Foreword: As mentioned previously with this game, the one thing that disappoints me more than a shitty game is a game that COULD have become good, but the writers just fucked up something and made it bad instead. As a game that I procrastinated for about 7 months after taking out of my backlog (holy shit). AQUA was that game that fit perfectly into this description.
I can actually do a tl;dr version of this review right now: AQUA is a very deep, meaningful, and philosophical game. The HUGE CRITICAL OMGWTFBBQ problem was that character development (which includes the romance; I’ll get to it soon) was absolute shit and some of said philosophical components had a bad design (again, will be explained later). Simply put, the game does have a good content overall, but failed in the transition, delivery, and introduction of that content to the point the value and significance of said content plummeted.
I was extremely disappointed with this one for that reason, and now cautiously getting back to Irotoridori Sekai that I’ve been procrastinating for a while as well. I need to finish both games before September, even if I have to CTRL-skip the scenes (God please forbid this to happen).
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS REVIEW CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILERS FOR THIS GAME! PLEASE DO NOT READ IT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE THE TITLE SPOILED
P.S. Also, please let me know if I should pursue other Sorahane titles. This title was quite decent, but the elements I found to be critically terribad is really preventing me from wanting to experience the other games from this company. I would sincerely appreciate all the input!
Summary: AQUA is a computerized device that people use in lieu of various things, such as furniture. In a way, it’s like the smartphones we have today except a lot more versatile. At least for Souta, it has been his lifestyle for as long as he can remember.
His dear childhood friend, Chisa, was killed in an accident 7 years ago. This event was devastating for the young boy who didn’t even know the concept of death, and after having moved away from this town for a while, he returns today with his mother, Tomoe, to this beautiful area where the mesmerizing Luka overlooks its population.
As he is transferred to the school after a little mishap with a crazy young woman (…), he is extremely startled to find out that Chisa, who he was sure was killed, arrives late to school. It’s the same old Chisa who greeted him with a shy smile and the nickname “Sou-chan”, the clumsy girl who has now all grown up and become beautiful.
Story Length: Moderately Long (35 hours; or it felt like this because of how boring this game was)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Very Easy
Comments: 1 choice to make, three heroines whose route stems from it, a “Luka” Route involving the “Past Events” in a subcharacter’s point of view, and a Final Route continuing off of Chisa’s route titled “AQUA” involving new characters. Any questions? No? Good. Let’s move on
Character Design Rating: 5/10
Story Rating: 6/10
Protagonist Rating: 1/10
Game Quality: Moderate
Overall Rating: 3/10
Rating Comments: As mentioned in the Foreword above, this was quite disappointing.
Souta himself is relatively useless throughout the game and was more fitting to be a subcharacter or even less. How each heroine and subcharacters was conveniently in love with him/affectionate towards him for almost no reason was enough to drop his scores below average, but how he himself being a weaker protagonist who has absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on throughout the story was really the killer for this score. In fact, the “reader” knows MUCH more than Souta throughout the game and can likely make better decisions than him, so there was that comparison if you will. Luka route displays Keiji, a different subcharacter (who becomes the protagonist of that route), and in “AQUA” which was the final route, Souta was barely present.
To be honest, it seemed as if Keiji was more protagonist-like than Souta purely due to said Luka route, which is really a bad design overall (because you’re essentially saying a subcharacter > protagonist). It’s within this route where Keiji is mostly in action and where most of the past (which is quite damn important for understanding other routes, mind you) is revealed. If at all, some subcharacters seemed to be the protagonist purely based on how much influence they had on other heroines and how much action they had in the story.
Character is unfortunate for that one sole reason THEY ARE NOT DEVELOPED WELL. Each character is pretty much thrown at your face and character relationships are formed within literally 2 minutes after they meet (e.g. Nanari is immediately given the attention/care like the same they she meets the group of friends for pretty much no reason and without a good transition. To be more realistic, Souta and his friends should have been more “cautious” of this character at first). The same can be said for the romance development, as the later portions of the game (or more specifically the character routes) display the protagonist and heroine with a strong bond for each other, but they literally only have a couple (like seriously. I counted like 3 meaningless scenarios for each heroine) of direct interactions before becoming lovers. If you took the first half of each route, it was essentially a meet-and-fuck game, which is NEVER a good thing.
I can only discuss how these heroines were lacking, more than I can actually describe them in the first place. They were seriously THAT underdeveloped.
