The best game about Japanese schoolgirls released today
Released today on PlayStation 4 and PC, Blue reflection is an exploration of the relationships young women forge and the personal growth that comes from sharing experiences with friends, all in the form of an elegant, magical girl role-playing game. Beat the hell out of bikini ninjas with water guns.
It’s a very strange day for Japanese games in North America. We have Danganronpa V3, the latest entry in Spike Chunsoft’s high school murder adventure. Then there is Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash, a spin-off of Tamsoft’s ninja action series that rips clothes and bounces the chest, in which high school ninjas take turns spraying themselves with unapologetic innuendos involving wetness.
Blue reflection, developed by Gust, offers a much more realistic look at the lives of young women.
The game stars Hinako Shirai, a student who returns to school after a long absence. Once an incredibly accomplished ballet dancer, an injury renders Hinako unable to dance. She is not very well placed when she arrives at Hoshinomiya Girls’ High School, overwhelmed by her own emotions and those of her classmates.
But Hinako soon discovers that she has a unique way of dealing with these rampant emotions. She is a Reflector, a person with the capacity to enter the Common, a parallel dimension fueled by emotional energy. She and her new friends, Lime and Yuza, transform into powerful magical girls able to capture emotions and harness their power.
The ultimate duty of a reflector is to protect the real world from the Sephira, huge creatures capable of transcending barriers between dimensions.
But not all problems are as big as a Sephira. Sometimes a classmate finds himself crippled by overwhelming feelings of inferiority or hopelessness. Even positive emotions like joy can get out of hand. At times like these, Hinako and his friends can take a quick jaunt into the Common and sort things out. In the video below, we see the group taking on a quick side mission to deal with a student’s urge to skip class.
The combat system starts out pretty basic. Allies and enemies take turns using attacks or abilities. A counter at the top of the screen features player and creature icons that slowly move inward. When they reach the center, the player can take action. Certain abilities can push enemies further down the line, delaying their actions. It’s a nice little system.
As lush and beautiful as the magical world of the Common can be, Hinako’s interactions with his classmates in the real world are what is truly entertaining. Just like the protagonists of the Character series, Hinako spends his days navigating school life, bonding and meeting new friends. She helps them deal with their thoughts and feelings, while they do the same for her, helping her overcome the miasma she has suffered since her injury took away the ballet.
Blue reflection is at its best when two worlds meet. At some point early in the game, Hinako is challenged to a swimming competition by a well-meaning but bossy classmate.
Amidst the fierce competition, her reflector powers kick in and she finds herself in the Common (thankfully, time stands still in the real world when she and her friends step into the Alternate Dimension). After some research and some monster fights, she finds the fragment of her opponent, a piece of feeling formed by strong emotion.
Absorbing the fragment into herself, she gains a glimpse of her opponent’s competitive spirit. There is no mischief, just the joy of competing against a worthy opponent. Back in the real world, the competition ends, but a new friendship has only just begun.
Blue reflection is available today for PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam. To verify the official website for more information.