Let’s Talk – Blue Reflection – Heart To Heart

This is one of those games that, at a glance, attracted me. I’m not sure why. Nothing about it seemed spectacular, and after playing through it, there still isn’t much note-worthy to say about that. So why then, did I choose to play this over something a little more major such as Fire Emblem: Echoes Of Valencia, Ys VIII (which I’m still playing through at the time of this writing.) and the like?

The answer is, even I’m not sure.

Let’s get started with the surface look. Blue Reflection is a semi-Persona-esque game, but instead of a teenaged male invoking mythical demons and deities from your inner self, you’re a teenaged girl that gains mystical powers after delving into another world based on human emotions.

Persona with magical girls. That’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d say or write. But here we are.

Graphically speaking, everything looks great. Environments and characters are rendered nicely, there’s a realistic type of physics to movement (more or less. Some outliers may apply), and never once did I think that something could be better placed at one area, or that something didn’t fit.

… That’s about where that ends, though. This game had very limited production value, and it shows. While environments are nice to look, physically speaking, there isn’t much to cover or do in them. Lighting is a little weird in some instances (namely where sun is shining directly on characters in cutscenes, or when in the Fear zone in The Common), and the animations…

The animations are where it really shows. Most of the time, they come off stilted and have no fluidity or transitions. Even facial expressions on occasion, make me want to go “Damnit, FEEL!” at Hinako. This is one of the places where the game suffered the most, and it’s a shame.

The second downpoint is the overall plot. It plays completely straight with little to no mystery outside of the Citrus Sisters themslves. Even when you get your answers near the end of the game, you don’t care. Not about the grand scheme of things at any rate. This is where I think the game shows it’s Persona/Atelier side the most. You don’t care about the plot or story, you care more about the characters. You want to see these people have a happier ending and more importantly, by the end, you want everything to work out for Hinako.

Because in this game, the main story is a means to an end. It’s focused around Hinako and the friends she ends up making during the course of it and how they, ultimately, help make her a slight bit happier with her circumstances in life. Which is unfortunately where the lack of animation variation and smoothness sells it all a bit short, along with the occasional flubbing of double/triple checking on the translation. It’s not Megaman X6 levels of terrigood, but Koei Tecmo sort of dropped the ball here.

To give credit where due, this game tugged my emotions a fair bit. That’s not something games typically do to me. To also give credit, I thought the actual story was paced pretty well up until the final parts anyway. It’s structured as though I would be playing an actual episode from an anime, which I think worked in the game’s favor a bit.

The final downpoint is the gameplay:


That one word summed it all up.

Each mission in the game either revolves around you killing enemies or picking up items in The Common. It does not change at all throughout the entire game. On occasion, you’ll have crafting missions that have you making a couple items and showing them to a person, but that’s all the flavor you’re going to get from this gameplay: Kill, Gather, Craft, Repeat.

Which would be fine in a MMO type of setting. Not in a game revolving around magical girls and their school life.

And the other thing I should mention: Combat, unless forced, is optional.
There’s no experience or money to gain from fights. Your “growth” levels are tied solely to story progression, and hanging out with your friends.
Which is something I’d wish they add into the Persona series to make them more of a means to an end rather than mere Fusion boosting, but, well, baby steps.

However, because ultimately 90% of all fights are optional, it can make combat feel more like a chore than an experience. Not a good feeling to have in a RPG of all things, but on the flip side, there is basically no grinding for levels in the game. The other downside to that is that encounters also aren’t very interesting and devolve to the same strategies over and over again. When the most challenging thing in the game is an optional boss, mainly for reasons beyond your control, there’s something slightly wrong with your design.

Though this does let me go back into what I thought were good things about the game. The battle system is one of the best things I’ve seen. It’s an evolution from Atelier Iris 2’s system to the extreme; you have an extensive Timeline (which acts as a not-ATB gauge), your party on one side, the enemy on the other. Each attack and ability has different waits to it, and it’s your goal to figure out how to best destroy the things in front of you without letting them getting too many attacks in. There’s a lot of option available in here for something that ultimately doesn’t matter, which impresses me. If only I could do something more with it! It gets even better when the game adds in things to do between turns to minimize your actual downtime. It’s an incredible system that I certainly want to see come back in some form or another.

Finally, the music tracks in the game. Most of them are more quiet tracks, which are either peaceful or melodramtic. They are very Atelier-ish, not only in composition, but also in the fact that unless you’re specifically trying to listen to them, they are more or less just background and not overly intrusive. The title screen music is very relaxing, however, and I would recommend tracks such as At The Speed Of Calm and A Destiny Called My Own for your daily listening needs. This game loves the piano about as much as I Am Setsuna does, and I love it for it.

And then you get into a battle and the game blasts the most upbeat and energetic piece to snap you out of that lazy relaxation. OVERDOSE (literally. It’s literally named this) probably claimed a list in my “current” top battle themes by force. I may have- *cough*- overlistened to it by a fair bit.
… Listening to the title theme (simply called BLUE REFLECTION) is making me want to cry again. I better wrap this up.

Ultimately, this game gave me a similiar longing after finishing it that Fairy Fencer F did. There is good and bad, which leveled it out to be a pretty average experience, but there is so much missed potential, so much that could have been done, that it sort of hurts. And while I was a little more fulfilled with this game than with Fairy Fencer, this is also the type of game that most likely will not see a sequel of any calibur, so there’s not much chance of seeing improvements to this. But should the case ever present itself:

Add more variety to the mission structure, spruce up the animation quality a fair bit, place in a bit more to do in the gameplay fields, bring up the main plot a notch. And for fluff’s sake, invest in some English voice acting.

