Endless Ocean: Luminous – Review
Follow Genre: Diving simulator
Developer: Arika
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Endless Ocean: Luminous – Review

Site Score
Good: Beautiful visuals
Bad: Dull and featureless gameplay
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.0/10 (1 vote cast)

If a year ago, you’d have told us that Nintendo themselves would be bringing back not just one but two forgotten franchises from the Wii era to the Switch this year, we wouldn’t have believed you. But lo and behold, following in the footsteps of Another Code’s glorious return, we’re getting a new Endless Ocean. Unlike Another Code, however, Endless Ocean: Luminous isn’t a remake but a full-fledged new entry. We have fond memories of the original Endless Ocean on the Wii, so we were more than eager to dive in (pun intended) with Luminous. But is it better down where it’s wetter or is there something fishy going on here?


Although Luminous does feature a story, it is a very basic affair, feeling more like an extension of the tutorial instead of something substantial. In Luminous, you are part of a scientific research organization, and you’re tasked with restoring the so-called World Coral to its former glory by exploring the ocean and scanning sea creatures. Scanning them extracts a form of light energy from them, which is used to revive the dying coral. You’re guided by your trusty AI assistant, and it doesn’t take long for a fellow diver, Daniel, to join you in your endeavor. There’s also a mysterious stone tablet that needs deciphering, which just so happens to be tied to the World Coral, so you’ll need to track down the parts needed to read the tablet as well as a selection of specific creatures.


The game’s graphics are arguably Luminous’ best feature. As far as Switch games go, the game ranks among the best the Switch has to offer, both in terms of performance and visuals. Lighting changes according to the time of the in-game day, as well as depending on your location and depth. The menagerie of aquatic creatures is lovingly rendered with a high degree of realism, and even though there are typically dozens of fish on the screen, the game never suffered from frame rate issues or long load times. It’s a title that is clearly optimized for the platform, and it looks fantastic, both in handheld mode and when docked.


Between the sound of your own breathing apparatus and the haunting songs of massive whales, Luminous’ ambient sounds create a realistic and fitting soundscape. Occasionally, classical music kicks in and it is when this happens that Luminous is at its most zen-like, although the moments where you’re exploring the deep in silence have their merit too. The game also features voice acting in story mode, although this is limited to the emotionless voice of your AI assistant and gibberish from Daniel.


We have fond memories of the original Endless Ocean on the Wii, and we were eager to find out how the diving simulator had evolved over the course of the last seventeen years. As it turned out, things hadn’t changed all that much. We’d go as far as to say that Luminous is as barebones of a gameplay experience as it gets. While developer Arika’s shtick may have been acceptable back in 2007, standards have changed since then, not in the least because we’ve gotten much more interesting diving sims like Abzû and the Subnautica games. Luminous, in contrast, feels like a glorified tech demo. Granted, it’s a very pretty tech demo that does what it sets out to do, but unrewarding incentives and a lack of focus hold back a game that could have been so much more.

If we don’t count multiplayer -we’ll get back to that- Luminous offers two main modes: Solo Dives and Story. Story mode delivers exactly what you’d expect, telling the story behind the World Coral across very short chapters. Progress through this mode is locked behind objectives that you need to clear, such as scanning a specific number of creatures. Typically, the easiest way to achieve this is through simply spending time in the other mode. Here, you’re dropped in the Veiled Sea, a massive open world that is inhabited by hundreds of sea creatures. Your task is to explore every nook and cranny, scanning marine life and finding items that are scattered around the map. And that’s pretty much it. You can find little snippets of information about the creatures by scanning them, and in this way, Luminous feels like a more elaborate, ocean-themed spinoff of Little Mouse’s Encyclopedia. However, there are no other actual objectives, or any sense of progress beyond seeing the percentages of explored content tick up.

There are over 500 species to be found across the map, including rare and even extinct animals like ammonites, plesiosaurs, and even a mosasaurus. The game occasionally creates moments of wonder and excitement when you run into one of these but ultimately, this doesn’t happen nearly often enough to keep things interesting. Adding to this is that there never is an imminent sense of danger: your oxygen never runs out, predators don’t consider you as prey, and your only interaction with animals happens when you befriend them. That last one does require meeting certain criteria, so we guess that’s something to work towards at least. Now, if you’re looking for a stress-free and calming experience, Luminous might be up your alley, especially since there’s no way to “fail” the game. Even exploring the map can be done at your own pace. At any time, you can see how much of the map you’ve cleared and what percentage of the creatures you have scanned. If you quit the game, you can simply return to the same map afterwards to continue exploring. If you’ve cleared the map or have grown tired of it, you can start a new dive on a fresh map and do it all over again. How exciting!

Points that you accumulate by scanning animals and clearing objectives can be spent on different outfits for your diving avatar and on emotes. This is where Luminous’ multiplayer mode comes in. For all intents and purposes, the multiplayer gameplay is identical to solo dives, with the exception that up to 30 people can work together to clear a map much quicker. There is no option to randomly hop into a map, and instead, you need to share your map ID with your friends. Limited-time event dives have already been announced to be added as a multiplayer feature for Switch Online subscribers. At the time of writing, however, the first event dive is yet to come, so we don’t know how these will work and what they have to offer. Even so, we don’t really expect these to save Luminous’ lack of long-term appeal.

It’s not that the game lacks potential. There is so much that could have been added here to make things more interesting: having different (unlockable) diving gear that allows you to reach different parts of the ocean, for example, or having the animals actually act like animals rather than having them just float around. Why not task players with recording specific behavior, similar to Pokémon Snap’s approach? Right now, the Veiled Sea feels empty and lifeless. Add to this that the game comes in at an eye-watering €49.99/$49.99 price tag, and you can see why we can’t recommend picking up Luminous when there are vastly more interesting diving games available on the Switch for a fraction of the cost.


We didn’t expect Luminous to feel even less substantial than Fashion Dreamer, yet here we are. The game certainly has its merits: the audiovisual presentation is great, and we didn’t run into any glitches or issues during our time in the virtual ocean. However, to call this an actual game is a stretch, as the gameplay is limited to slowly swimming around and scanning things. Luminous is nothing more than a glorified tech demo, and asking a premium price for such a featureless product feels downright insulting.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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Endless Ocean: Luminous - Review, 4.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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