Videogames can make you think about a lot of things. In this case, they make us wonder how the Aviation Law adapted to children floating around in the sky as a normal occurrence. Welcome to Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue, a visual novel developed and published by Sprite, brought to the west with the help of NekoNyan and PQube. The game was initially released only for PC but has seen a port to Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, while an announced PlayStation 4 version never seemed to materialize.
Aokana is the second project from Sprite, but seeing as both of their projects have been adapted into an anime, at least one fandisc is being localized and a sequel has been announced to be under development (if currently on hold), we can certainly expect good projects to come out of them going forward. Our Editor-In-Chief has also been quite a fan since he played it, so having a chance to check out the Switch version with my own eyes is an awesome opportunity. Having said that, let’s just hop into it, after the catchy anime opening that gets stuck for 2-3 weeks in my head.
In a universe only slightly different from our own, special shoes with anti-gravity aspects were invented and branded as Grav-Shoes that allow people to fly around freely. And with that, a sport called Flying Circus was made, where those who participate either race through checkpoints or touch the opponent’s back to score points. However, not everything works out in this sport, as our protagonist Masaya Hinata went from being an active athlete to completely quitting it after a traumatic experience. Yet, if that was all, we wouldn’t have a story.
As a student of the Kunahama Institute, he meets the happy-go-lucky transfer student Asuka. She coaxes Masaya to help with her interest in the Flying Circus by making him the coach of a new team for the institute planning to win the summer tournament. Overall, it’s the goal-focused premise that tends to succeed in making sure the audience maintains attention to see if they achieve their objective, and they do it well. Flying circus has quite a depth to it, making it interesting to see instances of action and it keeps you hooked to check out how the participants of the summer tournament fare and to check out their training for it. On that front, the game delivers with great progression, making sure you feel like every step on the Flying Circus preparation is moving us towards winning the tournament.
Characters and Waifus
The characters themselves are super interesting to develop a bond with. One interesting part of this game is the number of characters that we get to see as more than background filler. Despite not having a route, some of them you make you wish they had one. Madoka is an angel.
The girls of the club get a good amount of moments to hang out and interact among themselves. It’s refreshing to see that the world doesn’t revolve around our protagonist, and instead, the world of Aokana is filled with people who see the Flying Circus in different lights. The game focuses mostly on the experiences of 4 lovebirds: Asuka, Misaki, Mashiro, and Rika.
There’s also a true ending that helps to detail further Hinata’s relationship with another character and the past they have together, but I won’t spoil it. Look forward to seeing it at the end. I felt it was a good way to close off some of the fleeting tension among the two, so it delivers on the objective.
Getting back to our girls, Asuka is your commonly seen cheerful girl, but it is good to see the ditzy romance interest also being talented and having more than usual tropes going for them. Her route is one I did enjoy as you help train her and in the process get closer to her. I felt it ended up more as a story-driven route than a character-driven so that’s unfortunate as I felt Asuka could’ve been more developed, but she is a cutie and the romance with her is sweet.
Misaki is the best girl, let’s get that out of the way. She doesn’t take things seriously and loves teasing people so that’s a great start to it, but her route also brings up an aspect of the game I truly love. It focuses on the Flying Circus, but on another point of view, focusing on motivation and being more focused on how Masaya and Misaki interact with each other and their interactions with the sport itself. The romance may come out of nowhere, but her character is much more fleshed out in the route than in the common story.
Mashiro is another character you don’t expect to enjoy as much, seeing as it feels like she is Misaki’s child, looking up to her as if a younger apprentice of sorts. However, her route is very focused on her as a person so I got out of it seeing her as the second-best girl because it still felt that she is in Misaki’s shadow on that aspect
Last but not least, we’ve got Rika, Masaya’s neighbor. Her character was cute, despite an awkward first meeting with Masaya but due to being a bit absent from the story and her route being a bit bland, I can’t say I truly connected with her character. It is a shame as her character has a super pretty design.
Artwork, Music and More
Using that as my segway, Aokana excels when it comes to artwork. I think this might be the prettiest visual novel I have ever played. The quality feels really high quality, being even more evident when close-up shots feel just as amazing as the general picture of the scene so major kudos to that.
The character design is not innovative but it’s one of the best examples of those similar to it, and you could recognize it after having some time to absorb it. Even side characters, who would not need as much refinement on their outlines and design are very well made and could easily pass as primary characters in some other game.
The CGs in this game are also plenty and they never fail to amaze me with the production work on each of them. Almost after every line, there is a motion to the models, bringing the game even closer to an anime itself. The voice acting likewise makes the game feel more alive, especially with Asuka’s voice because it’s too cute for me to handle.
The music in this game is also great, with a surprising variety for a visual novel thanks to the action tracks for the Flying Circus in conjunction with the usual slice of life OST that brings chill and relaxing tones for daily activities along with melancholic music for moments who require it.
In every review I do, I try to bring forth a minor detail that wouldn’t be necessary but including it is amazing, and for me, that’s the song indication that appears whenever the music switches. It shows the name of the track that is starting in the scene. For someone who has a wide variety of anime songs to listen to, knowing the name of the songs I enjoyed in a game like this makes my life so much easier and I give credit when it’s due.
Moreover, as some minor comments, the options to regulate each character’s volume is always nice and the menus are smooth to use. An odd detail is that you can’t change the controls so you are stuck to the button layout the game has set, but that’s more of a comment than a complaint.
In conclusion, Aokana is one of the prettiest visual novels I’ve seen. It has a surprising amount of depth to a sport that could’ve easily been a background excuse for the events to occur, and instead, we get techniques of flight and details explanations about the sport with diagrams. The game has a great story that unfortunately falls a bit with each heroine’s route, with some of them having potential for much much more. As a statement for Aokana’s quality, despite the flaws, the game is still highly recommended for anyone who enjoys visual novels.
AOKANA – FOUR RHYTHMS ACROSS THE BLUE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
If you would like to see more visual novels, you may be interested in our review of Under One Wing. If you’d like to hear another take on Aokana, here is our review on the PC version by another writer. The PC version made our top visual novels of 2019 list, which you can read here.
Many thanks go to PQube for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Nick has been gaming for quite a while, a decade now! His first console was the DS but the first one played extensively was the Nintendo 64. He loves a huge variety of games, favourite genres include RPG, platforming, metroidvanias and visual novels. No longer a member of the NookGaming team, but still here in spirit. Follow him on @NickMendz.