One of many issues I really like most about JRPGs is the melodrama. The tales are so ridiculously sophisticated, and the characters are so over-the-top, that it’s only a blast to get swept up in all of it.
Is it ironic, then, that I loved Blue Reflection: Second Gentle as a lot as I did? This isn’t a recreation of mech or mystical militaries combating in opposition to rogue gods. It’s the story of a gaggle of younger girls studying about who they’re and the way they match right into a world they don’t perceive. And I’m not ashamed to say I’ve extra in frequent with that than the blokes who combat the gods.
Second Gentle is the sequel to 2017’s Blue Reflection, which was launched for PS4 and PSV. There was a spin-off anime, too, however I don’t really feel it’s essential to have labored via both to play Second Gentle. There was no level that I felt I misplaced on one thing the sport needed me to grasp.
The story facilities round Ao, a younger scholar who instantly finds herself at an deserted (however kempt) faculty surrounded by an infinite ocean. Though Ao remembers who she is and from the place she comes, the opposite “college students” on the faculty—Kokoro, Yuki, and Rena—don’t. They’re given some particulars by ReSource—a mysterious participant of their group chat—however are in any other case on their very own. So, what do they do? They arrive collectively to determine issues out and get stuff carried out.
That’s the crux of the story, actually. Whereas it’s not unusual for JRPG tales to contain a band of heroes becoming a member of collectively to combat, Blue Reflection: Second Gentle makes that help community the main focus. When these faculty ladies (effectively…one little bit of dialogue refers to them as faculty ladies, so we’ll go along with that) go away the island to discover, they’re venturing via their reminiscences. One after the other, every character explores her previous to recall key occasions that occurred earlier than discovering herself on the island. These reminiscences normally focus on a selected particular person, and that particular person then joins the group. Why? As a result of most have been at one level a Reflector—a lady with magical skills that don’t appear to alter a lot apart from add some aptitude to her faculty uniform.
It might all be formulaic, besides the sport doesn’t lean as closely into adventuring and fight as your typical JRPG. Between exploring these areas (finally known as Heartscapes), Ao and her buddies search methods to attach with one another and higher their dwelling situations. They miss sure meals, in order that they analysis and construct meals stalls. There’s a leak within the roof, in order that they learn to successfully patch it up. Most of this facilities round crafting, as they want particular supplies to finish these jobs. The sport unlocks craftable gadgets as needed. Should you don’t have already got the supplies to make them, you’ll have to discover the Heartscapes (or simply look across the faculty) to get them.
The good factor about that is that each merchandise you’re tasked with constructing impacts the gameplay. A flower mattress, a tent, a water heater, a swing set—all increase your fight skills indirectly. How might a espresso stand really make you a greater fighter if you’re nowhere close to it? As a result of espresso’s necessary, rattling it! If it brings you happiness, it’s good to your psychological well being, and that helps you confront your demons.
The help community doesn’t finish with objects. All through the sport, Ao goes on “dates” with the opposite younger girls. These usually contain simply strolling across the faculty to search out varied occasions to learn via. On the finish of them, nonetheless, you’ll be capable of enhance your relationship, thereby unlocking extra abilities and skills to take into battle. You’ll unlock fragments that present passive fight power-ups (stronger assaults or protection, ailment resistance, and many others.) to their assigned character. There are quite a lot of these to handle, and utilizing them to reinforce a personality’s pure skills or compensate for her shortcomings requires some intricate methods.
And that’s the misleading factor about Blue Reflection: Second Gentle. Though it principally comes throughout as JRPG lite, the occasion configuration runs surprisingly deep. It helps that the fight is enjoyable, too. The sport makes use of a real-time battle system by which your three energetic characters slide up a flip bar. The additional they slide, the extra (or extra highly effective) instructions you may assign. They’re in a position to transfer additional because the battle continues, however going for the extra highly effective assaults means you’re ready longer to execute them, making you weak to enemy hits and debuffs. You’ll all the time management the central occasion member, and you’ll decide whether or not to regulate the opposite two or let AI deal with it. I discovered that guide management didn’t delay the battles by a lot, so it was my most popular technique all through.
Having the characters assault without delay can enhance the facility of your combos. These combos are extraordinarily necessary in boss battles, because the injury will get larger as your combo rely rises. If an enemy is ready to break your combo chain, you’ll end up comparatively powerless till you’re in a position to construct it again up.
In fact, you may as well select to inflict buffs/debuffs or heal, relying upon the characters’ skills. Your help character helps right here, as effectively. Along with having her present preset buffs/debuffs as her flip ring completes, you may manually have her use a crafted merchandise to assist out the workforce. She will also be swapped in to combat, which could be extraordinarily useful if you discover your default crew can exploit enemy weaknesses. The help participant may even bounce in for an incapacitated ally, though that ally won’t be able to offer help.
The entire system may be very quick and really enjoyable, though it does get repetitive. The totally different Heartscapes are inclined to give attention to a selected sort of enemy, and every battle is just about the very same factor as you push via. Fortunately, the builders break this up in two methods.
First, some ranges have a stealth ingredient to them, so it’s not all the time about fight. Second, you’re not all the time there to only combat. You’re employed via the Heartscapes to recall characters’ reminiscences, so there are gadgets to search out and reminiscences to uncover as you progress.
Returning to them to farm for supplies slows issues down, however exploring them the primary time was usually fairly compelling. And it helps that they’re all so splendidly designed. Every Heartscape has a distinct theme that facilities across the character’s reminiscence, and the fragmented, considerably surrealistic designs are fascinating.
Sadly, just a few components do stop Blue Reflection: Second Gentle from reaching the heights it might have. Load instances are longer than they need to be, for instance. Repetition begins to set in fairly shortly. And though the sport does a good job of transferring you round its world, it may very well be clearer on getting you the place it’s essential to be. It’ll present you motion pictures of recent Heartscape areas unlocking, for instance, however then not present you on the map the place that space is. It’s additionally needlessly obscure on pointing you to crafting supplies. Preventing the identical demon a dozen instances in hopes of discovering a selected merchandise seems like a slog.
There’s additionally a problem with graphical glitches.
Extra importantly, there’s a particular disconnect between the way in which these younger girls are offered. Thematically, they’re good, sturdy, empathetic, and quirky. Blue Reflection: Second Gentle is a superb instance of how a recreation that focuses on feminine characters could be enjoyable for anybody to play. Visually, nonetheless, they’re displayed with typical fanservice, and we get the standard flirty feedback that always appear out of character. It by no means strikes past its T score—and it has apparently been toned down from the unique recreation—however it nonetheless felt pointless.
The truth that I’ve used so many phrases to overview Blue Reflection: Second Gentle is an indication that there’s extra to this recreation than you would possibly count on. The thriller of who these younger girls are and why they’re referred to as collectively builds fairly properly. And though the crafting and fight are deep and well-integrated, neither is tough to determine. Should you combat each monster on the map as you’re employed via the Heartscapes, you’ll be capable of play via the sport with out the necessity to level-grind. And even should you do must, the touching story and fluid fight system are compelling sufficient to drive you thru.
Should you’re nonetheless undecided if the sport’s for you, the downloadable demo will present whether or not you may join with Ao and her buddies as they combat for his or her reminiscences and one another.
And also you’ll get a bunny hat. Loopy youngsters.