Endless Ocean: Luminous review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Arika
Medium: Digital/Cart
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

I’m gonna start this off by saying that Endless Ocean: Luminous is a relatively acceptable game, but it falls short on almost every aspect of what fans of the series come to expect and enjoy from Endless Ocean. From lacking music, any real good map layouts, or even just really basic visual things, I was quite honestly disappointed with what Arika released after 15 years spanning the release of Endless Ocean: Blue World and this most recent entry.

Let’s jump right into some of the more frustrating things in the game. First of all, the way the game feels to control is significantly more arcade-like and less like you’re a scuba diver in the ocean, which I don’t think really need an explanation as to why that just feels worse. I don’t wanna be flipping direction immediately because I tilted my control stick backwards, this isn’t a Resident Evil game with a quick turn. Additionally, when I’m engaging in dialogue, I think I would genuinely prefer the old system where dialogue is completely silent while an arguably gorgeous soundtrack plays in the background. I absolutely despise this really mediocre Siri-sounding text-to-speech voice that just grates at my ears when they want you to be absorbing information for the mission you’re on or whatever the game wants to prompt you about.

I have to bring up the things that are removed and/or changed from Endless Ocean and Endless Ocean: Blue World. If you’ve played those games before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The art direction feels weirdly cartoon-y than previous entries, and I would argue looks worse than it ever did before. The music is just outright a huge step down, and honestly a big disappointment. We got music with vocals from Hayley Westenra, Celtic Woman, and Andrea Corr. Luminous does away with all of that with some quite forgettable background music lacking any real oomph like previous soundtracks. Also, there is no more fish interaction that I was able to find. You can scan them, but you cannot feed or pet them any longer. You also can’t swim to the surface and peek your head above the water anymore. I have thoughts on why that’s not the case this time.

Endless Ocean: Luminous trades off the old style of a really well-made, highly-detailed map with lots of secrets and ruins to explore and discover for…procedurally generated landscapes lacking anything of any real note. You’ll see the same sunken ship, the same rock formations, and the same structures (if any actually generated). It’s an incredible shame having to constantly be re-exploring a boring, empty waterscape while re-scanning the same fish to just check off boxes to increase your “completion” percentage.

In addition to the landscapes looking pretty bland and terrible, the completion percentage on every “run” you do sucks a lot of the fun out of it. You’ll be swimming around looking for sea life covered in this blue sheen, labeled in game as “luminous bacteria”, as if they’re marked to say “Hey you haven’t scanned me yet! Scan me for completion!”. It’s honestly quite a shame to see a game series I previously loved 15 years ago reduced to nothing more than a really bad collectathon lacking any meaningful changes.

Arika were kind enough to at least bring back multiplayer, but if you’re seeking to just hop in a small and private session with friends, you’re going to be very disappointed. There is no such thing as a private dive like in Blue World back on the Wii back in 2009. 15 years later and we’ve stepped BACK from features they had working before. You can share a session code with your friends to join you, but you are still thrust into a public lobby that your friends can directly join. It’s quite disappointing for a game and franchise with such potential to be sent to die like this.

I guess the game runs well and plays mostly well, so it’s not an unplayable release, and it offers an excellent 500+ kinds of sea life for you to find and learn about, but it’s just incredibly boring without any real reason to care about progressing or coming back to new maps for repeated dives. With a severely butchered version of a roguelite loop, it is genuinely disheartening to finish a map and realize you have to continually do this monotonous process over and over and over again to fill out your Pokedex of fish.

While I did not run into any bugs amidst my time playing Endless Ocean: Luminous, and it did run at a very comfortable 30fps, it just adds up to an incredible disappointment and doesn’t really have much going for it. It’s a downgrade from the Wii titles in basically every conceivable manner, and I sincerely cannot recommend it, especially for a $50 price tag. If you have the option, please just go find a copy of the second game at a secondhand shop for $15. I promise you it’ll be a better experience.

Note: Nintendo provided us with a Endless Ocean: Luminous Switch code for review purposes.

Score: 4