Aokana EXTRA2 Review – The Future Beyond the Wide Blue Sky

    Title: Aokana EXTRA2
    Developer: sprite, NekoNyan
    Release Date: December 16, 2022
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: NekoNyan Ltd.
    Genre: Visual Novel

Aokana EXTRA2 is the second fandisc to Sprite’s hit visual novel Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm. While the first game focused on fan-favorite Mashiro, the new game has the tough job of continuing the events of Misaki’s route. Compared to the other girls, Misaki has a twisted nature, and her mixed feelings about the fictional sports Flying Circus mimic Masaya’s troubled past.

Misaki is a beautiful black-haired girl who seems to get everything without effort. But the truth is Flying Circus scares her, as she sees people doing things she can’t grasp, and things can get out of her control. Having to work hard isn’t her cup of tea, but her jealousy of other players and Masaya’s support led her to win the Fall Tournament.

Of all the girls Masaya could pick in the original game, Misaki’s dark desires and turbulent relationship with FC always meant facing his deepest demons. However, now that everything was said and done, EXTRA2 asks what’s next for them. After reaching her goal, Misaki finds herself lost.

Aokana Four Rhythms Across the Blue EXTRA2 1

The uncertainty of the future scares her, but being a champion amplifies her anxiety. Everyone’s looking up to Misaki and developing tactics to beat her down. Being unable to figure out what others may have under their sleeves is enough to have her think about running away. But at the same time, Misaki wants to face those honest feelings somehow.

Meanwhile, Masaya is trying to be there for her, thinking up strategies and being mindful of her emotional state. Having dropped from FC due to pressure, he knows better than anyone how Misaki feels. Painfully so. The trauma of not living up to the image of being the best haunted him for so many years. Though he now craves to fly again, he isn’t fit enough for his return yet and spends most of the time on the sidelines.

Aokana Four Rhythms Across the Blue EXTRA2 2

While Aokana EXTRA2 has Misaki under the spotlight, the story does a great job developing the returning cast. She isn’t alone in her worries, frustrations, or joy. Misaki has many friends, rivals, and people who genuinely care about the sport around her, and their admiration is par for the course.

By interacting with them and doing matches, Misaki finally understands her nuanced feelings about playing FC. One good example of the importance of those supporting characters is Asuka, who’s straightforward to a fault and unabashed in her love for the sport. Occasionally, the pink-haired girl drops nuggets of wisdom that show much more insight than Misaki would expect and calm her down.

Aokana Four Rhythms Across the Blue EXTRA2 3

It may boil down to the overused power of friendship trope, but finding joy beyond total cynicism is no easy feat. EXTRA2 is an inspiring story of reigniting a passion not despite adversity but because of it. This sentiment isn’t only representative of Misaki’s conflict but also Masaya’s and pretty much the whole cast in one way or another.

Just like the original game, Aokana EXTRA2‘s visuals are gorgeous. It’s especially notable during the FC matches, with the characters’ pirouettes and stunts represented by colorful lines in the sky. In addition, it’s fun to look at their stylish clashes, which are dynamic and well-paced.

That’s not to say the calm moments aren’t beautiful, though. The character designs are colorful, and the scenes use their expressions for comedy or drama wonderfully. These visual elements are accompanied by the great job of the voice actors, who manage to convey a ton of emotion in their performances, just like in the previous games. The soundtrack again ranges from high-octane action tracks for the FC matches to the emotional catharsis of the ballads with vocals in poignant moments.

Aokana Four Rhythms Across the Blue EXTRA2 4

Aokana EXTRA2 is an excellent return to Sprite’s work that manages to nail what is impressive about the original game. Not only is it great to see the cast again, but seeing Misaki and Masaya dealing with their inner demons makes for an impressive visual novel. Sprite went all out for this fandisc and made it a must-play.

Score:
9.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.

Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.