want spoilers. I have a lot to say. So much about this game.
I want to start off with a story. You see I got this game last year for Christmas. I can't even fully remember what made me ask for the game to be honest. I do remember thinking the game looked really cool. I should note I have not played the first game or watched the Anime for the series. I only knew that you could play this game without playing the first. I heard mixed things about the first game anyway so it's not a huge lost.
So I got the game, I played for at least 3 hours. I really liked what I played but a moment happened that caused a long time for me to actually sit down and play it. It's embarrassing to admit but it was because, my switch got hot when the game was playing and for some reason it made me paranoid like the switch was going to break. So I just didn't touch it again. There was one other time this year I wanted to play it but I had the same struggle in my mind. Even with the worries, I still thought about the game. Wondering what I'd think of it. I really enjoyed the few hours I had with it but it never went further then that sadly.
We then move into this month where I was thinking of either playing Atelier Sophie or Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. But my mind just kept thinking about Blue Reflection: Tie (that's the japanese name btw). I really wanted to play through it. I told myself that this time I will do it. I had a goal to complete this before the year ended. I started on December 11th. I only knew the game was apparently 39 and a half hours long according to howlongtobeat. I would also check and see the game was also 11 chapters. Otherwise most of the game was me going through it blind. This was the experience I had playing Blue Reflection: Tie.
The story is a thing that I will never admit to be able to critique well in really any game. As much as I want to think I can review well, it's one of the things I've always struggled with. But with all that in mind. I really like the story here. It to me feels like watching an anime at times. Sure it's not really all that high budget as the cutscenes mostly consistent of the same few motion capture animations for characters for animations but there's something about the characters that just do it for me. The premise in some ways is linear but I always loved how I never really knew where the story was heading. It's something that even till the very end, I just wanted to know what would happen. Now this will always be up to the person, I'm sure some would scoff and not get much from it but to me I think the plot really works well because...
The characters are just so great. There's a bunch you'll meet in the game. You only meet with 3 characters in the prologue of the game. You play as a girl named Ao Hoshizaki for the whole game. You'll meet many faces throughout the game and well I really like them with the likes of Kokoro who is this girl who always seems so fun to be around, Rena who made be stubborn at times but is one I latched onto a lot during my playthrough, Yuki, a mysterious girl who actually had an arc that really surprised me, Shiho who was really sweet and just lovable someone you just can't help but smile at, Hinako who may not be the most interesting to me but I love her relationship with Yuzu and Lime, those two girls are what started the whole set of events and why the girls are here. There's also Kirara, a girl who could originally see the Divine and was basically treated poorly by her father, she's rather odd but charming. Hiori and Mio are sisters who only had a single mother who vanished one day and the two together make for an interesting duo and I really like the feelings they had for each other not in a incest way btw cause like no that would suck. But you know what I mean. The last one is Uta who is rather weird, she was originally this evil twisted girl who wanted to change the world in her image but thanks to the memory lost everyone except Ao got, she has a different personality from who she was before and it's all just a mystery for what's going to happen to her.
When you go into these things the girls have called a Heartspace, you get to learn all about their pasts and what it was like before they came to this new world. You don't have to get them if you don't have any interest but they have an aura to them that give me the feels. With the watercolor aesthetic and the pure black forms of the past of characters making them feel mysterious like you can only paint a picture through their conversation. It makes exploring the worlds more interesting as you get to really see how each character was. Their Heartscapes also represent the place and interactions they had and they all do a wonderful job of setting the place for each girl. It somehow feels otherworldly and yet still realistic to what the setting originally could have been.
