Our game today is Aquadine; a visual novel developed and produced by SoftColors for PC. Aquadine feels very fitting for someone like me. I’ve already done reviews on visual novels focused on air-sports twice now. One was also based on the wonders of winter. So, it’s only fair we now get one that concentrates on the water aspect. At first sight, Aquadine seems interesting. The character lives in a beach city and is pretty near the water. Over time, this has turned into a therapeutic aspect of the city and hearing the sound of the waves calms me down. Let’s stop chit-chatting though and row our oar onwards as we take a journey!
WELCOME TO AQUADINE!
The story takes place in the town of Aquadine, a city full of cultural references to mermaids and ancient civilization. This city was lost to history after their godly protector left the humans due to discrimination. Honoring those Gods still, the city has built a water canal system, leading to situations like gondoliers – those who steer the gondola and normally act as a tour guide – to be of moderate importance. Our main character is Robin, a bookworm and bland high school student who lives with his grandfather. He faces a fairly average life with his school friend Cameron who runs the local martial arts club. She strongly believes in pointing people in the right path. Then there’s Diana who is the flirty sociable type with her fair share of being an airhead. There’s also the timid and cute Anya; she constantly misses classes. After his schooling, you’d assume that Robin would spend the rest of the day in the library, but that’s what he would want you to believe.
MEET THE CAST!
In an average civilian/superhero dynamic, Robin will sometimes turn into his alternate persona Ciel – the town’s grand gondolier. He assumes that position after his mother – the last famous one – named Torrie retired due to health issues. Ciel is assumed to be a unique find by the company owned by Robin’s family. Not knowing his true identity, they believe he is leagues ahead of Robin’s own skills as a gondolier. As Robin – he retired years ago and has never taken the job again in the public’s eyes.
One day at Robin’s high school, a new transfer student arrives named Elizabeth; a famous singer from another city. In proper anime etiquette, Robin is assigned to be her tour guide of the school grounds despite the objection of the class; his schoolmates think he would be very boring. Regardless, he and Elizabeth end up becoming friends and part ways after he introduces her to his group. They all immediately hit it off thanks to Elizabeth’s dense, but highly sociable personality.
What Robin didn’t expect was that his persona Ciel was also arranged to give Elizabeth a tour in the afternoon. His grandfather even told her that it was Ciel’s mother that was sick in the hospital, and not Robin’s – his secret might be reaching the expiration date. To relax his mind from the close call he faced, Ciel decides to row a bit at night to relax, reaching a coast with jellyfish dancing in the air like ghosts. The moonlight shines on top of a mermaid he notices bathing in the water. Although, she quickly flees when seeing Ciel.
WORLD AND CHARACTERS!
Let’s start by making it clear that I love the mythology a game creates with its world-building. It makes me care about the culture of this totally new society. Aquadine is a lovely place and the more I learned, the more I’d wish I could visit it in real life. Thankfully, the explanations of the lore never did get too overbearing. Aquadine’s storyboard is very littered with information, but thanks to breaks from too much text, I was able to enjoy it all without tiring myself.
The characters in this game are also one of the best contributors to world-building. So many of them appear in more than one route despite being secondary. They’ll bring information that shines new light on previously known facts. You don’t need to play every route to understand the game. Instead, you’ll just simply get new context to some events. For example, Robin’s grandfather worked with Elizabeth’s butler who is also your teacher. Despite him not being a huge focus on any of the routes, you see them interacting in almost every one. They’ll be discussing different things and talking about experiences from the past that impact the route you are on. In general, Aquadine makes all the characters have a chain of interests, while the characters make Aquadine feel more lively in return.
WHAT WE HAVE IN COMMON!
The common route is great in this game, as it just brought a cozy feeling to my heart. It reminded me of cartoons I used to watch as a kid. The protagonist has a huge secret and tries to survive daily life while having fun. It might’ve been done before, but Aquadine does it really well, despite relying on some tropes from time to time. The game is well-executed, but I wish it brought more curveballs to the mix when on the common route.
