Blue Reflection Interview -- Producer Talks Characters, Battle System, and Development
DualShockers talks with Blue Reflection Producer Junzo Hosoi to discuss the game's development and characters.
Gust is well known in the RPG community for their Atelier series, but the studio is on the heels of releasing their newest IP, Blue Reflection, in the west for PlayStation 4 and PC. The game follows main protagonist Hinako Shirai as she balances her personal struggles with the responsibility of becoming a magical girl called “Reflector”.
Blue Reflection features a day cycle system where players will live out the days of Hinako as she attends class and meets with friends. Often she will encounter classmates with problems that they can’t overcome on their own. This will require Hinako and her friends to travel to a place known as the “Other World” in order to solve them.
DualShockers was able to interview Blue Reflection’s producer Junzo Hosoi to answer to learn more about the game’s characters and development.
Azario: Launching a new IP always seems like a scary thing to do in the video game industry, what made Gust look past that fear and move ahead with Blue Reflection’s development? How was Blue Reflection originally pitched and what stood out about it that prompted its approval?
Junzo Hosoi: The Gust team constantly has the strong desire to create new IP. In this case, we wanted to create something that uses Mel Kishida’s talent and illustrations. In order to work with him again since the Atelier Arland series, we had to think about what the best thing that we could create. It took us several years of trial and error before we were able to create this IP.
A: Why was Hinako Shirai chosen as the main protagonist? What is it about her that makes her a good lead for the game?
JH: Hinako Shirai went through a state of shock having to experience a ‘setback from glory,’ ‘no future prospects,’ ‘isolation,’ and we thought that she would be able to experience the game story’s themes of ‘a relatable high school girl,’ the tale of a girl’s growth,’ and ‘bonds’ well, so we made her the main protagonist.
By interacting with her classmates that appear throughout the story and resolving the problems that she and her classmates face, Hinako is able to form bonds with her classmates as her heart (spirit) also grows stronger. As her heart (spirit) grows stronger, the bonds she forms with her friends become the energy source of Reflectors, and alongside these friends she stands up against the enemies of human kind and their species.
A: Blue Reflection’s battle system features turn-based combat. During development, where there any ideas for the game to have a different style of combat and why did you choose the turn-based style?
JH: The battle system in Blue Reflection focuses more on ‘protecting your friends’ rather than ‘defeating the enemy,’ so we expanded from that idea. Knocking back the enemy’s turn by damaging their skill, and the system of active commands such as ‘recovery’ and ‘guard’ are all stemmed from the idea of ‘protecting’ allies.
There are various reasons why we made it a turn-based system, but the biggest reason is that we wanted to focus on ‘showing the magical girls.’ When you’re in a rushed situation, you aren’t able to take the time to carefully watch the characters. By not feeling anxious about what to do, and instead being able to select commands with the character waiting and watching the action scenes after commands are input, we hope you take the time to observe the characters’ cute and brave images!
A: While the game is certainly reminiscent of magical girls anime and manga, normally they tend to fight with wands or cute accessories. Hinako gets a sword, which is quite peculiar. Is that an intentional departure for the genre?
JH: The reason we used a sword is that it is a realistic weapon, and the image of a girl holding a sword conveys a character with a strong will. Combined with how it can also look stunning, we felt that it also suited our main character.
A: The theme of friendship is normally very important in Gust games, but in Blue Reflection it appears to be even more relevant. How did you go about designing the fragile and emotional friendship among high school girls in Japan?
JH: As a work of entertainment, we researched and extracted the real social issues (topical issues reported in the news) that high school students face to create a ‘realistic’ portrayal, and then substituted them with issues related to friendship and emotions to create a realistic but enjoyable fictional work.
A: Gust’s upcoming game Nights of Azure 2 received a Nintendo Switch port, were there ever any plans to bring Blue Reflection to the new console hybrid? Is there a chance the game could still come to the Switch?
JH: We have no information at this time.
A: Blue Reflection closely resembles anime style visuals and settings, were there any particular anime that you took inspiration from?
JH: The work we referred to most was the movie “Hana and Alice,” directed by Shunji Iwai, which helped us to create the foundation for the game world’s colors and light. We were also inspired by various magical girl works with the biggest influences coming from “Sailor Moon” and “Magic Knight Rayearth.”
A: In Japan, Blue Reflection had a collaboration with Square Enix to feature Final Fantasy XV costumes as DLC. How did the collaboration happen and are there plans for it to be available in the west?
JH: Sorry but I cannot answer this.
A: There are many characters in Blue Reflection’s story, do you have a particular favorite and why?
JH: My favorite is Rika Yoshimura. She is the most low-key character and appears as a very typical Japanese high schooler. In the game, her ‘normalness’ makes the player feel comforted, but while she is ‘normal’ there is something not ‘normal’ about her. Within her existence, you can feel that there is a hidden theme of “even in reality, there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ girl!”
A: During development, did you think Blue Reflection would receive a western release? And does Gust develop games with the west in mind as a potential market or do they focus primarily on the Japanese market?
JH: Since the start of development of Blue Reflection, we’ve wanted the western audience to look at how we portray the distinct atmosphere and colors of a Japanese school. We think that there is something there that western audiences can enjoy. But we did create the game primarily for the Japanese audience.
A: Is there anything you’d like to tell western fans awaiting the release of Blue Reflection and also gamers who are just hearing of the game now?
JH: Blue Reflection is a completely new IP from Gust, the creators of the Atelier series. The story of the lovely girls illustrated by Mel Kishida unfolds in the beautifully drawn stage of a Japanese high school. The story and experiences are something that anyone can relate with and be moved by, so I hope everyone will pick it up!
Blue Reflection is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC-via Steam on September 26 in North America and September 29 in Europe. If you want to see more, you can check out the latest trailer and screenshots.