The game has a nice hub, it's later called the Oasis. This is where you'll do stuff like interacting with the other girls, adding new places to the place to change your stats in battles, crafting new items, and even going on dates with your friends. Though it's nothing really romantic, it's kind of more just having fun with your friends. The Oasis is designed like a school which gives it a feel that I'm sure isn't too unfamiliar to stuff like Persona, I think those took place in schools? I haven't played them yet so I wouldn't know. I like how at first it feels so empty and mysterious, not even every room is able to go into making it even more weird for myself. But once you find everybody it really does feel more lively, just seeing everyone interact with the stuff you build or just hanging around the Oasis. The game also doesn't want you to waste your time as you have very many convient fast travel options but sometimes it's nice to just enjoy the setting especially with the nice cheery music it presents. There's also different songs for conversations depending on the time and while it may get repetitive for some, they are really lovely pieces.
In fact the music is one of the brighter spots of Blue Reflection: Tie. Gust is a company I'm not too aware of, but when I played Atelier Ryza last year, I was impressed with the OST. It's really good stuff, it reminds me of Falcom where they aren't AAA studio status but yet still make some of the biggest bangers to exist in gaming. This game has a lot of lovely pieces. If you asked me what would I first think of when I hear the music, I think of the piano. The atmosphere just fits so well with what happens. While not every track is memorable, it fits the settings so well that I don't personally mind. When I would go back into previous Heartscapes, sometimes I teared up thinking about the journey, hearing the music again and just thinking how long it's been I've been playing this wonderful game. It's nice to see Gust really does do good music for their games. I do wish you could edit what plays where though like in Ryza, it's not really a negative but it could have been neat.
With all the non battle stuff here, it's good to know that when you are battling that it's a joyful time. I'm a little picky when it comes to what I like in battles. I won't say a specific style can hurt a game for me but I think being boring is the worst thing you can do. This game does not bore me because the battles have this order ring where you have to gain ether by waiting for their icon to be at certain checkpoints. Doing attacks will increase how much your max ether is for the battle. I like this because it not only lets some strategy get involved especially when you gain more party members but it means I have to focus everytime which is great because I'm engaged. I never find battles dull and I went out of my way to do them when I could. Though this game is not too challenging, you can't even play the game's hard mode or update that adds Deathwish mode. You need to beat the game once to unlock them which I feel could hurt someone who only wants challenge in their RPG.
That said however, I didn't mention the fact this game has a magical girl theme to it. I love magical girl stuff, some of my favorite Anime like Sailor Moon, Magic Knight Rayearth, Cardcaptor Sakura, Madoka, and Precure are magical girl series. You'll get these forms called Reflector when your Gear level is at 3. They even have a transformation sequence that feels satisfying to earn. You'll gain even more powerful attacks when in this and when in the heat of a battle it feels very exciting. You really do feel like a character out of those anime. I do like however that if you get sick of them, you can choose to have them just change and not interupt the fight, again appealing to all crowds. You can ever later unlock this Ether Tide move where you can do this really powerful attack that feels so satisfying to watch your character do it. Again it really does feel like a Magical girl thing which makes me really happy. I feel like an amazing person pulling this stuff off making me wish I could do the same irl but maybe that makes me sound kind of cringe idk.
There's also 1-1 fights with bosses and I'm kind of mixed on them, if you can defeat them or get a good combo then you can do a stunning finisher on them all of which are pretty cool. The only gripe I have is this was probably me not paying attention but I could never figure out how the counter works. I swear no matter what I did I only got it to work once and I didn't know how. I feel like an idiot honestly but otherwise it's a nice alternative to get more of a combo.
Oh right I didn't even mention one of the cooler aspects of the battles where every hit adds to the combo counter which makes you do more damage and it's satisfying seeing the numbers rack up as you keep fighting. Bosses can seem like damage sponges where you wonder how will this be possible but by the end of the fight I was amazed so much just how powerful I felt. It really gives good feedback to just how strong you can be and also again leads to more strategy.
