Gust’s games are known for having a distinctive aesthetic, but Blue Reflection is one of the company’s most beautifully presented titles.
Offering a combination of high-detail realism in its school scenes coupled with a ton of creativity for the action that unfolds in the manifestation of the collective unconscious known as “The Common”, it really is a lovely game to look at — perhaps not the best-performing game there is, no, but a lovely game to look at nonetheless.
A big part of that is down to the work of Mel Kishida, a frequent Gust collaborator, and an artist with a very distinctive style all of his own.
Continue reading Blue Reflection: Kishida’s Pastel Paradise
Blue Reflection is an unusual game in terms of its overall tone and how it “feels” to play, and a big part of this is due to its mechanics and structure.
If you had to pigeon-hole it into a specific mechanical genre, most people would describe it as a “JRPG”. But in many ways this isn’t a particularly accurate description, since although it features a number of common elements of the genre, it draws just as many influences from other types of game such as adventures and visual novels.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s certainly a pretty intriguing game from a mechanical and structural perspective. So that’s what we’ll be focusing on today.
Continue reading Blue Reflection: Everyday Life with Magical Girls
This month’s Cover Game is a Gust title I’ve been intrigued about ever since it was first announced: Blue Reflection.
Featuring a combination of Mel Kishida’s wonderfully soft-edged artwork translated beautifully into 3D polygonal graphics, a highly stylised soundtrack by Hayato Asano and an intriguing story about empathy and emotion, I always knew this was going to be an experience that was right up my alley.
So let’s begin our exploration with an overview of what the game is all about, and a look back at the “magical girl” genre that inspired it.
Continue reading Blue Reflection: Introduction, and a Brief History of Magical Girls
An interesting aspect of Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s Western release is the matter of its localisation.
I’m not talking about it from a “censorship” perspective or anything like that, mind you — largely because, in my experience, those sorts of discussions often tend to get bogged down and never really go anywhere.
Rather, Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s localisation is an interesting case because, more than anything, it appears to represent an honest attempt to bridge the gap between a genre of game that has come to be regarded as highly “niche interest” over the last few years, and the broader, mainstream audience Nintendo typically courts with its console platforms.
Continue reading Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Bringing the “Niche” to the “Mainstream”
The Xeno series as a whole has always been renowned for tackling challenging themes in ambitious ways… and occasionally not quite being able to match the ambition with the execution.
The Xenoblade Chronicles subseries has been somewhat experimental with its storytelling over its three installments to date. The original Xenoblade Chronicles featured a strong, linear narrative with a number of independent side threads that unfolded as you reached the various locales that were important to the story; Xenoblade Chronicles X de-emphasised its main scenario in favour of strong worldbuilding and a sense that you were just one part of something much bigger; and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, unsurprisingly, takes an approach somewhere between the two.
Does it work? Absolutely, and the sheer scale of the whole thing means that there’s a whole lot to talk about.
Continue reading Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation
While the Xeno series has, from its outset, always been about imaginative takes on worldbuilding, the Xenoblade subseries in particular has placed a strong emphasis on this.
Indeed, as we’ve already explored, the very reason the first Xenoblade Chronicles exists at all is because series creator Tetsuya Takahashi thought it would be cool to have a game set atop the bodies of two gigantic, frozen gods. The concept was subsequently fleshed out into the divide between the Bionis and the Mechonis, and the rest is history.
Xenoblade Chronicles X subsequently provided a somewhat different take on worldbuilding, providing us with a huge, seamless and geographically diverse planet to explore at our own pace. But Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is closer in concept to the first in the series, albeit with a few twists of its own.
Continue reading Xenoblade Chronicles 2: A Titanic World
One of the key ways many people like to distinguish the stereotypically Eastern and Western approaches to role-playing games is via non-combat mechanics and progression.
It’s fair to say that, as we’ve already discussed, many role-playing games from Japan place a strong focus on combat both as a core aspect of gameplay and the central aspect of their overall progression. You can contrast this strongly with something like an Elder Scrolls game, which still involves combat at times, but, depending on how you choose to play it, can also place a strong focus on crafting, spellcraft, stealth, exploration and all manner of other aspects.
Xenoblade Chronicles has, since the first installment of the subseries, always been about something of a fusion between the linear, narrative-focused nature of Japanese games, and the more open, flexible, “emergent” gameplay of Western titles. And this tradition is well and truly intact in Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
Continue reading Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Violence Doesn’t Solve Everything