I have a confession to make…
When I accepted to analyze Blue Reflection: Second Light, I felt a huge regret. In fact, my first reaction was to give up, return the code and move on.
I have nothing against the game, on the contrary, but I know very well the emerging saturation that I’ve been feeling for the RPG genre and I was afraid of going through another storm to analyze an objectively good game, but cloud it by my personal and very negative view.
I don’t know what happened or what Second Light did, but it managed to calm this inner anger and let me appreciate again the simplicity of the genre and its personal adventures.
Perhaps simplicity is not the correct adjective to identify Second Light, as it is accompanied by a myriad of mechanics, systems, and additional content that manage to capture the soul of RPGs in a single campaign.
There are a variety of experiences that I find commendable, but it wouldn’t be an RPG without its clichés, and Blue Reflection: Second Light is deliciously predictable.
We don’t have worlds on the brink, megalomaniac empires, or spaces between life and death to explore, but a school.
Our team is not made up of fearless adventurers, chosen ones or anti-heroes, but a group of teenagers who just want to recover their memories and return home.
It’s a more personal story, which portrays the adventures of this group of friends, united by the Heartscape world – the strange reality they now inhabit – and it is their personal relationships that we follow as we discover more about this virtual universe.
Deliciously simple yet comforting and classic.
What surprised me…
What surprised me about Second Light, apart from its combat system, was the way it weaves its world and the demand for its heroines.
There is a whole management mechanic that I didn’t expect to find in this game and that was a caveat for my tasting of the campaign.
We have to manage our team through side missions, personal requests, and by building items and food that help the group survive another day.
These actions influence the relationship between characters. The more they unlock new attributes – or talents – they become essential for confrontations against the demons of Heartscape.
The campaign is thus divided between the collection of resources that we find scattered across the maps, the collaboration between characters, and the exploration of the various areas in main missions.
This management idea is complemented by the construction and maintenance of the school.
With our base, we have the possibility to add new areas and features to the various free spaces in the enclosure, to the point of unlocking activities and personal moments that help in the growth of friendship between Ao and accompanying battle mates.
The expansion of the school is closely linked to requests from other characters and side quests, but despite the simplicity of this system, there is the illusion that we are really improving our base little by little.
It’s very satisfying, even if it doesn’t reach the point of being a simulator or a survival game, but the foundations are there and that’s what makes Second Light such an interesting project.
The fragmented world of Heartscape is not the most surprising visually, but it stands out for its characters.
The animations are very selective, but they always manage to convey the right emotions at the right moments. The scenarios, on the other hand, bet on bright colors, visual effects – such as the static of the scenarios we can’t visit yet – and basic enemy models, as well as less satisfactory textures when we get closer, but these problems were already to be expected.
However, I want to highlight the fantastic and minimalist UI, which uses simple geometric shapes, occasionally colored, that contrast with the white backgrounds.
Additionally, what also turned out to be a surprise was the combat system. What seemed to be a very basic turn-based system focused on transforming our heroines – within the Magical Girl genre, which includes Sailor Moon and other popular manga – turned out to be a mountain of mechanics and combat options that made me satisfied.
For starters, Second Light isn’t exactly a turn-based RPG, but rather a hybrid between weighted combat, ATB action, and Grandia’s activity bar.
This combination gives life to Second Light’s confrontations and allows us to manage the team manually or automatically as we see in real-time who will be the next character to attack and how much we will have to defend ourselves from the onslaught of enemies.
With an assistant in combat, our team is made up of three elements, which we control through X, L2, and R2.
To select an action, we just press one of the three buttons, but we need to take into account the Ether, or energy, available.
The activity bar shows the Ether collected by each character, and the further we let the turn progress, the more powerful abilities we have at our disposal, with each action requiring a set amount of Ether.
To this system, we can add the Gears, or combat modes, which give us access to more Ether, but also to the transformations of our characters, the Reflect, which significantly increase their abilities.
There is, therefore, an interesting relationship between timing and anticipation that gives the fight some urgency, not least because Second Light is not exactly an easy game.
With very short load times, Second Light’s confrontations are fast and always dynamic. The real-time action, driven by the activity bar, cuts through some of the monotony we associate with these types of systems, and we have regular access to new options, such as buffs, debuffs, and knockdowns, that make combat always fun and unexpected.
But the heart is in the combo system, with each attack increasing the multiplier and, consequently, the characters’ attack and magic power. This multiplier is so important that it can determine whether they can win a fight or not and, as you’d expect, some enemy attacks aim to bring down the counter.
The game gives us the possibility to fight back by protecting the team with their skills, but they will only serve for one turn.
Second Light, on the other hand, wants to be a more accessible and focused experience, ideal for more experienced players. I say this because the game gets rid of the customization of equipment. There are no armor, accessories, or weapons for us to equip. What matters are character attributes, talent enhancements, and how we use Ether and Gears in combat.
It’s an attempt to focus where it matters and not on lesser distractions, even though we can point the finger at the crafting system as a potential distraction.
It feels good when we are surprised and have to swallow the words and opinions that we have been preaching for several months.
I won’t completely go back on my dislike of the Japanese RPG genre, but Blue Reflection: Second Light did me some good.
It’s not the best example of its kind, it has some questionable moments – I don’t understand why they like to dress teenage characters in bikinis – but the campaign is relaxed, enjoyable, and challenging when it has to be.
The school’s management is limited, but it creates the illusion of depth and even a more psychological relationship with the space that we have to protect and care for dozens of hours.
It’s a good RPG that came at the right time.