Blue Reflection is the case of a game where, for where it’s strong in, it shines, and for where it stumbles, it’s very noticable. I like it well enough where I would recommend that someone at least give it one playthrough, but it’s an incredibly hard sell at sixty dollars for what it ultimately a 30-40 hour experience. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome compared to most other RPGs in recent times, but it’s also a case of where being left to want more can be considered a bad thing.

If you are so interested, you can grab the game on Playstation 4, the Vita or off Steam. Again, incredibly hard to sell this at $60 for what all it offers, so perhaps wait until around $40 or so…
But until the next time I write something, the Citrus Sisters and I wish you farewell.



Retro Review- Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia

When I was a child, I only had one gaming system; a Game Boy Color. The first game I ever got truly invested in was a little game called Final Fantasy Legend II, and that one game has influenced my taste in games ever since. The JRPG genre is what dominates my gaming life, and when I go to a store to buy a new game, they are often what I look for first. So it was that I happened across this game, Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia. Can I say “game” anymore in this paragraph? Yes, I can, because Ar tonelico is one of the gamiest games to have ever gamed.

I don’t mean that as a bad thing, though it can definitely be taken as one. Ar tonelico is definitely not for everybody. I’m still not quite sure if it’s even for me. It’s one of those games where you don’t need to think a whole lot, and it doesn’t want you to think a lot. It holds your hand the whole way, never giving you any real mystery to the plot and never giving you any mechanics that require real skill or talent. It is a “game” by the strictest definition, in that you play it, it’s possible to fail, and you may or may not get any real satisfaction or joy from it.

First, I want to point out that this game was released in 2007, near the end of the Playstation 2’s lifespan. Ar tonelico itself does not look like it was even released on the PS2. It’s got a very simple graphical style, comparable to the Atelier Iris games, except without the cartoonish charm of the latter. It just looks dull and uninspired, with every scene (with a handful of minor exceptions) playing out with waist-up portraits of characters speaking, as opposed to any real cutscenes. It can detract significantly from the experience.

In fact, this game is essentially an Atelier Iris game in all but name. The combat is almost exactly the same, except it trades the nuance and forethought in the Atelier battle system for a much simpler version, which allows you to cast a powerful spell at any point in the battle so long as you sat there waiting long enough. It’s tedious and boring, and I often find myself using items to ward off battles after a long time playing.

Ar tonelico also took Atelier Iris’s crafting system. It just took it. The game didn’t change anything about it, except now all items used in crafting are drops from enemies, with very few overworld spots with items. All crafting takes is being able to tolerate slogging through enough enemies to get the required items.

Map navigation is boring and, at times, confusing. I’m not even sure how to describe it, as you move through names of locations on a general map, only you’re always centered on the place you’re currently looking at, with only adjacent area names shown. Then you use the directional pad or left stick to choose which direction you want to go. I truly pray for you if you don’t remember which direction a certain location was, as you might get lost trying to find it.

Dungeon navigation is no better. There are no clear borders on any of the screens, so at some random point you’ll just find yourself moving to the next screen. This is even true of dungeon-exit borders, as well. The game doesn’t designate them at all, meaning you could also just find yourself out on the world map again, without even a prompt asking if you’d like to leave. It’s such a simple thing that could save loads of frustration with just an easy fix.

Ar tonelico is very shoddy on a technical level, as well. The lag in cutscenes can get so bad that voice-overs and music will pause while the game loads the rest of the scene, which again, are little more than still-portraits of characters that occasionally change expression. The lag is present in battles as well, as casting any spell with your Reyvateil (i.e. the central mechanic of the battle system) will result in slowdown and even moments of complete standstill, which can make trying to perform any well-timed spellcasts practically impossible.

Speaking of the voice acting, I’m not sure these actors even care. They aren’t even comparable to blocks of wood, as wood would have more inflection and nuance. The only one who isn’t entirely terrible is Vic Mignogna, who suffers from the entirely separate problem of being Vic Mignogna.

All this is without even touching on the big reason for this game’s existence, the Dive mechanic. You Dive into the souls of your Reyvateil companions to help them through their inner demons and such, which is treated as being as awkwardly intimate as sexual intercourse. Once inside their “Cosmosphere,” you basically play through a linear visual novel to reach the end. There aren’t any dialogue options or choices to make it difficult or interesting, it just serves as a means to further the character development of the Reyvateil in question.

The characters themselves are actually interesting, and I do occasionally feel for them, but it does little to lift the drab mess surrounding them. They have secrets and fears and relationships with each other, none of which seem stupid or exaggerated, and it really helps to make them feel like actual people. The exception to this would be Lyner, the main character, who suffers from Protagonist Syndrome, in which he has the bare minimum personality so you can insert yourself into his position better.

In the end, I can’t really recommend this game. I had some fun with it in the start, but the further in I went, the less anything interesting happened. Ar tonelico has so much promise, and on the outside, looks incredibly interesting, but the packaging is deceiving. It hides a sub-par, confusing, laggy mess of a game, which steals far too much from better games that came before it. Even if you’re a die-hard fan of JRPG’s, there’s not much for you in this game. Just get Atelier Iris instead, and avoid this at all costs.

Console: Playstation 2

Developed by: Gust Corporation

Year Released: 2007

Genre: Active Time JRPG









Did I mention that this game is priced upwards of $50? That’s way too expensive for this drivel.