I also love every party member you can play as. Ao is a character who can provide a shield to stop bosses from ending your combo and she has a lot of powerful attacks using different elements. Kokoro is a powerful girl but with a weak defense though makes up for it with high HP. She's also good for getting statuses on your enemy like Stun or Slow. Rena is a good defense character who can help your team out for small healing or helping with knockback. Her moves aren't the strongest but she isn't useless when she needs to fight. Shiho is really good for stuff like speeding up your characters on the order ring, help with statuses giving you more HP then what Rena can and can provide some great damage. She was a character I relied on if I felt like I could be in danger. Hinako is amazing if you want high combos as she can add 2 to a combo with an attack or even give it to one of her teammates if she isn't the most helpful for attacks in a fight. Hiori is good at using two elements and can make an enemy weak to them more with the attacks she has. She's not one of my favorites personally but she's fun to have at times. You also can have a support for giving special benefits like restoring some health but don't rely on it 100% as it can fail to work but they will still be a nice help. You can even switch them in if a character is down or in danger.
Man I know it's annoying for me to say this but I wish the Switch was better. Sadly this game seems to share the same engine they use for their current Atelier games. This means stuff like shadows look awful at times and the framerate isn't the best in some areas. I won't blame the game as this is more Nintendo's fault but I do wonder what it be like if I had a PS4 or a good PC. Thankfully it's playable and the only bad loading time is when you start up the game. Still it's times like this I really wish that new console is upon us but maybe I just need to lighten up a little.
One thing I did throughout all my sessions is I used the photo mode because I thought it be fun to capture all of my fun times with each session. I made tweets for them if you for some reason want to see them but yeah it really did feel good to look at them. It made me happy seeing the memories I'll have in the future looking back. It makes me cry a little not gonna lie...
Really Blue Reflection: Tie is just so amazing because well there's nothing really that bad about it in my eyes. I thought it was amazing throughout. When I was thinking about this game everyday, I was hoping when I got to this point, I would say this is one of the best games ever made and well it was. For me personally, god I hate having to keep saying that I just don't wanna look stupid. There's no moment that makes me mad or frustrated. This game even has stealth, STEALTH! That stuff is usually a thing I despise but here, yeah it's limited but it's functionable. It really goes to show just how enjoyable the adventure is. I was surprised the game was also very safe on not showing fanservice. Sure there are a couple of things that can be a little weird especially some of the dialogue options but it's nothing really degenerate. I'm happy I won't feel ashamed having played this not that I would care anyway.
I took about 53 hours to see the whole adventure through. I didn't 100% or anything but I did most of the sidequests. I think there was only 2 I didn't do but otherwise I did most of the game and again that says a lot about my enjoyment of the game as I rarely do sidequests in RPGs. I know that sounds dumb but they just don't do much for me in a lot of RPGs, there's exceptions but not many. There's also DLC and I saw some rather dumb costume DLC, I remember Ryza did that too. Sorry I just don't like that stuff. I don't really care for DLC so I'm content with what I did.
I think this is where I'll stop with the review. I probably missed some things I could have mentioned but in the end I love this game. I'm not gonna say everyone will love this game but for me, it made me happy. For a person like me who is frequently depressed, a person who doesn't really have many games that have sentimental memories attatched. I was happy when I finished. I loved the experience, I even cried a little of joy just seeing that I did it. I played a game that I loved from beginning to end. I'll gladly replay it someday. I'm not sure if a sequel will ever come, I know there's a mobile game next year but I don't care for mobile. If a third game arrives to the switch or whatever is next for Nintendo, expect me to get it day 1. This is my third favorite game ever made currently and my number 1 RPG. If you got this far then wow I'm sorry you probably read one of the worst things ever written on this site. This is the last game I'm playing for this year. I will see you all on January 1st. Hope you all have a Happy New Years Eve on Saturday. Thank you Gust for making one of the best games I've ever played. I'll never forget you Blue Reflection: Tie. You'll live in my heart forever with all of the memories. All good things come to an end and I'm happy to say goodbye on this note. I'll miss them anyway but I know I'll see them again someday...

Gust has been great at queer representation in games, especially with the likes of Nights of Azure and Atelier. Blue Reflection Second Light continues that thread by having a factual lesbian couple in it that addresses them as such. Sure, a lot of Gust's queer rep could be considered more so pandering, but the way they handle this relationship is absolutely one of the best representations in gaming history. As well, the game never strays too far from giving your main character some romantic action, and cute character growths between them and the rest of the cast.
