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[Review] Aokana: Four Rhythms (Nintendo Switch)

Aokana - Four Rhythms Across the Blue on Steam

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Sprite
Release: Aug 21, 2020
Price: $60 USD

Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue (not sure why they named it that) is a visual novel with a premise that’s a bit different than most visual novels – instead of being a typical dating sim or investigative type visual novel, it focuses on a competitive sport.

Plot: In Aokana’s universe, there’s an invention called Anti-Gravity Shoes which like the name implies, allows its wearers to fly in the sky. There’s a popular sport in the game called Flying Circus which makes use of the shoes. 
The sport is deceptively simple: it’s a one on one sport where the players have to stay within a square, and a player scores a point either by touching the outer posts of the square consecutively before the other player, or by touching the other player’s back. The player with the most points at the end of regulation wins.

Masaya typically commentates on a match
Masaya typically commentates on a match

Of course, there’s more to it than that. There’s different playing styles – Fighter (focuses on touching the opponent’s back), Speeder (focuses on touching the posts before the other player), and All-Rounder (can do either, but does not specialize as much as the other two). There’s lots of basic and advanced moves shown in the game. There’s also different types of Anti-Grav Shoes and different settings for them. Honestly, the sport and the strategies they explain are fairly well detailed for a visual novel like this and sometimes I felt myself getting sucked into this fictional sport and rooting for different teams as if it actually existed.

The protagonist, Masaya Hinata, was a former top FC (Flying Circus) player, who quit the sport due to a traumatic event, and is now tasked with coaching a team of 3 girls and 1 guy to lead their school to the FC championship. 

Shindou demolishes Misaki in an FC dogfight
Shindou demolishes Misaki in an FC dogfight

Gameplay: Ok, it’s not entirely focused on the sport, there are some dating sim and eroge elements in the game – but they happen mostly towards the end of the game and are very light by visual novel standards and nothing too shocking occurs. Hinata can date/focus on one of 4 girls in the game, depending on which options you select in the game, but the options don’t come up very often, so the majority of this game is basically just reading. 

One of the more dating sim type moments in the game
Dating sim elements are in the game but they are rather uncommon

Characters: I love the characters. They’re probably the strong point of this game. Masaya Hinata is not that pervy compared to most visual novel protagonists, and mostly focuses on the tasks at hand. He’s a relatively serious protagonist, despite the harlem of girls around him, and that’s a welcome change of pace from all those perverted protagonists from other visual novels I’ve played. 

-Asuka is the main and default girl in the game, she’s a very cheerful type that’s hard to dislike, a bit ditzy sometimes, but also an FC prodigy and the school’s best player. 
-Misaki is Hinata’s close female friend, an academic genius, has an odd sense of humor and a bit of a tomboy. I have no problems with Misaki, I think she’s pretty cool.
-Mashiro. I personally don’t really like this character. She’s a borderline lesbian stalker with her one sided obsession with Misaki, and honestly doesn’t really have many redeeming qualities unlike the other characters. Still, she’s in here as a ‘cute/dorky’ type.
-Rika is Hinata’s next door neighbor and unlike the other 3 girls she’s the only dateable option that’s not from the same school. She has a pretty serious personality that makes it hard for me to get into her, but some players may like her.
-Madoka is the FC club’s manager and a very silly girl with a lot of funny comments sometimes. Honestly it makes her charming and I wish she was a dateable option, but alas she is not.
-Shion is Madoka’s older brother and president of the FC club, the only guy Hinata coaches, and has an obsession with muscles and working out.
-Aoi is Hinata’s homeroom teacher, his former mentor, a former FC superstar player and the FC Club advisor. 
-Shirase is the Grav Shoe’s store owner and drops by sometimes for advice.
-Satouin is a typical princessy-type girl who is one of the regular opponents for the FC Club
-Shindou is the initial antagonist in the game, a top FC player and a big opponent for the FC club
-Saki and Irina are the final antagonists in the game, and behave (and play) in a manner that suits that title

The characters overall are very fleshed out and the humor plays out pretty well sometimes between them, I think the fact that the characters are interesting also makes the FC matches fun to get into as well. 

the whole gang

The Whole Gang
The FC Club and the whole gang

Graphics: I have no complaints about the graphics in this game, they are high quality modern Anime style graphics and I’m not surprised that just like Steins Gate, Yu-No, Muv-Luv and others – that this game has been adapted into an Anime series. There’s sometimes characters moving in the background or animations but those scenes are relatively uncommon. The chapters are even split into ‘episodes’ making it feel more like an Anime.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash got nothing on this
Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash got nothing on this

Music: The background music is very fitting to the scenes, and sometimes during certain eventful scenes, jpop music will start playing, making this game feel even more like an Anime sometimes. I have no problems with that.

Conclusion: 9/10 from me. I really enjoyed this visual novel more than I expected. I usually play dating sims, sci-fi and investigative type visual novels, so it’s kind of refreshing to play a title that focuses on a competitive sport and coaching these girls instead of just romance. Sure there IS romance, but it’s very sparse and light compared to other visual novels. The characters are very easy to get into and that makes the FC sport and matches themselves very interesting to get into too. Had no complaints about the graphics or music either. The only thing is people who are expecting a visual novel with more gameplay should probably look elsewhere – this visual novel is very heavy on reading with very little gameplay elements. There’s a few choices here and there but that’s about it. Overall I do recommend this title if you are ok with mostly reading instead of clicking options.

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General

What is your game of the 2010s decade?

There’s quite a few options.. for me these would be the games from the 2010s most impactful on me

-Starcraft II (2010) – played this for countless hours with friends and my brother

-Diablo 3 (2012) – ^ same

-Hearthstone (2014) – ^ same

-Overwatch (2017) – how does Blizzard keep doing this?