Seriously, the game needed to take the time to develop each character. It even felt as if the writers were just itching to get on with the main philosophy and story to the point they completely went “let’s just skim over these characters who are supposed to be displaying these philosophy” and just rushed the beginning. Just as how games are bad when they rush the climax, games that have a rushed introduction is just as bad or even worse because do note: this makes the entire game extremely tedious. Because of the lack of development, each scene seems boring, not immersive, and results in the reader not becoming engaged in the scenario. At least for me, that’s how it felt throughout the game.
Moving on to all this talk about human life philosophy and futuristic sci-fi: It’s overall touching and all that and generally a plus, but some of the basis of this philosophy was flawed as I’ll give examples later. It’s quite obvious that this philosophy was the main focus of this game because the transition in this part was at least a bit more bearable
Despite being what I would consider the best portion of the game, the story was still pretty shitty. Philosophy saves its score (though it’s flawed…), but the transition does not. Just like the character development, stuff happens spontaneously and is never explained why to why it was happening, making the scenario feel very forced. There are some “aww” moments within the game especially during the main heroines’ interactions with various subcharacters, but these “aww” moments only worked to some extent, until excessive amounts simply ended up becoming cringy instead.
Character Summary: Thankfully, there are only three heroines that I need to go over.
First is Chisa, the girl who is supposedly Souta’s childhood friend who was killed in a car accident 7 years ago. She maintained the personality that Souta remembers, and this does give some “mystery” vibes to the story such as to how she’s still alive. Clumsy is what you could call this girl, although aside from her introduction, she didn’t really stand out much.
Strangely enough, Chisa, while likely the main or central heroine, was the least developed. She has the least amount of “screentime” if you will, compared to the other two heroines and there’s nothing about her to “sell” her character. If at all, it would be her clumsiness and larger bust size, which is already pretty damn cliche.
Chisa’s route ends with her being killed again for the 2nd time in the same manner as shown in the beginning scenes, but her coming to school the next Monday as if nothing has happened. Her route is continued in the AQUA route.
Turns out, Chisa is a clone. The “real” Chisa is hidden in the laboratory where her Mother goes insane (not literally though) and tries to change the fate of Chisa, who was somehow destined to die from a car accident. There’s the philosophy presented here that “the Future is fixed, we cannot change it” that somehow related to one’s consciousness, but again, this is flawed philosophy that you should really not pay much attention to.
As a character, Chisa lacked that impact needed for a central heroine who was the main focus of the true route. How she didn’t have much screentime compared to other heroines was something awkward about her character, and how there are countless number of holes in her design (e.g. Her not talking about the 7 years between her “death” and when she meets Souta, her not having any form of self-existential crisis, etc…) made this character pretty bland and more of a headache to look at.
As someone who welcomes Souta to his new environment, Rin is the well-spoken girl who seems to be the center of the attention, and reaches out to Souta, immediately befriending AND being affectionate for him (…) right from the get-go. She has a younger sister named Kaede who follows the same fucking pattern (seriously Sorahane?), and is your archetypical tsundere classmate character.
Rin does receive a bit of scenario with Nanari in the beginning portions of this game, and while I agree that it’s quite heartwarming overall, the conflict is resolved so quickly I didn’t even have the time to say “aww”. It rises from Rin’s misunderstanding, and literally a couple of scenes later you see each other hugging and having this solid bond which came out of nowhere and I’m just like “wtf did I just skip through time?”
Rin’s scenario does LOOK like it gives some foreshadow with the history of her parents, but is actually a fake since it doesn’t have much significance (LOL). It involves her now-dead mother and the story of the Priestess who was able to foresee the future, but this doesn’t really play a big role in the story.
As with other severely archetypical characters, it was really hard to become engaged with Rin’s story, or sympathize with her loss. How the later portions of the game show that Rin and her sister Kaede were also “fake” was poorly revealed and more result of a “We need to make the readers cry; what shall we do? I know! Let’s kill her off! 8D” kind of design and the lack of interaction between Rin and Souta didn’t help with this scene either. It was essentially Akiko’s route from Moshihare minus all the interaction. Readers may remember how I didn’t like Akiko’s route; now imagine that, but worse.
