Title: Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue
Release Date: September 27, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Visual Novel
The fantastic idea of flying through the sky using special shoes wouldn’t have ever crossed my mind as the premise of a visual novel. However, developer Sprite is here to prove me wrong with their newest visual novel, Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue. While the premise alone might not seem like the foundation of a must-read visual novel, there’s plenty more to this story that could make it just that.
Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue introduces that main protagonist, Hinata Masaya. At one point in time, he was one of the top players in a futuristic sport known as “Flying Circus.” However, after losing something more than just a competition, he’s stepped back from the game and attempts to live a regular life. One day, he comes across a girl named Asuka, who is new to the area and doesn’t know a thing about its customs. You see, the primary way of transportation here is using flying shoes. However, Asuka hasn’t adapted to these futuristic shoes, so Masaya decides to help her.
It’s from here that his homeroom teacher takes notice and instructs him to teach her full time after school until she learns how to use them properly. However, there happens to be an ulterior motive to this in hopes of getting him back into flying. Well, in more ways than one, it works, and he finds himself coaching not only Asuka but also a team of his friends to be the best Flying Circus club.
Within the first few hours of Aokana, Masaya and the entire cast are easily the most likable cast of characters. Each character is unique, but they don’t have overbearing personalities. In terms of characteristics, this allows Asuka’s airheadedness to stand out, but not become annoying, and she steals the spotlight in many scenes. The other supporting cast members each have complex reasons that brought them to the group, and it shows in their responses and the way they present themselves. There are never moments of them doing something that isn’t in their wheelhouse unexpectedly. Instead, they each have their moments of growth during the story, which develops over time.
Being their instructor, Masaya is their to help them become the best at Flying Circus that they can be. During matches, he’ll instruct them on what to do, and they typically listen. A parallel of this happens off the field, where he learns how to take advice from his friends. Becoming comfortable with Flying Circus again isn’t his only hurdle, but it plays a massive part in his growth as the main protagonist. The people around him are what brings out his greatness, and it’s rather exciting to witness. The antagonists in this story are each interesting and have a place in the story.
The entire story plays out like episodes of an anime, even including a post-credits tease for the next episode, which leads me to point out just how amazing the animations are in this game. From flying through the sky to animated key events, Aokana doesn’t hold back. The high-quality animation bleeds over into the game’s character illustration, which is expressive and memorable. Their illustrations show each of their emotions, and since the story doesn’t tip too far into being overly bouncy or sad, it strikes an impressive balance across multiple emotional states. Furthermore, the game has a ton of CG events. The CGs in the game seems to get better as the game goes on, and the environments don’t ever fall far behind in terms of overal quality.
I should mention that there is some ecchi CGs present as well that feature some tasteful panty shots and embarrassing moments. The good thing about these scenes is that they don’t feel out of place and flow nicely with the game’s story. Sure, a few scenes have to do with Masaya accidentally opening the door to a friend changing, but it works. There’s an adult patch for the game, which leads me to my only gripe, the romance. Yes, Aokana has romance routes with the heroines, but they feel extremely lacking when compared to just how excellent the writing for these characters is. The romance felt more like an afterthought here rather than something that developed throughout the game. Thankfully, for the story itself, the developer seemed to know this and only featured the adult scenes late in the respective character’s route. These scenes are incredibly vanilla, and if you’re going into this game for the h-scenes alone, then there’s probably a better way for you to spend 20 hours of your time.
Aokana gets to the point during its world-building that you feel as if you are a part of it. It takes time delivering some of the heavier things, such as the rules of the Flying Circus and character backstories. There’s no rush here either because you can’t help but feel as though you are watching an anime. I can only attribute this to the game’s updated CGs of up to 1440 resolution for this release. Whether the game zooms in for a close-up or the scene depicts an action scene, everything is crystal clear and crisp.
The soundtrack in Aokana plays well with each of the scenes and changes periodically. There’s a ton of tracks in here and a theme for each heroine, which are all impressive compositions. The game features voiced audio for all of the characters, which was expertly done and helped with the immersion of the scenes. For Japanese speakers, there are also options to read the game in Japanese text along with Simplified and Traditional Chinese.
Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue is a story about friendship and recovering from the past. The characters in this story rely heavily on their friends, but only to highlight their strengths. Asuka might be airheaded and clumsy, but she is also fearless with any obstacle that comes her way. Each character feeds off of her courage and then offers their strengths to the group.
Sadly, the romance in the game doesn’t stick and feels a little out of place, but that doesn’t shadow the game’s greatness. There are multiple endings and some excellent moments of storytelling within its 30 hours of gameplay. Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue does a lot right with its presentation and story that I quickly found myself immersed. The story wasn’t something that I thought I’d attached to at first, but after the opening act, I was hooked and cheering these characters on until the very end.
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