Second Light isn't all just cute shappics doing cute lesbian things tho; the game is a continuation of the Blue Reflection series and helps world build on the previous game and anime that came before it. I say this not to deter folks that haven't played the previous game or seen the anime, but merely to encourage further looks into the respect property as this game can absolutely be played as a standalone title. While I'm not exactly happy with collective amnesia as a main plot point (see Glory of Heracles); the way Second Light uses emotions and certain lore reveals helps impact the story far better than a simple "I forgot I was this". Second Light does an upstanding job of helping you relate and learn about their characters through dating activities and cutscenes, and the only real shame this game has is that you simply can't experience it all in one playthrough.
Blue Reflection Second Light also uses, and expands the battle system it had previously, but also cuts out some more challenging parts. While I wouldn't call regular battles themselves particularly challenging, the boss battles in the previous game were absolutely a wonderful mix of challenge and preparation management that sadly is lacking in the sequel. Instead what we get is an odd mix of focusing on a combo system, active timeline based combat, and occasionally 1 on 1 matches. The problem here, however, is that there is too much weight on holding your combo over knocking the enemy off your timeline to attack you. While it doesn't seem like a big problem at first, the further you go into the game, the more apparent it gets that having faster characters and reactions leads to bigger combos and therefore damage. This makes faster characters, and maximum button presses to be the overall focus over something more nuanced like causing super effective damage or knockback. This means that the majority of the time you're just using the same attacks over and over again without going into further tactics; this sucks because there are new mechanics that get underutilized because of it. One on One battles are largely absent from any challenge as further in the game you are just too stacked against enemies that you either beat them before a one on one fight can happen or bosses are already on the brink of death. As well, the super attacks that you acquire later on require a hefty 15 turn combo to be acquired, and sadly combat just doesn't last that long in regular battles or boss fights. There is clearly a lot of thought going into the combat system, but the game allows you to be busted to quickly to sadly make any real use of it, and due to the lack of the hefty boss battles we had in the previous game, there simply isn't any challenge to this game.
I'd be remissed if I didn't talk about more of the games good points, and I assure you that Second Light has a lot going on visually. From the way they present overworlds, to the imagery in each dungeon, and the way they present some of the games cutscenes. It really works well with it's dreams and memory elements that really help sell how this can be a person's mind, feelings, or desires. Add on the fact that this game has literally the best version of in game camera I have seen. The fact you can add certain characters or enemies, pose them in certain ways, move the camera in any way you want, and the many filters they have for you. Honestly, you can spend hours just making a bunch of fun scenarios with the camera that I just don't see in other games especially being as easy or having as many options as Second Light has. Plus the soundtrack for both Blue Reflection games has been absolutely stellar with it's way to present emotion and calm moments mixed together to form a soundtrack that just feels like something you listen to while trying to study for that big test tomorrow. Absolutely nothing in that soundtrack is a miss, and the way this game kinda just blends into the background for Second Light really help the overall atmosphere for the game.
Unique, I think is the best way I can describe the Blue Reflection series. The way it handles it's elements, characters, and lore are all fascinating and really make me wish more would come from this series. Second Light is certainly a step back when it comes to combat, but it absolutely nails everything else it has going for it. The story is wonderful, the soundtrack is relaxing, and the visuals have only gotten better. If you haven't played Second Light yet; please do, it's apart of a wonderful series that deserves more praise.

This review contains spoilers

I have a lot to say, sorry—this one’s been absolutely haunting me.
I think this game is best if you are 100% aware of what you're getting into before you play it. It's easy enough that it's basically a glorified visual novel, and since its story's focus is very much on the characters and very concerned with giving you plenty of time to get to know and love them, as well as the value of our ordinary, boring day-to-day lives, the game's pace is very leisurely, and is enjoyed best played slowly or at your own pace. In other words: if you're going into this expecting an action-packed JRPG, you're likely going to be disappointed. (There's a reason this took me 2 months and nearly 83 hours to finish one playthrough.)
