Endless Ocean Luminous | Review | Switch - TheFamicast.com: Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Endless Ocean Luminous | Review | Switch

The Endless Ocean series, or Forever Blue as it is known in Japan, hasn’t seen the light of day since the Wii era. While I never had the chance to play the games back in the day, the release of Endless Ocean Luminous on the Switch piqued my interest. Is this a worthy successor to a series from yesteryear, or should this just be thrown overboard? We take a look at the highs and lows that Luminous has to offer in this review. Let’s get into it. 

Gameplay in Endless Ocean Luminous is smooth and easy to get the hang of. You control your diver with the right joystick, can perform a dolphin kick with B, scan creatures with L, swim upwards with R, swim downwards with ZR and take pictures with ZL. You are also able to remove UI elements on the fly with the press of the Select button. Navigating the waters feels great. 
The main thing that you are tasked with during your time in the water is scanning aquatic life. If you’re in range a nearby creature or group of creatures, you can hold L to have them added to your log. Before scanning, each creature is shrouded in a mysterious blue haze which disappears once scanned and fills up a light gauge in the upper left hand corner of the screen. It should be noted that you can just simply hold the scan button until your target has been picked up. There are over 500 species in the game, ranging from common fish to pre-historic or mythical beasts. 

I found the scanning and exploring quite fun, though I could see some people getting bored with this. Despite the numerous lethal creatures you will come across in the game, your diver will never be in any danger of being mauled. With the being said, Luminous leans more into the exploration aspect of the dives, and less on realism, which may or may not be appealing. On top of this, the dive sites themselves are procedurally generated, which is good in the sense that there really are a huge amount of possibilities when it comes to the kind of areas that you’ll encounter. On the other hand, multiple areas can feel similar, almost too similar, taking away from a more organic feel that some might be hoping for. 
On top of scanning creatures, players also come across a variety of salvage while in the depths. These can range from things like discarded shoes to treasure chests. Additionally, something called a Mystery Board is in the game. This has 99 entries which are unlocked upon finding them scattered throughout the Veiled Sea.
Three main modes are on offer in Luminous - Shared Dive, Solo Dive and a Story Mode. An additional Event Dive mode is also available at various times which gives players access to areas with exotic and/or rare creatures. Solo Dive and Story Mode are pretty self explanatory, but Shared Dive is the multiplayer mode in the game. Here, up to 30 divers can explore a region simultaneously. If a session has less than 30 people that you invite, it’s possible that to be joined by up to 10 random divers. I’ve only managed to team up with a handful of others, but the experience was pretty smooth. Interaction between players is limited to emotes and you can opt to just completely ignore the others and explore on your own. One benefit of participating in a Shared Dive is that you will gain experience exponentially faster as the area is explored. If you’re looking to unlock and share dive sites with friends, this is a perfect way to do so. 
The Story Mode puts players in the role of a nameless diver working for Project Aegis. This agency tasks players with nurturing the World Coral, a decaying reef structure located in the Veiled Sea. Accompanied by an AI assistant named Sera and a diver named Daniel, this mode delves into the the reasons why the World Coral is decaying and what you need to do to heal it. Like mentioned previously, light gathered from aquatic life is the only way to heal the Coral. 

The Story Mode is divided into chapters that offer varying degrees of interactivity. Some of these chapters are essentially cut scenes only, while others will allow players to explore specific areas. Each of these can usually be completed in a few minutes. One of my main complaints with the mode is that these are locked behind scanning copious amounts of creatures. This might be some kind of incentive for players or it might just be annoying. One of the later chapters asks for even more absurd requirement...warning, spoilers ahead.

Filling out the ENTIRE Mystery Board to proceed is required for one of the later chapters. This might make some players just give up all together. Considering the lack of depth in the story mode, the amount of time and effort will likely not seem worth it to most. In my first ten hours with the game, I’ve managed to find about 40 out of the 99 items on the Mystery Board.

On top of the main modes, you are also able to customize your gear and also review your findings in a log. Each creature that you scan has a brief description and you can even snap your own photos of these to make your own, personalized log of fish. Although the descriptions themselves are a bit short, it may be appealing for those interested in sea creatures.
Access the Japanese Title Screen
As I mentioned previously, Endless Ocean has a completely different name in Japan - Forever Blue. With that said, this game still keeps the latter part of the title making it Forever Blue Luminous. If you want to access this, you can do that pretty easily. Unfortunately, you can’t do this from the game’s menu, but rather fro the system menu. If you change your system settings to Japanese, you can see the title as Forever Blue Luminous. Check it out if you’re feeling adventurous or bored. 

Visuals, Audio & Performance
Endless Ocean Luminous does a pretty good job at creating (mostly) believable, aquatic environments. There is a decent variety of biomes (fresh water, salt water and frozen environments) that are fun to explore. While some of the creatures look quite nice, there are a few that have a very flat look, especially from up close. Other things, in particular coral, can look a bit underwhelming. There are also some times when the framerate will dip, for example, when you’re exploring areas with a lot of vegetation, but this is minor. My last complaint comes with the limitations of the map. While they are quite large, the boundaries just abruptly cut off with invisible walls or towers rocks. This really is very apparent and takes away from the sense of realism that the game otherwise does a pretty good job at presenting. 
By and large, audio is pretty good in Luminous. The ambient music fits the game perfectly and the sounds of the sea creatures and your diver’s swimming are life-like. The biggest disappointment comes with your AI assistant, Sera. Of course, being AI, there is an expectation that it will sound like, well, AI. This is matched perfectly in that sense as Sera’s voice is apparently done some kind of text to voice software. The delivery is extremely flat and in a game where everything else is silent, I almost wish they would have just stuck to text with Sera. While it’s kind of neat to have a voiced assistant, this is completely unnecessary and is just bad. 

Endless Ocean Luminous is a laid back game that is fun to play, but a bit shallow, no pun intended. Although dives are essentially endless in terms of what will come up, the story mode is lacking and the secrets of the deep might not be enough to pull people in. If you’re interested in the ocean and/or sea creatures, or have kids that are interested in this kind of thing, there is some fun to be had. This is a competent title gameplay-wise and exploring the ocean may be fun for some. Others that are looking for a deeper experience might be setting themselves up for disappointment. There is so much more that could have been done here, but fans are left with a title that is a bit lifeless.

But let’s turn things over to you. Did you pick up Luminous? Have you played any other games in the series? What do you think of Luminous when compared to past games? Sound off in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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