There are few joys in life greater than a good mystery, but a mystery surrounding cute anime girls? That is even better. Blue Reflection: Second Light is the sequel to 2017’s Blue Reflection from developer Gust and publisher Koei Tecmo. This game sees a fresh cast of characters thrust into a new world, trying to unravel the mystery of where they are and how they got there.
Blue Reflection: Second Light is a largely standalone sequel, so you don’t need to know much about Blue Reflection to dive in and enjoy yourself. There are some elements that will spark the memory of returning fans but none of it is necessary to follow the story. This game focuses on a group of young women who find themselves trapped in a school over the summer term. The world beyond the school grounds is nothing but a vast, blue ocean. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they have also lost their memories of the outside world and must delve into the dangerous world that they call The Faraway in order to find supplies.
The Faraway is not just somewhere to go to find the scraps the girls need to keep the school from falling apart or to get ingredients for food. It is also a place that is directly tied to the girls’ missing memories. As they explore, they begin to find fragments of memories and come to understand that these worlds that appear around the school are built from their stolen pasts. Finding more of these fragments helps them piece together they mystery they find themselves in.
The story has a sweetness to the way it combines the focus on relationships between the girls and their quest to recover their missing memories. They will spend time crafting and cooking together before heading into the Faraway to battle demons. Watching these students, who look perfectly normal and ordinary one moment, suddenly whip a JRPG-sized scythe out of nowhere to beat down a monster is intensely satisfying. It also highlights the sense that these are normal girls who have been thrust into an otherworldly situation, something that helps ground the otherwise fantastical story.
The gameplay of Blue Reflection: Second Light has a good twist on the typical turn-based combat. Rather than having skills that are fuelled by MP, attacks require “ether” which builds up over time in combat. As a fight rages on, the player must choose if they want to use a quicker attack that uses less ether or save it up for one larger attack. Balancing this speed versus power as well as focusing on enemy weaknesses or resistances are the main keys to battle.
When combat starts, the girls will only be able to use skills of 1000 ether. After a few rounds, that limit will increase to 2000, when the girls hit their second gear. A few rounds later, at third gear, they unlock a magical girl transformation sequence and their Reflector form, which comes with more powerful attacks and skills. The only downside to this combat is that it, outside of boss fights, it can become repetitive once you get your formula down.
The environments in this game vary depending on the world you find yourself exploring, but they follow a fairly straightforward formula. If players are patient, they can often sneak up behind enemies on the map, meaning that they will open combat with an advantage. Occasionally there are stealth sequences that change up the pace but they are simple enough that they don’t become tiresome. Combat doesn’t get in the way of what is really important, which is the relationships.
When not fighting demons, players can use the materials they find in the Faraway to craft items to help them in their quest. Mixing different items can give different effects, even if the recipe used is the same, so a touch of experimentation will go a long way here. Cooking is also accompanied by a short scene of the girls excitedly coming together to make a meal, helping to drive home the point that this group is relying heavily on each other.
Characters advance in two ways. There is the typical XP that is earned through defeating enemies, which levels up those who participate in combat. However, completing quests for other characters will grant them Talent Points, which can be used to upgrade stats or unlock new abilities, so there is an actual incentive to completing them when they pop up. As the game progresses, characters will gain new ways to develop and grow. There are also opportunities to unlock new school facilities and choosing where you want to place them, so there is no shortage of ways to spend your time in Blue Reflection: Second Light outside of fighting.
Despite the obvious danger that the girls are in from the demons and a world that has apparently stolen their memories from them, the game manages to have a wholesome vibe to it throughout. The characters feel like they are actually relying on each other and growing as a result. The tone feels like a slice-of-life anime, with a dash of isekai and adventure thrown in. It shouldn’t work, but the writing is good enough that you never question it.
The visuals in this game are some of the best you’ll find in this style. They manage to recreate the anime look and feel, straight down to the way that the school uniforms sway as the characters move. Even outside of cutscenes, the game looks stunning. The developers clearly felt this was an important part because they included a decent photo mode to allow you to capture different moments throughout the game and a collection of costumes to pose the girls in.
Blue Reflection: Second Light improves on almost every aspect of the original, with a mystery that feels more personal as the characters become closer. The relationship between the girls as they seek to discover why they were brought to this strange world is the star of the show; though the combat is fun, it is always a vehicle to get you more story rather than the driving force of the game. Second Light is a fantastic-looking anime adventure that you'll love, so long as you can accept that combat isn't the focus.