Review: As the great Disney guru Sebastian once said: ?Life under the sea is better than anything they've got up there.?
Comprising nearly three quarters of the Earth's surface, the great oceans have become somewhat of a mystical world for men. With the unexplored depths of open sea, stories of sea monsters and mermaids have weaved their way into the depths of society from our ancestors all the way to the modern day where crazy archaeologists try to prove the existence of Atlantis. Every year, millions of people go on dives after intensive training, while a large portion of our population is left to see this world on hi-def National Geographic cameras. Thankfully, Nintendo has attempted to bring a piece of this experience to our living rooms with Arika's Endless Ocean.
One part interactive screen saver and one part adventure game, Endless Ocean is a pseudo-sequel to the PlayStation 2 games Everblue and Everblue 2. So if you're looking for the next great action game to play after Devil May Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed look elsewhere. Similar to their other two games, players take on the role of a customizable diver in an open-ended world whose role is to search for underwater treasure and take photographs of fish; all the while educating the player(s) with facts about sea-life. In between these missions, there are several fetch quests where players essentially lead their diving partner on a dive to search for a specific fish. As players traverse the ocean, new places become accessible via gear and you can begin to explore the inner depths of the abyss and swimming at night. While there are numerous amounts of these quests and different places to swim, they do tend to become quiet monotonous after a while.
Thankfully there are other diversions such as filling an aquarium with the fish you've seen as well as training animals. Although it's not as deep as something like the Pets series by Ubisoft, Endless Ocean is a lot more accessible to everyone; including the 'hardcore' gamer. I mean would you really want a pretty pink box sitting next to your copy of No More Heroes?
In addition to the single-player mode, everyone's favorite Friend Codes makes a return appearance. Although people can play the game across the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection showing each other the tricks that their partners know as well as diving with each other, its adds little to the replay value of the game. The main appeal of the game is it's open-ended nature and the game's graphics; which are some of the most attractive to be seen on the Wii.
Although the graphics up on the surface are nothing to write home about (you won't be using it for much other than getting quests and checking your e-mail), you'll be spending most of your time interacting with the amazing world beneath the sea. Using some interesting lighting effects and scaling, the developers brought the world of fish, penguins, and whale sharks to life for the player to see. Although some of the locations may begin to look like each other after a while, especially coral, there's enough variety with the underwater caverns and ruins to make the player gape in awe. Personally, I found myself wishing the Wii supported 1080p on more than one occasion.
Along with the fresh visuals, the audio is the other standout point in the game. Letting players play their own MP3s through a SD card is a welcome addition, but in my opinion isn't particularly needed as some genres just ruin the experience. Unless of course you're the type who enjoys listening to Crazy Train Ozzy while playing with little fishies; then hey, all the more power to you. Thankfully the game's soundtrack by Celtic-vocalist Haley Westerna is strong and sets the game's ambiance just right. In addition, the noises made by the marine life come through clear just like you would hear them if you were actually swimming.