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Blue Reflection
Score: 78%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Developer: GUST
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:
A dream often gives people motivation and drive to work towards some goal. We often have dreams that we work toward on a daily basis, trying our best to see them achieved. Unfortunately, some people become unable to achieve their dream for any number of reasons. Blue Reflection allows us to build up a girl who feels that she may as well be dead because her dream was taken from her.

Blue Reflection kind of surprised me when I first got into it. Iíve become pretty accustomed to darker lighting in games as of late, but Blue Reflection is surprisingly bright for what most would deem as a bleak game. This take on the gameís overall art style is what threw me off the most. The lighting really plays a big part in conveying the mood, and that really helps the player glimpse the mood of each scene. The graphics of the game had me feeling like I was running around an anime world, but Iím a pretty big fan of that type of graphical style. The environments within dungeons that you visit are interesting to look at as well. There isnít much to interact with, but the theme and feel of each one contributes to the narrative fairly well, in my opinion.

I feel like every game Iíve played lately has had a killer soundtrack, and Blue Reflection is no different. The soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous. Aside from battles, I never felt that the soundtrack was overpowering or not present at all. It was somewhat subtle. I knew the soundtrack was there and it added amazing atmosphere to an area, but I never felt that it was too much or not enough. The battle music was a different story, but I still really liked it. It was very hype and exciting to listen to. The voice acting is entirely in Japanese, which fits the mood and setting of the game pretty well, if you ask me. Thereís subtitles, so players wonít be confused with whatís going on.

If you want a comparison of Blue Reflection, just imagine the Persona series. Players take control of Hinako, a quiet high school girl who is resuming her studies. As Hinako, players will get to experience the high school life at an all-girls school and help her to regain her hopes for the future.

Hinako has two places to go daily: school and the Common. Sheíll start the day by attending school, where you will sometimes see a cutscene. At school, players can interact with other students and build your relationship with certain ones, complete missions, buy things, or just explore the school. Exploration isnít the most fun option because Hinako is slow. I mean, sheís so slow itís ridiculous. I can understand why, given her circumstances, but still. She has such a funny running animation that goes so perfectly with the speed sheís traveling, I often ended up just running around for fun. Ok, enough bashing on Hinako, sheís still great. Anyway, you can pretty much do anything you want within a day since there arenít timed activities, but there are a limited number of things to do in a day. Once you run out of things to do or simply get bored, you can go home and go on to the next day. The Common is the dungeon of the game. The Common has several different areas which correspond to the various emotions we may feel. In the beginning, you can only traverse a specific targetís Common area, but youíll quickly unlock the ability to go to and from the Common as you please. Itís real convenient to hear that battle music.

Hinako's accident left her unable to run or move as freely as she used to. Thankfully, she gets to enjoy herself to the fullest in battle. Combat in Blue Reflection is turn-based, with a characterís speed usually deciding when theyíll end up moving at the start of battle. The turn bar at the top of the screen will show who gets to move next by having each characterís portrait scroll to the middle of the bar. After performing an action, that characterís portrait will be placed somewhere else on the bar and they must wait to perform another action. Before initiating battle, you can press (Square) to strike in the field. If you connect with the enemy, youíll gain the advantage going into battle. Youíll be in charge of making sure Hinako and her two sidekicks get the job done in battle. Youíre allowed to perform one of several actions per turn, with the main options being attack, support, or escaping. Attack combines both your normal attack and your special attacks. Your normal attack costs nothing to use, but special attacks cost a varying amount of MP to cast. If you have insufficient MP, youíll be unable to use any special attacks. The MP and HP of your team will be shown at the bottom next to their portrait. Support options allow you to heal your teammates or cast buffs and debuffs. These also require MP to use. Escape is pretty self-explanatory. Use this if you feel outmatched or you just donít feel like battling.