-PUBG (2017) – hard to understate how influential this game has been it has spawned an entire genre of battle royale games

-Minecraft (2011) – this is probably the right answer for this question even though I don’t play it. Minecraft is a pop culture phenomenon and the single best selling game of all time.

-GTA 5 (2013) – the best selling console game of the decade and one of the best selling games of all time

-The Last of Us (2013) – the swan song of the PS3 and some might say its greatest game

-Zelda Breath of the Wild (2017) – the best launch title ever? Or up there, at least

-Bioshock Infinite (2013) – a personal fav of mine, I don’t beat a lot of games but this one I played all the way to the end

-Fallout New Vegas (2010) – ^ same

-Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011) – this game has been modded and worked on for seemingly ages – and Bethesda is STILL using its engine to this day!

-Witcher 3 (2015) – so successful that now there’s a Netflix series about it

-Sims 4 (2014) – I mean this had to be on here because what a cash cow this series is for casual players

-Sleeping Dogs (2012) – this is the “GTA clone” I’ve sunk more hours into than any other game and that includes GTA 5

-Borderlands 2 (2012) – such a great co-op game, in a genre where there’s less and less of that

-Far Cry 4 (2014) – yes I know it’s not the best far cry (some might say 3) but for me I’ve played this game with a buddy the longest out of any other game

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[Review] Our World is Ended (Nintendo Switch)

Our World is Ended coming west for PS4, Switch, and PC in 2019 - Gematsu

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Red Entertainment
Release: Apr 18, 2019
Price: $60 USD

I just finished playing Our World is Ended and I would like to give my ending impressions of it.

The main members of Judgment 7 enjoying a BBQ

Plot

First off, there’s about 16 chapters and the total game takes around 20 hours to finish. The plot is sci-fi / mystery and deals with AR and VR, so it takes a lot of inspiration from The Matrix and Steins Gate. When you first start up this game, the perverted humor might turn off some. This game makes endless comparisons of breasts, breasts and more breasts. Just be aware of that. Yes it gets annoying, but if you throw that aside there’s actually a pretty interesting story behind here. The first half of the game is much more focused on this perverted humor, while the second half really picks up the pace on the plot so don’t feel discouraged about the humor. Also keep in mind that in Japan, the age of consent is 13 (not that this game has any really erotic scenes).

The main characters are game developers for a game company called Judgment 7. Pretty soon you find out that you, Reiji Gozen, are an assistant director for the company to replace a former director of the company called Reina Ichinose. The company’s next game called World End Heaven has been announced, but the main programmer Sekai Owari has developed an AR device that eventually thrusts everyone into a VR world dubbed the ‘New World Experience’. These VR adventures, along with the relationship between you and the six other characters of the company, as well as the mystery behind who Reina is and what happened to her, are central plot points.  There are a few notable plot twists in the story, and I’m going to spoil anything, but I will just say that I thought I got a ‘game over’ several times in the story but actually didn’t so make sure you keep going on no matter what.


Characters

The main characters of the game are the 7 main members of Judgment 7, and each of them fits an anime trope: the protagonist and assistant director Reiji Gozen is your typical ‘light novel’ plain everyday guy who tries too hard to be a nice guy, the airheaded Yuno who is an assistant script writer seems to be a cheerful outgoing girl (but is hiding a dark secret), her hot headed sister Asano is a tomboy and BGM composer who is inexplicably tone deaf and ‘unfortunate’ in many other ways, the dark brooding Natsumi who is the graphics designer and who is initially unfriendly and cold, Iruka is the delusional ‘man-pig’ who is an obese perverted script writer and has a tendency to yell crazy phrases, Owari is the main genius programmer of the group and an unbashed pervert, and finally the childish Tatiana who is a child prodigy and secondary programmer of the group. All of these characters, although stereotypical, have their own arcs in the plot and each of them are distinctly unique. I have to say that I am quite pleased with how the game distinctly separates them, even if they are unoriginal tropes

the Main members of Judgement 7


Gameplay

This is a visual novel so there’s minimal interaction. There’s specific points in the game where you will either have to pick an option from among several (less common), or choose a line to say to a character as it flashes by the screen (more common); if you miss a line or choose the wrong line it could affect who your character gets close with, although the only meaningful thing you get from that are different scenes and graphics for the gallery; this is also the main incentive for replay value. There’s nothing especially interactive like in Root Letter or Danganronpa. I have not come across any ‘game overs’ like I did in other visual novels – but there are several points where I thought I did – and thats why its important to keep going no matter what. This isn’t a dating sim so there’s no R rated stuff happening and besides the lewd jokes and a certain NPC at the beginning of the game, nothing too erotic. There is one particular violent scene that happens that shocked me, so watch out for that.


Presentation

The game is really colorful and makes use of lots of bright colors. Those of you who have been to Asakusa in Tokyo will see lots of familiar scenery. Some of the enemy designs are quite unique and disturbing even. The graphics are presented well here.

One of several lighthearted scenes in the game

Audio

The BGM is quite decent, and you’ll hear happy cheerful music, as well as tense music and sad music during the appropriate scenes. It’s not to dissimilar to what I heard on Steins Gate, so I’m satisfied with that. The voice acting is actually quite superb, especially Iruka and his crazy phrases.


Conclusion

Pros: Nice graphics, nice audio/voice acting, plot twists(!), characters all have their own arc and are distinct

Cons: Plot is a little derivative of Matrix/Steins Gate, characters follow typical anime tropes, perverted jokes/character traits seem very out of place sometimes and may turn off some , I wish there was more interaction.

I’d give it a solid 7/10 – its worth checking out if you are into sci-fi visual novels, but don’t expect anything that will blow your mind