Gust, the developers of Blue Reflection: Second Light are peculiar developers. They exclusively make games that are pretty much the definition of ‘slow burn’, even their latest additions to the long-running Atelier series, Ryza and Ryza 2, have 40+ hour investments of time in them at the very least.
Blue Reflection: Second Light isn’t that much different either. Extensive scenes of characters talking, looking confused or happy, with some light combat in between each talking segment, it continues Gust’s tradition of using every morsel they can to deepen their cast of characters.
So much story
When I started Second Light (which is a sequel to the original Blue Reflection, just with no connection outside of themes), I was immediately hit with the faint whiff of Ryza. See, these games aren’t exactly breaking new ground with each entry, it’d be pretty hard considering how quickly they seem to pump each title out.
Characters move in the same way, action is very similar to anyone who has even remotely looked at a Japanese RPG in the last decade and there is just a lot of it.
I’m a few hours into the game at this point and have been introduced to a few main characters, each with their own quirks and roles. No one seems to be left to the wayside, with agonising detail going into even generic fetch quest dialogues about eggs.
Usually, I’d be button-mashing through and getting the gist either from the logs that accumulate or scanning for anything important in the text line. However, here? It’s that Gust effect that drew me into Ryza and its sequel, as the writing might be trite, but it’s so very chill that I can’t help but get suckered in.
The game takes place in an alternate world, with recognisable locations like a school, forest and various bits from everyday life, but the girls that have found themselves there don’t know how they got there or, for some, who they even are. By entering the ‘Heartscape’, they discover that the world around the school actually morphs based on the emotions or wants and needs of the person they’re trying to help.
If it sounds Persona-ry, it’s because it is. You talk and do tasks for individuals to build up their relationship with you (like a social link) which in turn unlocks abilities for you to use in battle. The difference here is that it has the laid back Gust motif around it, where there’s no real way to fail to build your relationships between the cast of characters and there’s no time limit on things.
While the game certainly has issues in places – the Switch version is not what I’d recommend – it’s the rich mystery the story crafts that keeps me trudging through it. The locales and amnesiac tropes might be a massive eye-roll for some, but the way they’re used to build up this weird story on the back of it is fascinating.
Though if it were written by more free developers, I could definitely see this game also leaning deeper into the relationship stuff being strewn throughout, as it feels like – as it was with Ryza – never ready to leap into the deep gayness that the game exudes and seems content with dipping toes instead.
There is a surprisingly deep focus on crafting, but without the faff from the Atelier series, as unlocks and new things seem to be unlocked from merely exploring the game’s world, or through the story, without the need to invest experience points into it.
However, I feel as if this is another Gust game with a battle system that takes a backseat to everything else. Here, the game takes on an active battle system, with the only waiting you have to do is while the girls recharge their abilities. The longer you wait, the more powerful blasts of magic or swipes of weapons you can do, with each attack eventually ‘levelling’ you up across three levels. Once you hit a certain point you’ll transform into a Magical Girl.
These moments aren’t too frequent, which is fine because they take a few seconds each time, but the way to get to them never feels particularly consistent. The tutorial is clear and concise, though recreating it after the fact never goes my way.
Blue Reflection: Second Light is either going to entice you in with its thick story and the large cast of characters or it’ll turn you off with its ever-increasing amount of dialogue you have to sit through. But it’s so relaxing to play, even in the heat of battle, that I think that’s more than enough for me to continue through it.