Aquadine is a light-hearted, fun, wholesome journey in a town of myths and mysteries. It has a cast of quite likable characters who all have distinct personalities and solid backgrounds. The story takes place in a town built on mermaids and magic stories; because of that, the game heavily includes water themes in almost every aspect.
Aquadine starts simple enough as were introduce to a boy named Ciel, a tour guide in the fictional city of Aquadine. As you progress, you soon learn he has a few secrets hidden behind his cheerful demeanor.
There are four character routes to choose from during a playthrough. As the game itself describes, your route choices are “a clueless idol, a crazy athlete, a happy-go-lucky redhead, and a detached cat lover.” The four character routes are Anya, the smart cat lover who always sounds annoyed whenever they are spoken to but loves to be sassy back; Diana, the loud carefree redhead who likes to gossip about those around her; Cameron, the smart, athletic, who wants everyone to do their best, childhood friend, and finally, Elisabeth, the famous singer who loves to eat and just moved into town.
Each of the main characters has a fleshed-out personality along with their own struggles. It’s refreshing to see them working out their personal problems in a way that causes you to get emotionally invested. The entire cast shows up in each of the routes, which is great because they riff off each other so naturally.
The art of Aquadine is outstanding, and there’s a lot of it to enjoy. Now, typically the characters are what grabs the attention, but it was the backgrounds for me. These backgrounds absolutely blew me away; there are so many different places and tones to each. They are extremely detailed, with almost every single one bringing in the water theme to some degree with a gorgeous amount of polish.
As for the characters themselves, they each have a wonderful design. The character’s art style was soft and pleasant to look at throughout the routes. The only issue I had with the character sprites was the animations when they are speaking. It was a bit jarring at first since every time they speak they jump around a bit. After a while, I got used to it, but I would have liked an option to turn it off.
Further, a few characters looked a little out of place stylistically, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker. All the characters are all easily distinguishable from one another but still have a certain charm. Even the side characters had multiple sprites, and some even had different outfits making them stand out even more.
The UI was simple and aquatic-themed; it does its job well. The music was another significant part of the game, especially the opening theme. Like the rest of the game, the soundtrack was fun and fit beautifully with whatever scene was going on at the time.
There is voice acting, which was a great addition, buts it’s only partially voiced. Each character, even the side characters, has multiple voice lines that add to the emotional tone. I do wish the main cast had a few more lines, as hearing the same small batch of audio over and over across the routes can become a bit dull over time. The only character that did grate on me each time they spoke was the grandpa as he speaks like “The Hulk,” and while cute at first, it quickly takes its toll.
The game itself is rather short; unfortunately, it took about ten hours to finish all of the routes, but it was still a fun experience. There were some background characters I wanted to learn more about that felt like they should have had a more prominent role but ended up with a small part and not much substance. Also, there was one route that definitely needed more storytime to flesh out the characters.
That route begins by throwing a ton of backstory that’s important but, by the end of the route, some questions either weren’t answered or didn’t have a satisfactory resolution. The common route is the longest, which took me around three and a half hours to finish. Once complete, you get to choose between the four individual character routes, which each took around two hours. The good news is you don’t have to go skipping through the common route each time. You can simply choose from the menu which route you want to pursue next. There are good ends or bad ends here either; just select the character route to play as it’s a kinetic visual novel.
Aquadine is a wonderful adventure with a fun cast of characters that brought a smile to my face. While there are a few issues here and there that could have made the experience better, they didn’t hinder the overall experience. This story is full of wholesome and emotional moments that make it easy to get invested in this lighthearted narrative.
This is the first visual novel developed by the indie developer SoftColors, and I hope we get to see more from them in the future.
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