That isn't to say the combat is bad, though. I actually found it really fun—it was just that the game doesn't let you play on a higher difficulty than Normal until NG+, and the Normal difficulty is so easy it becomes pretty much mindless by the second half of the game. However, on the chances I did get to really dive into the combat, I had a lot of fun with it—but I'm also just a sucker for JRPGs and real-time turn-based combat, apparently. I agree that it would've been nice if at least Hard difficulty were available from the start, so that more experienced players would be able to complete the side content and actually experience the game's combat without just melting through every enemy it threw at you. (Seriously, even the final boss was laughably unintimidating due to how effortlessly it went down...)
However, I don't think it's easiness is necessarily a bad thing, considering the fact that it is, again, basically a glorified visual novel. Given the already slow pace, I feel like I might've grown frustrated with it if I'd gotten stuck on a particularly hard boss or something and so couldn't progress the story, or at least not until I'd grinded 5 more levels or something. Having to do so may well have made the game less leisurely fun, and more of a drag far past its welcome, so I honestly think it's probably a good thing that it can be pretty brainlessly easy, so that you can easily move from one story beat to the next if that's all you want to do.
(Also, if you’re playing on PC—for the love of god use a controller. It’s not unbearable with keyboard and mouse, but it’s clunky and you can always feel it. It’s clearly made with a controller in mind, although the keyboard controls are fine, and not nearly as vexing as the original Blue Reflection’s.)
Also, as a brief aside, I think the fanservice is negligible and very easily ignored. It's certainly present, but barely noticeable—and that's only if you're actively looking for it. Although there are a few unavoidable skeevy things, like the absolute Camera Angles on Shiho's Reflector outfit, a couple scenes where they're bathing in swimsuits, and more Absolute Camera Angles in combat, particularly 1on1 battles. The game goes to painstaking lengths to prevent you from upskirting the girls as well, which is a breath of fresh air after the original Blue Reflection, wherein Hinako's skirt went flying if you bumped her a little too hard. Everything else, you basically have to actively seek out, or have a sharp eye on the lookout for the tiniest glimpse of. This is all to say: if you're worried about excessive fanservice ruining your experience, I wouldn't sweat it.
An edited-in additional aside: some people call this game yuribait. I would really have to disagree. You can interpret it as such, sure, and I can see how it'd be an easy conclusion to come to, considering it can be kind of hard to tell whether the "I love you"s exchanged between Ao and your girl of choice on dates are intended to be romantic or not... But considering also the canon and explicitly romantic relationship between two of the girls, I highly doubt this was something intended to be taken solely platonically. Second Light explores and heavily emphasizes the importance of love—of all kinds, platonic, familial, and romantic alike. That being said, this is absolutely a yuri game. The extent to which it'll be for you honestly kind of depends on how far you're willing to go for a particular girl, concerning T. LV and dates.
The soundtrack is obviously gorgeous, and I think combined with the breathtaking visuals, I can only describe this game's experience as captivating. There are certain moments I wish I could experience for the first time again. Namely, when you first enter Kokoro's Heartscape. I adore "peaceful post-apocalypse" visuals and environments, so it felt like this game was made for me. I fell in love the second I first saw that place. (And I feel like mentioning, I had no idea what I was in for. I literally just saw a screenshot of the game, thought it looked pretty, and downloaded it on a whim to see what kind of game it was. I feel like going into this as blind as can be really doubled the effect it had on me in this respect.)
I adored the surreal, beautiful yet eerie feeling of the OST, in combination with the dilapidated surroundings making it feel like somewhere lost to time, somewhere I wasn't supposed to be in—which felt very fitting for what is a manifestation of someone's forgotten, very personal memories. It feels like an intrusion, like we're not supposed to be seeing these private, personal moments, like unearthing something from a long time ago. The atmosphere of every Heartscape is absolutely incredible, and I often found myself slowing down or entirely to a halt just so I could wander them and stare in wonder. I think where the environment and OST 1-2-punch combo hit me hardest like this was in Rena, Uta, and Ao's Heartscapes.