WILL YOU BE MY WAIFU?
Now, we get into the waifu routes, which is what I assume all of you came to see. Don’t worry, we’ve got a fair share of them. There are 4 in total: Cameron, Diana, Anya, and Elizabeth!
Cameron’s route, despite being quite good, ended up as the weakest of the 4. Not because it’s bad, but simply due to how great the other 3 are. This route revolves around Cameron’s responsibility as the club captain and the weight attributed to it. It’ll explore both parties learning to rely more on each other to survive the challenges life throws at them. After all, no sailor is born from a calm ocean. The plot in this route surprised me with the reveals.
If you’ve read my past reviews, Diana’s route might‘ve stuck out as the one I would normally be the most attracted to. I love my funny, airhead characters, but also pink-haired girls. She, however, ends up as number 3 in my heart this time. I do love Diana’s character a lot, and the route’s message is a great one. It’s about searching for your true self and not being weighed down by other’s expectations. This really struck a chord with me, but I felt her route could have been longer in order to climb my ranking. Oh, and a tear fell down my eyes while reading it – great job Diana.
Elizabeth’s route was a genuine surprise. She felt a bit generic at first glance, despite her improper behavior at times. For example, she burps proudly after eating. I thought it brought a breath of fresh air to her otherwise proper character. Her route showed her as someone dealing with her past and learning to cope with it. Playing through this taught me that we can’t waste the time we have drowning ourselves in worry. And yes, I also cried to this – I might’ve been emotional playing this.
Last and not least is Anya. Weirdly enough, Anya’s character is not one I would normally fall in love with but this time was different. Her route focuses on the mythology of the city, which as established, made me love it even more. It also covers how to deal with secrets and the weight of being yourself in a world that doesn’t seem to desire it. It’s not all serious as it mixes in some humor. Anya’s route has the most story out of all of them. That’s probably due to the exploration of the cultural background. I loved the amount of depth given to both Robin and Anya; it made me love it even more.
THERE’S A GOOD MESSAGE HERE!
One message I wanna add that elevated Aquadine was the sort of epilogue it possesses. I won’t reveal any story portion of it, but I need to give praise where it’s due. The developers weren’t afraid to really show progression in the world itself. Or to show that life acts in unexpected ways and you can only learn how to adapt. To no one’s surprise, I bawled my eyes out at the ending credits. The song that accompanied it was entirely made for it. Thank you Aquadine for making my dogs question why I was crying to pixels!
ARTS AND CRAFTS!
Great news – Aquadine sort of has voice acting in it. Occasionally, you‘ll hear sound bites that go along with the lines, though they may not match them exactly. They’re more to set the mood I feel like. For example, if the line says “I love you with all my heart”, the voice might just say “Robin…” in an affectionate tone. Aside from that, the script in general is unvoiced. There is, however, voice acting for the singing at multiple parts and they are genuinely beautiful, especially the end credits. Like I said, I bawled my eyes out. Props to the team and obviously the singers. There’s also a way to activate a very robotic text to speech, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I found it very off-putting, but I give leeway to the fact that it makes the game more accessible.
The art in Aquadine is in an anime style but the scenarios are even better. It feels like a realistic interpretation of Venezia/Venice and I even compared it to some photos my parents took when they went there. They were indeed very similar so props to them for studying the infrastructure of the place. The little details aren’t lost in my eyes, like how the mouse cursor is a little rowing oar on the gondola or the watery style on the saving menu.
Overall, Aquadine is an amazing experience. I wish I could talk more about how much I loved it, however, know if I did, it would hit the spoiler category. I won’t go there because I want you all to experience it. If you enjoy visual novels with a big amount of world-building and emotional development, then this is the right choice. I just feel it could’ve been a bit slower at times. I also feel it could depend less on some tropes to elevate it to higher ground.
AQUADINE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
If you enjoy visual novels, perhaps you’d like to take a look at Undead Darlings or Re:ZERO -Starting Life In Another World- The Prophecy Of The Throne.
Many thanks goes to SoftColors for a PC review code.
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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.