Aquadine – Review
Follow Genre: Visual novel
Developer: Soft Colors
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Tested on: Switch

Aquadine – Review

Site Score
Good: A well-written, lighthearted story
Bad: Doesn't do anything we haven't seen before
User Score
(3 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.3/10 (3 votes cast)

We’ve come to know publisher Ratalaika Games as a company that likes to bring unconventional titles to the public, like Long Live the Queen or Anodyne 2, so we were somewhat surprised when their latest release turned out to be a rather unremarkable title, at first glance at least. Aquadine, from developer Soft Colors, is a visual novel that is actually almost as basic as it gets, especially in terms of gameplay. Now, we do enjoy the occasional visual novel from time to time, and Aquadine definitely seemed to be exuding a light-hearted atmosphere with its laid-back visuals, so we were definitely eager to check it out. So what’s the verdict?


Whenever we take an in-depth look at a visual novel like this, we always have to tread the fine line between explaining what it is about and giving away spoilers. As usual, we’re going to try not to give too much away then, as most of Aquadine’s enjoyment comes from seeing the story unfold before your eyes. That being said, how can you decide whether or not the story is up your alley unless you know what it’s about? If you want to go in completely blind, then skip the next paragraph, because we’re going to lay out the basic premise, so you can decide whether or not Aquadine tickles your fancy. What we can tell you here is that the visual novel is well-written, with a fleshed-out world and characters that are likable and relatable. That said, on to the basics of Aquadine’s story.

The titular Aquadine is a city that feels like a cross between Venice and Atlantis. These days, it’s a modern city but it is steeped in ancient lore, myths, and legends involving a lost civilization and even mermaids. This forms the background against which our protagonist, a nerdy teenager named Robin, finds himself and his friends in an adventure where they’ll discover the truth behind the stories and secrets surrounding the city. One such secret involves Robin himself: when he takes his glasses off, he loses his shyness and turns into the charismatic Ciel, who guides tourists around the city in his gondola. The ball starts rolling when famous singer Elisabeth arrives at Robin’s school, and the two are paired up by their teacher, leading into a story about teenage romance, mermaids, friendship, and ancient mysteries. Those hoping to go into Aquadine to find fan service and lewd plot lines will end up disappointed though -this is a clean and wholesome story.


The hand-drawn anime art is one of Aquadine’s highlights. The character artwork matches the personalities conveyed in the text, and they capture the atmosphere of the story perfectly. Admittedly, Aquadine could have used some more variation during dialogue scenes, where we now simply get static images of characters. That seems to be something inherent to the genre, but given the sheer amount of dialogue present here, and the high quality of the full-screen artwork, we really would’ve loved it had Soft Colors (what’s in a name?) kicked things up another notch. Of course, a game like this doesn’t hog up a lot of resources and the visual performance was flawless.


Visual novels don’t tend to put a whole lot of stock into their soundscape –although there are exceptions. While Aquadine certainly falls in the latter category and puts in the effort, we’re not quite sure how we feel about the end result. On the one hand, the 25-track OST is tuned perfectly to the story, and is a joy to listen to. On the other hand, the voice acting ended up being a bit of a disappointment. Yes, there is voice acting, which was a surprise for a pure visual novel, but it’s limited to short snippets that don’t even match the on-screen text. These snippets simply aim to convey an emotion by having characters say things like ‘Oh’, ‘Hey’, or something similar whenever they start to speak. While we wouldn’t expect full voice acting in the first place for something like this, we felt like this was one of those rare cases where what’s present actually detracts from the overall experience rather than adds to it.


There isn’t a whole lot that we can say about Aquadine’s “gameplay” as it is pretty much non-existent. This is a kinetic visual novel, meaning that there are no choices to be made that influence the story. The only choice that you make during your time with Aquadine is which character route you wish to follow, a choice that takes place several hours into the story. Of course, how much time you’ll spend with Aquadine is going to depend on how fast of a reader you are. Our estimate is that it will take most people between 6 and 10 hours to experience every one of the four routes, which doesn’t seem like a lot of content when you look at Aquadine‘s undiscounted price of €19.99 (or your regional equivalent) on the various digital platforms it is available on.

The options at your disposal as you are reading Aquadine are limited as well. There are the absolute visual novel basics of course: you can auto-play the text, fast-forward through it, hide it to admire any artwork, and check a log in case you accidentally missed something. There are options to change text speed and auto speed. There is an encyclopedia of sorts that you can use to find out details about the game’s lore and there is a gallery where you can view scenes that you’ve unlocked by reading. It’s all pretty standard stuff for a visual novel and we can’t really call Aquadine a game. Naturally, this also means that there is literally zero “replay” value here; unless you simply love the story so much that you want to return to it to read it again, which is of course something that people like to do with their favorite literature. Given the game’s nature as a kinetic visual novel, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that the Switch version is the definitive version of Aquadine because it’s simply easier to curl up in a cozy chair with a hot drink and a Switch in handheld mode than it is to experience a visual novel like this on a TV or PC screen.


Whether or not you’re going to enjoy Aquadine is going to depend on two things: do you like visual novels in general and is the actual story presented here going to be something you’re interested in? For what it is, it felt well written, and the cast was definitely likable, but Aquadine isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind. It’s a run-of-the-mill visual novel with nice artwork and although the inclusion of character voices was nice, Aquadine never really did anything that made itself stand out from the plethora of other visual novels available these days. We did feel that it was a bit expensive for what you’re getting here, but when you compare the price to an actual physical book, then things look a lot more reasonable.

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Rating: 7.3/10 (3 votes cast)
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Aquadine - Review, 7.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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