And now I have to get a little personal, because how could I not, with a game like this?
Uta's story hit me like a freight train, personally. As soon as she was introduced properly, behaving completely differently having lost her memories, and hints being dropped that "something in her past" must've made her the way they remembered her, I knew I was in for a sucker punch. And, god, was I right.
I have amnesia, so I can't remember the majority of my life. According to my family, I underwent a complete personality change after the event that gave me it as well. So, naturally, I immediately had a soft spot for Uta. The implication that she turned out the way she did because of a traumatic event also immediately had me hooked onto her. I also just love characters like her, what can I say? I think girls should get to go batshit. You show me a gesugao character, I'm sold instantly.
I'll admit I got a little worried when they started talking about Uta's "old" and "new" self, but I really like where they ended up going with it. I'm glad to see the emphasis on the fact that these aren't two separate people—they're both Uta, and only together can they make up who she is today. It also resonates with me, considering that the person I was before my amnesia feels like an entirely different person, even though I know that's still "me."
Yuki also hit me particularly hard, as I'm also chronically ill, and saw myself in how she felt about hospitals and her condition in general, the spitefulness but insistence upon forced smiles and "good lies." The sterile atmosphere of the hospital along with the maze-like, identical rooms and hallways, and the quiet but never-quite-silence of a hospital in the ost, left such a strong impression. I love her to death, and I'm so, so glad she and Rena got to have an explicit, happy romance together. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see real, genuine, romantic "I love you"s exchanged between girls, and not just endless "will they, won't they"s. (I adore Rena, too, by the way. She's everything to me.)
I guess this brings me to a point, that... I think Second Light does an excellent job of making its characters feel incredibly human. There's obviously an overly idealistic tinge to it—the girls are all best friends no matter what, even if they don't get along at first or occasionally, and the world needs to be saved with the power of friendship, after all—but it doesn't feel unrealistic. For the most part, all of the girls have extremely grounded, real issues, all of which I'd imagine many players can see themselves in.
The game spends a very long time simply establishing its cast and getting you accustomed to them, letting you get to know them and become their friends, grow attached to them along with Ao, without ever really letting you in on much of the plot. And I think this does it many favors—it does so very well, and you come to love every one of the girls, not just a select few you attach to as your favorites. I felt like the love Ao had for her friends, and the love I had for them, were one and the same. I wanted them to be happy so badly by the end, aha. I felt incredibly choked up in the final chapter, watching her fight so hard for a future for her loved ones that she knew she couldn't be a part of. In any other game, this may not fly so well, but I think it works here due to the game's heavy emphasis on the characters and their relationships to and love for each other.
I also think it handles the topic of memories, the loss of them, and the relationships those two things can have to your identity and life, and so on, very well. Which is always something I look out for with media involving amnesia—so often in fiction it's used as a fantastical plot device, to the point where some people don't even seem to realize it's a reality. (I've had people joke with me, "what are you, an anime protagonist now?" when I mention my amnesia, because their very first thought was that I must be joking, since that doesn't actually happen to real people, that only happens in fiction.) So it’s very refreshing to see it handled naturally, with a sincere consideration, even despite the fantastical circumstances.
This game has been haunting me ever since I first picked it up, and in the best way. It’s the kind of thing that stays on my mind for weeks afterwards, that I have dreams about and infects my inspirations for other works. I’m very, very glad I came upon it by complete random happenstance, and I got to experience it. Just, now I know I’m going to forever be seeking something to fill the hole in my heart this’ll leave for similar games… Now’s as good a time as ever to finish the first game, huh?
or, tl;dr: what if sayonara ponytail's discography was a game?

A canon gay couple makes all the tedious battles worthwhile
Also, not only there is a canon couple but the writing is so good...
Loved it so much