Nanari is the last of the characters, and is considered an upperclassman loli who is also very uneducated. Frankly, I think this worked well to her overall design, because her route involves just that; how she is ignorant and even dumb (academically) due to some event in the past. She works at an old store and is emotionless most of the time, and it’s also shown that she’s a victim to bullying.
Unfortunately, this “bullying” component is never clearly defined, and was more of a cheap element used as an attempt to have the reader feel more sympathy for the character… which didn’t work out.
Nonetheless, Nanari’s route begins with how her eyes sometimes turns blue which is the sign that she is capable of using something called “EC” (never defined what it stands for, by the way), which is a superpower relating to AQUA. The problem is that she herself do not remember these episodes and it’s quite troublesome since she starts attacking Souta or his family.
The game then reveals that this girl received some kind of experiment in the past which conveniently resulted in the stopping of her growth in exchange for this superpower which someone can control via remote. It really makes the girl fearful of what happened in the past, but later on in the route, the subcharacters decide to remove this superpower, which then conveniently results in the complete memory loss between when she received the superpower and now.
Nanari as a character was least annoying in my eyes in terms of design, but heavily lacked impact and perhaps even originality. The convenient memory loss with a flimsy bond between the two characters was one of the worst stories I ever read, and it doesn’t take a genius to predict at this point Nanari somehow regains all this memory back extremely conveniently.
Personally, I was fucking hyped when I saw these beautiful CGs, thinking I was in it for a treat. Nope!
Instead, the true route, which consists of “Luka” and “AQUA” routes only delve into the least impactful character, Chisa, and her surroundings. Luka route goes into the past of Keiji, Tomoe, and Chika, as well as a new character named Saori, while AQUA follows the end of Chisa’s route and has the subcharacters spilling the beans all at once to Souta (Wow, you’re so bad at being a protagonist), and the characters deciding to stop this madness once and for all (BECAUSE IT WAS NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO DO IT EARLIER YES?)
Frankly, this was another bad design on Sorahane’s part because the entire game pretty much displays the use of this “AQUA” supercomputer which is so versatile, but now you have heroines who are suffering because of that same thing. The entire heroine routes and the true route tries to go ahead and suggest that “AQUA is bad”, but this is never explicitly stated (by any character), nor are there an antagonist to actually put the blame on.
AQUA (the route) introduces a new character called Satomi who is literally the genesis for all of this mess, and goes into the detail about her life when she was a human herself. As mentioned just now, this is one of those happy-go-lucky scenarios where “evil” is not present (there’s the “Authorities” of the ECReD facilities, but they’re never even shown), and most of the scenario was “QQ-I’ve-made-a-bad-life-decision-boohoo” which quickly became annoying.
The game then had the nerve to try to push in the romance element at the very end and I was just sick of it at that point. It ends with a couple more scenes regarding the relationship of Chisa.
Which was that Nazuna is actually Chisa’s older sister. BECAUSE IT’S OBVIOUS THEY’RE NOT RELATED EVEN THOUGH THEY LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME, RIGHT???
Sexual Content: Low
In short, the beginning of this game was horrible, lacked impact, and was generally extremely shitty in all forms of transition and flow. This kind of introduction was the formula to a bored and annoyed reader as he was displayed the main philosophy, and this only worked against the story since it only made me sensitive to the flaws of the game instead of trying to genuinely enjoy the story.
The real meat of this game was the Slice of Life Philosophy (which did wonders to save the score, mind you), but even that’s not without flaws. It actually caused a large drop in score due to all the convenience, contradictions, loopholes in the theories presented (such as the theory of Tachyon, role of AQUA, etc…), which was mainly due to again, the lack of development. The game makes no efforts to help the player understand the concepts presented in the game, and had the atmosphere of “Shut up and understand” attitude where the reader was “forced” to acknowledge these theories. A little bit of research on Wikipedia suggest that the writers DID NOT do their research, because it obviously fucking makes sense that modifying the brain with this fantasy element called “EC” allows for life-threatening diseases to disappear, and that Tachyon is the element that allows us to determine the future.
