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Aokana - Four Rhythms Across the Blue - Review


AOKANA - Four Rhythms Across the Blue

I can see something beyond the sky.

 

Aokana certainly is a top tier adult Visual Novel. Featuring stunning visuals accompanied by an awesome soundtrack and topped off with an epic and emotional story well worth your time, there is little to be left desired. Opposite to many other Bishoujo Eroges out there, even the freely available R18 content is neither too intrusive nor main focus of the game - a rare sight and one more solid reason why this masterpiece easily became one of my all-time favorites.

 

Graphical & Technical Quality

artwork 1 - great visuals

Similar to the increased trend of other western Visual Novel adaptions, this game is running on the Unity Engine. On one hand, this means Aokana can show off a strong performance when it comes to the visual action with lots of sprite movement, effects, and the like. Conversely, choosing a full fledged 3D game engine over something specialized for VNs has it's drawbacks, namely we miss out on some of the more common technical quality of life gimmicks to easily get the most out of our playing experience.


The most vital basics are given with 80 save slots, auto and skip mode with behavior customization, options to customize sound settings for everything separately, as well as basic backlog jumping.


There also are higher level gimmicks like voiceline saving and a sprite viewer to unlock, but that's mostly it. No scene jumping, a rather minimalistic in-game quick menu, not that much to customize and one of my favorite features - automatically lowering the music volume during dialogue playback - despite existing doesn't seem to work.

artwork 2 - bg image
Scene background, not a CG.

On the graphical side, Aokana may not have animated sprites (no blinking or mouth movement) but it uses so many so extremely detailed backgrounds and CGs with so many variations you end up not noticing.


Furthermore it has a lot of movement and effects happening on screen. These are all presented amazingly well in a beautiful 1440p resolution, this alone is extremely refreshing coming from the default 720p found in most Visual Novels.


The whole anime-level show is accompanied by an amazing soundtrack appropriately fitting into each situation of the story. And if all that still isn't enough, Aokana has several opening and ending movies and even anime-esque after-episode-preview movies!


And finally the translation, while having one or two errors here and there, is rock solid and covers not only the dialogue but also subtitles for opening and ending movies. While one might argue it's over-compensating because it sure is weird when simple "Huh" sounds suddenly get sentence long translations and vice versa, it truly shows the spirit of a real translation and many other translation projects could learn a thing or two from our friends at Sprite.


 
artwork 3 - intermission
 

Story, Content & Runtime

artwork 4 - story

With that blasting appearance, let's get to inner strength - What can you expect from Aokana?


A story about friendship and rivalry, overcoming your past and shaping your future. Thanks to the unimaginable discovery of "Anti-Gravitons", particles that defy the very gravity keeping us pinned to the ground, a whole new world opens up to humanity: The Sky.

With the help of a simple pair of "Grav Shoes" flying free like a bird has become as easy as swimming through the sea. Of course, where there is an opportunity for competition there will be a sport to compete in, and so the "Flying Circus" was born.


In this new world in the sky where only the best can persist, Masaya Hinata, our protagonist, once was at the very top reaching for ever greater heights. Though the higher you go the further down you can fall, and so a fateful event made our prodigy child turn his back on the beautiful sky he once adored forever, being disgusted by the very idea of flying.


But, fate has other plans for him. Pushed forward by the very people that once looked up to him and unwillingly roped into his high school's dying FC club, he once again has to face the sky that pains him so much - not as a player, but as a coach.


When the entirety of Flying Circus is at the verge of a new age, can he overcome his past's suffocating shadow and see the light of the sky again? Can he prevent the same thing that once robbed him of all his fun in flying happening to his new star player? And can they find out the true meaning of "Flying Circus"?


artwork 5 - story

Aokana is a game featuring mostly equal amounts of Slice of Life humor, deep, emotional Sci-Fi story and romance. And all the while it feels more like a VN-style playable anime than a normal Visual Novel, even though its actual anime was born from the VN. Like I mentioned earlier Aokana has anime-style after-episode-preview movies playing inbetween the chapters, with a "to be continued" feel even though you can continue literally 5 seconds later.


The character cast is distinct and huge. Next to our protagonist there are 4 heroines and 3 or 4 more main characters. All of them have fleshed out personalities (including their humoristic anime stereotype) and a well developed background story, that is deeply entangled with the main story and progressively uncovered.


The protagonist not only goes beyond the generic dense harem king, but also has a face shown quite often throughout the game and - even if only during childhood flashbacks - a voice.


Besides that notable cast of spotlight characters we get a bunch more side characters, each with more or less recurring appearances and a volume slider in the settings. Their names there even get progressively uncovered when the characters appear in the story for the first time.


Though opposite to the main cast, the side characters are all over the top and exist mostly for humoristic purposes. Even so, they don't ruin serious moments.