The second part of Gust’s multimedia project is here. And it’s completely worth it.
If you want the spoiler edition of my thoughts that goes into far more detail, that’s coming soon. But if you wanna know what this game is and who it’s for without the analysis, gushing, and spoilers, I got you covered here.
Do you need to see the other Blue Reflections first?
A whopping six characters are returning, between the first game and the anime, Ray. But you do not need to know what they’re about. The details you need to know are explained well enough in game, the characters stand on their own quite well enough without further context. To be direct, however, the events of the first game do directly lead to Second Light, and Ray is more of a side story.
You play as Ao, a pretty normal girl who just dropped her phone and found herself in another world that features a school surrounded by water and not much else. She quickly meets three other girls – Rena, Yuki, and Kokoro, and none of them really know what’s going on either. They didn’t even know there were other people outside of themselves, or an entire world for that matter. It’s clear that they’ve all forgotten everything.
You quickly find the way to unraveling the mysteries of the world – going into their mental worlds, called Heartscapes, and finding their memories piece by piece. A number of the ladies can transform into magical girls, which is pretty convenient for beating up all the demons in the way. As you explore Heartscapes, you summon more girls to the world, who hold further clues to the story.
The plot binding the game together is pretty good. It’s vague toward the end in some details, and there are story beats that you’ve definitely heard before. However, the pieces fall together in a satisfying, well constructed manner, and the reveals do appropriately ramp up as the game goes on.
But honestly, the best part of the game is also the most overwhelming part of the game – the characters. There are nine girls that you can get to know on a pretty deep level. Since you explore their Heartscapes, you come into pretty fundamental information about them pretty quickly.
The game gives you so, so much more than that. You can go on dates with all of the girls. How many dates? There’s 15 per girl, so… 135. It’s actually insane how many dates there are. You are unlikely to see them all within a single run, far as I can tell, but if you favor certain girls you can see most of their dates.
Before I go on: this game in no way is yuribait. It’s actually gay. Just take it from a woman that’s constantly starved for good lesbian media, I'm not the sort that exaggerates this kind of thing.
Dates give you three dialogue options each. And there are an incredible amount of flirtatious options you can choose. It’s delightful! A lot of the dumb thoughts that popped into my head were coming out of Ao’s mouth. If you like getting to know the characters extremely well, the dates have a lot for you, and they cover a wide variety of topics. They’re a lot of fun and rather well thought out, despite being a massive slowdown on story progression should you choose to engage with them.
There is also gameplay incentive to do this, as dates give you fragments which allow you to strengthen yourself in combat and they give points to spend on skills.
There does seem to be some sort of NG+ true ending. I have not yet experienced it, but I am, as of this writing, working on it.
Update: The reason to play NG+, as I see it, is to see all the dates. The true ending is a very small, though meaningful, change. You can find it on Youtube if you want. You can check out this article to grab a PC save that will just start you on NG+. I do, however, recommend seeing both end versions one way or another.
You control three magical girls in battle. They start out at the first ‘gear’ of five. Gear determines a couple things – at the third they transform into a magical girl (and thankfully you can turn off this animation, as you will likely tire of it after a while). The gear affects your movepool at each stage. Many skills get modified to be better, some will disappear, and others will only appear at higher gears. Later in the game, you can actually start battles at the third or fourth gear when you get enough ether boosts going, which gives you great combat momentum.
You get to higher gears through simply using your skills. To do this, the girls charge their ether. How much they can charge depends on what gear they’re at; the max starts at 1000 and caps at 5000. This happens in real time, as it is an ATB system. When they charge enough ether, they will either wait for your input or auto attack. You can freely choose manual or auto at any time. As you attack, you build a combo. The higher your combo, the bigger your damage multiplier. You make pretty short work of most enemies like this.
The combat is not mindblowing, but it manages to be good enough, if easy, without getting tiresome at any point. I will, however, bring up my least liked aspect outside of hard being locked to NG+.
During boss battles, you can be forced into one on one fights. And this should be the coolest aspect of the fights, but it feels awkward every time. Your timing for attacking, dodging, and countering all matter. Since you don’t get to practice these segments much, it can be difficult to get used to timing all these things, especially counterattacks which have the most difficult, animation based timing
If you happen to know the first Blue Reflection, you might be wondering how this game stacks up. It’s better in almost every way. There are basically two things the original does better – the bosses were more epic and special feeling, and the soundtrack was truly one of the best ever. Asano does score the sequel as well, and does a good job, but I’d say it’s just not as good. Exploration, combat, characters, you name it – it’s all better in Second Light. The original was a tiny, pretty game on a shoestring budget. Second Light isn’t your massive budget affair, as it has plenty of unvoiced scenes, but it dwarfs the first game. The fanservice is also significantly toned down, which I do prefer.
Personally, I played the PC version, and I got annoyed that the game would always boot in windowed mode. I also had a few issues with shadows and blur – I played on high settings but would see the low quality versions for some reason. So there are some minor issues with the port, but overall it ran well enough.
My biggest problem with the dates, outside of being inclined to do 10 in a row rather than progress the plot, was how you couldn’t run. You are forced to walk, slowly. While you can warp around the map quickly with your date in tow, this still leaves painful walking to certain destinations, like to your date side stories (yes, on top of all the dates you get little tangents around school!) and to the far ends of the courtyard and such.
In order to do a lot of the side content, you’re gonna need a certain type of material to craft items: sand. There are many types of sand, and it doesn’t matter which I’m talking about. Sand is not fun to get, as the primary method of getting it is through enemies. The game does give mechanisms to getting it without bonking enemies, such as finding it at random nodes and school and randomly generating it when crafting with certain people, but you will absolutely find yourself farming enemies for sand regardless. The drop rates are not high enough for the amount of sand that you need. It’s quite annoying, and probably the biggest issue I have with the game.
Also, yes, there is a crafting system, but don’t expect Atelier. It’s pretty simple, though items do have good utility.
Finally, whoever did the facial expressions deserves a raise. I don't normally punch my screenshot button for games at all, but I couldn't keep my finger away for this one.
Highly recommended for fans of yuri; Second Light scratches that itch in a way few JRPGs do.
I will leave it at recommended for fans of JRPGs, cute girls doing cute things, and similar topics.
This is legitimately my favorite game of the year, but I do acknowledge that I am the yuri starved type, to the point I will go through tons of mediocre VNs and such to get a partial fix. Second Light stands far above that. However, I do think it has plenty of merits outside of being gay, namely that its writing is overall pretty good, if overwhelming in terms of how much content there is.