Endless Ocean: Luminous Review – Mixed Currents​

Endless Ocean: Luminous Review - Mixed Currents

Considering my family’s gaming experience gaming was predominantly action-focused, you could argue that the original Endless Ocean becoming popular with us was something of an uncharacteristic surprise. Instead of fast-paced simulations of brutal combat, we found ourselves exploring virtual oceans at a relaxed and leisurely pace.

Perhaps even more of a surprise, is that after roughly 15 years, Nintendo and developer Arika are returning to the ocean with Endless Ocean Luminous, out now for the Nintendo Switch. I’ve been spending some time in the game’s Story and Solo Dive modes and I would honestly say that its geratest strengths and weaknesses all adhere to Arika’s choices to remain loyal to a style of game that simply isn’t made any more. Endless Ocean Luminous feels for better and for worse, like a game from a bygone era, though I have a sneaking suspicion this won’t deter hardcore series fans from purchasing it.

The game opens with the player, a new diver, being introduced to Sera, their Survey, Exploration, and Research Assistant AI. They have been assigned to a new research project after some recent success. After learning the game’s controls, Sera introduces the player to the World Coral, an immense and complex combination of various coral that sustains life throughout the Veiled Sea. For some unknown reason, the world coral is dying. Project Aegis was formed to find the cause as well as cure the World Coral’s blight, and that’s where the player comes in. It isn’t long before a gigantic coelacantch enters the World Coral’s cave, causing the player to flee. The exact reason why the coelacanth was attracted to the world coral is unknown, but it’s clear that there is some sort of strange connection.

After escaping from the coelacanth, we’re introduced to another member of Project Aegis: Daniel. Daniel is one of the more seniour divers on the team, who sees the player as a friendly rival of sorts. On the following salvage mission, the player discovers a strange stone tablet. After close analysis, Sera determines it to be a relic from the Oannes civilization, who were also known as the “Guardians of the Sea”. The tablet begins to emit a strange glow in one of the markings, with Sera, Daniel and the player determining that finding the ocean’s various mysteries and species will unlock different parts on the tablet. Then there strange light attached to the various marine life in the Veiled Sea. Upon scanning them, players are able to view a close up of the specimen, learn some info on the species but most importantly, gather light that it turns out, heals the World Coral.

So that’s the set up: explore the ocean, collect treasure, and scan specimens, all in the hopes of curing the World Coral from the disease that is ravaging it. If Project Aegis fails, all life in the Veiled Sea will perish, with dire consequences for the rest of the world to follow. I will say at this point, that even this brief introduction to the game’s story, gameplay and even controls takes place across multiple missions. It’s an odd pace that continues throughout the experience of playing Endless Ocean Luminous, and one that makes the game feel a little outdated.

Speaking of the controls, I find them to be literally perfect, except for when playing the game in handheld mode, where I have to constantly take my thumb off the dolphin kick button to adjust the camera. It isn’t a deal breaker though and is easily avoided by playing with a pro controller.

After getting a taste of the game’s story, I can’t deny wanting to fully dive into it (pun intended). It sounds engaging and simple enough, but like a turtle foolish enough to try and eat delicious seaweed from a plastic six pack holder, players will hit a snag. You see, you can’t simply play through all of Endless Ocean Luminous’ story missions at your leisure. Instead, players will have to embark on solo or shared dives, uncovering the map and scanning a number of specimens to unlock the ability to progress further. This starts off as a fairly basic process and I found I wanted to be free from being inundated with short cutscenes as I was trying to explore anyway. It isn’t long, though, before this very much becomes a grind.

Now I’m not one who is automatically opposed to games with what could be considered healthy grinds, but one of the problems that rears it’s ugly crustacean head with Luminous is the sheer amount of specimen scans needed to progress – you’ll end up spending far more time rushing through a free dive than enjoying them or even accessing the game’s story. And when I say rushing, I mean it. The number of scans needed joins forces with the repetition of finding specimens you’ve already encountered, meaning I mash the dolphin kick button to speed through areas and hold down the scan button just enough for it to count before canceling the close-up shot of the marine life itself. It makes it hard to care about the immense effort that Arika have placed in crafting the game’s environments and marine life. This brings me back to my previous point of the story (or perhaps rather, its delivery) feeling oddly paced. You can spend an hour or two scanning specimens only to have a single short cutscene unlock and then have to do it all over again, killing your enthusiasm somewhat.

It might sound like I haven’t enjoyed my time with Endless Ocean Luminous, but in actuality, I have. I enjoy exploring the immense underwater environments, whether its the more shallow areas where coral and creatures are lit up from the sun above, or diving down into the depths to explore the darkest caves with just the light of my headlamp. At the ocean floor, there are chasms with hot magma, as well as areas with bioluminescent coral and fish. The amount of different species in the game is truly an eye opener as well. Arika have gone above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a game that could be used in educational institutions (but in a cool way, trust me!). There are also legendary specimens: unique specimens such as the shark with one eye and battle scars. Obviously, spotting a legendary specimen is rare and exciting. I have to say, I found myself genuinley interested in the information provided with each scan, as well as when I discovered a new area in the Veiled Sea.

Endless Ocean Luminous most likely won’t be a top seller on the Nintendo Switch, but I am certain that series fans will find a lot to enjoy about it. The environments are massive, controls are accessible and responsive, the story is enjoyable enough and the shared dives having up to 30 players offers a unique and relaxing multiplayer experience.

Endless Ocean: Luminous Review Box

Endless Ocean: Luminous was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code kindly provided by Nintendo Australia

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