An Appreciation of Blue Reflection: Second Light
Every so often I must go Back On My Bullshit. I have several Bullshits that I must go Back On, and this time, it is one of my favorite RPGs.
I have finally got it set effectively enough on the Steam Deck (Gust's RPGs are not the most optimized PC experiences) and am back in my New Game + run.
I tried to explain last night why Blue Reflection: Second Light is one of my all-time favorite games. I know it's a random choice. It's the kind of janky single-A JRPG that most people happily ignore, it doesn't even have the cachet of Gust's own Atelier series, it's the sequel to an even jankier and more broken original, it feels like a PS Vita escapee, and if you go by the creepy boys on the Steam forums it's a waifu game that they don't like as much as the first one because it has less fanservice.
But I am genuinely impressed by this game on so many levels, and what Gust - unlikely hero of the story - did with it. They consciously removed the fanservice elements of the original (not to say there's ZERO here but it's mainly in the entirely unneeded DLC outfits, as the actual game is surprisingly nearly free of it apart from a questionable magical girl costume detail or two) and doubled down on the heart and characters. They built such an interesting, lovable cast of girls for the sequel, each dealing with their own memories and traumas and problems in ways that are unique but interrelate to one another. I've called it Magical Girls Go To Therapy and that's pretty accurate, honestly. The girls work to save the world by dealing with their trauma and regaining their memories and working together for the greater good, and it's...genuinely really heartfelt and sincere and lovingly written?
And that's before we even get to the fact that this game is wonderfully, canonically gay. A minor spoiler here (I am not revealing the specifics), but there is literally a plot-critical lesbian relationship that is central to the story, is handled genuinely and directly, and buries no gays and pulls no Class S punches. I remember the first time I played it, I sat there shocked it it just goes there and directly says the thing out-loud. I knew this was a "yuri game" but I did not know it was genuinely loving, canonical lesbianism.
ALSO the musical score by Hayato Asano is tender and beautiful. ALSO ALSO the Active Time Battle-esque combat system is actually pretty fun as you get your head around it, the various party makeups, and the stat-adjusting Fragments system.
I'm honestly kind of in awe of how this random little game handles itself with so much heartfelt care and kindness. It's a magical girl iyashikei RPG and it will forever be something I adore.