Battling is fun, but having your team get wiped isnít. A good way to prevent this is by making your characters stronger! By completing missions and other activities, youíll sometimes be rewarded with growth points. Each character receives a growth point from rewards and players can then distribute them between the characterís four stats: Attack, Defense, Support, and Technical. Attack increases your unitís attack stat, Defense increases the unitís HP and Defense stats, Support increases Luck and MP, and Technical increases the unitís Agility. By distributing growth points, your unit will also increase in level, which in turn increases the unitís stats by a set amount. In addition, once you get one of the four stats up to a certain level, youíll gain special skills as well. You can check the special skills learned by pressing (Square) on the growth page. Stronger opponents and bosses require you to get stronger, otherwise youíll run into trouble.

Ever met someone who has a smartphone, but has no idea how to use it? Yeah, thatís Hinako. Smartphones arenít a big deal in Blue Reflection, but youíll often see your classmates using them. By pressing (R1), Hinako can bring out her smartphone and check messages, play a monster game, access the jukebox, or change the wallpaper on her smartphone. The messages allow you to interact with your close friends, even if you donít want to run all over and find them. You canít really do much besides tell Hinako to reply, though. Sheíll say whatever sheíd like and youíre left to read the conversation. Honestly, the smartphone thing is interesting, but I wouldíve liked some more interactivity on my end rather than just leaving it to Hinako. The conversations are pretty interesting regardless, though.

Blue Reflection features three difficulty levels for the player to select from. The levels are Easy, Normal, and Hard. You can change the difficulty at any time by going to the Main Menu, which is a nice addition for people trying to find that perfect difficulty. This also gives a lot of flexibility to the difficulty levels also. If youíre intentionally changing to Hard, you probably want a good challenge. The Hard mode certainly provides that and some players may find themselves getting wiped frequently. The Normal mode is a nice middle ground for people who may not be ready for the Hard mode. I played on Normal for my first play through and felt it gave me a decent challenge. Easy is for people who simply want to breeze through battles and experience the story. You can change the difficulty at any time, so pick what feels best for you.

Game Mechanics:
Some enemies are an utter pain to deal with, whether theyíre just too strong or outnumbering you. Overdrive allows you to match up against enemies you may be struggling with. You can select this in battle and activate it, consuming part of the Ether Gauge to allow that character to perform multiple actions in a single turn. Your skills donít cost as much MP and are stronger, but you canít use the same skill twice. The Ether Gauge is located in the bottom left and fills as you take actions in battle. Even when you find yourself outmatched, break your limits and push through! If I were an anime character, I may say that to someone.

Hinako and her friends seem to be perfectly comfortable fighting in their transformed outfits with their original weapons, so we canít change those. However, we can give them a little boost to their abilities. Fragments are collected whenever Hinako helps to heal someone suffering from some type of emotional breakdown. These fragments give added effects and players can equip them to any one of their skills to give it a little boost. Each skill has a certain number of fragment slots and once all are filled, youíll have to take something out if you want to put something else in there. Experimenting with different fragments on different skills can lead to unexpectedly strong combinations.

Everyone loves items. Sometimes, they make a world of difference. Sometimes, theyíre utterly useless trinkets you forget about. In Blue Reflection, theyíre kind of in between on the spectrum. Items cannot be used in battle, only outside of battle. Youíll be missing out on quick recovery in battle, but items do provide various effects that can last the entire time youíre traversing the Common. You can obtain items by defeating enemies, buying them, or crafting them from materials dropped by enemies. You can only craft at certain stones located in the Common, however. The bright side to this is that you can also strengthen your fragments at these specific locations in the Common as well. Strong items and empowered fragments will allow you to take on even the toughest of demons.

Blue Reflection certainly has a lot of charm as an RPG. I really enjoyed Hinako as a protagonist and the story was quite compelling, in my opinion. My biggest gripe was the somewhat grindy nature of collecting new fragments and exploring the Common. Normal enemies usually end up just being in the way as you get stronger, but the bosses consistently provide a unique challenge that is satisfying to overcome. The soundtrack is absolutely superb and environments are certainly beautiful. The character relations arenít the most in depth, but I feel there was enough exploration within them given the length of this game. If youíre looking for a short but compelling turn-based RPG, or youíve just dreamed of being a teenage girl in an all-girls school, you may want to consider giving Blue Reflection a try.

-SS-54, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ren Plummer

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