What I’d like to do to the idiots who thought this kind of design would be a good idea
The problem with Sci-Fi novels like this is that since it’s all about the future and the unconfirmed theories, the writers cannot actually place a definite conclusion to said theories unless they’re also some super-genius scientist who have solved this mystery (which in that case, they deserve a Nobel Prize). The game does just this; try to place a definite conclusion on an unconfirmed theory. While it’s not a bad idea to do this (because there are PLENTY of sci-fi games out there that are good), this absolutely requires the game to take it slow and explain the logical thought process with careful but twisted reasoning and the “rules” defined at the introduction scenes. AQUA does NOT do this and instead tries to force the reader to understand. (At this point, I was laughing at the idiots who wrote reviews on Getchu and other sites who thought all of this shitty philosophy made sense because it’s just so obvious they were the victims of this “forced reasoning”)
Characters are wide in variety and detailed with subcharacters who play an important part of the role… So much to the point they overshadow the main heroines themselves who are essentially Damsels-in-Distress the entire game and crying for sometimes the smallest reasons. Again, I’ll point out that it seemed as if the subcharacters, primarily Nazuna (the teacher) and Tomoe (Souta’s mom) were the protagonists instead since they were the ones who knew everything and always in action. Frankly, that would have made this score a bit better. (Fuck you Souta, you spineless wimp)
Nazuna, who is more of a protagonist than the protagonist
As for the heroines themselves, a lot of their traits are revealed much MUCH later into their routes, while their personality seemed very generic (e.g. Deredere Childhood Friend, Tsundere Classmate, Quiet Loli). Even though I thought their main storyline was extremely immersive and even original, their first impressions of being these archetypical and unoriginal characters really repelled me from trying to get involved with the heroines and to try to get to know their background a bit better. The writers really need to improve on creating a solid, impactful first impression of these characters, in addition to adding MUCH more development.
In fact, I would have really appreciated if the writers COMPLETELY removed the romance element from this game. Fuck the romance. It was absolutely unnecessary, poorly planned, and was never a main element. These are the games that I find H-scenes to be quite disgusting, because not only does it waste my time, it breaks the engaging atmosphere or the immersion the game tries to create with the main story’s philosophy. If I may be so bold to add salt to the wound, take out Souta completely as well. He’s not special. He’s not influential. Hell, he’s not even resourceful; it’s always the subcharacters like Nazuna or Tomoe who are more in action, smart, powerful, and in action.
Rin too, but it was literally for like 5 minutes
Affection for the Characters: Very Low
CG Score: 4/10. Background is beautiful, but I am NOT a fan of the character art. The artist obviously had trouble drawing hands, and characters are lacking a damn nose. I know it’s supposed to be bishoujo art and stuff, but Jesus Christ, they literally just have a black pixel smack in the middle of their face to call a nose
Dem Hands tho
Music Score: 7/10. Better of the pile, although nothing especially outstanding
- The general atmosphere of this game is episodic and futuristic with the hint of nostalgia. I’m quite a sucker for this “rural setting” to be honest, although the setting itself was highly convenient (e.g. Presence of AQUA computers and the Luka) and more of a minus
- With the Philosophy of Life included as a part of this game, there is some meaning and perhaps something to learn from this game (hey, I’m trying to be nice with this game here!)
- Plenty of subcharacters in this game, though it’s somewhat of a minus that some of them are more important than the main characters
- Comedy is the least thing this game contains, making it only viable for players who want a serious story
- Romance is absolute shit and should NOT have been added
- Transition of scenes and the flow of this game needs a lot more work. Relationships are formed too rapidly, and some events happen almost forcefully and without a good transition.
- Character Development is poorly done and probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen. (Even a nukige has more character development than this game)
- It’s hard to sympathize with these characters with their hardships for the above reason; this “sympathy” was really needed since the entire game showed these heroines in distress for their conditions
- Some philosophy is flawed and reasoning completely absent. The game forces the reader to “accept” the theories presented in the game.
- Much of the scenes can be defined as “convenient”, likely due to the neglect of development that the game had in the first place.
- Protagonist is worthless, and possibly less prevalent than even a subcharacter who briefly became the main focus during the Luka route (Keiji)
Overall, like the previous game mentioned in the Foreword, AQUA was a game with a very good content; it just failed horribly with pretty much everything else; character, development, and transition. It wasn’t my imagination when I started playing this game and got bored ultimately procrastinating it for over half a year, and I’m seriously puzzled to why the hell it received the “Best Game” label on Getchu, or the high ratings/favorable reviews. I do have a couple more games from Sorahane on my backlog which interested me to a certain extent, but I’m not sure if if I should go through with them after having played this one.
Again, I would sincerely appreciate if someone can give me some feedback about other Sorahane games, and whether you would consider them worthwhile. Thanks!