Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm Review

Written by warum

Read the full review over on Tomato Conspiracy

titleTitle: 蒼の彼方のフォーリズム

Maker: sprite

Release: 2014/11/28

Playtime:  semi-long (2-3 days)

[Intro]

Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm, hereby shortened to Aokana, is sprite’s 2nd game (3rd if you count fairys as well) since everyone’s favorite eroge of chocolates and elections. It is also getting a TV anime adaptation in the making, before the eroge even released.

Aokana is an ambitious project in many ways, one of which being the story is based almost completely on its original fictional sports Flying Circus, a sport involving people flying on jetboots. From rules to strategies, a large part of enjoying the eroge would lie in how well you understand the sport.

However, having excellent art work, voice actor/actresses, world setting, music and orthodox plot, Aokana shows that good ingredients does indeed make a good product.

[Character]

masaya flight

Hinata Masaya is the male lead of the story and the appointed coach of the FC club. Due to past events, he no longer wishes to associate with the Flying Circus. But from some “helpful prodding and encouragement” from his peers he winded up (!) as a valuable guide and mentor. Truthfully, he still holds a deep passion for the sport and wants his friends to experience the joy and pleasure he had.

asuka first try

Kurashina Asuka (CV: Fukuen Misato) is the new transfer student who meets Masaya on her first day which leads to her first flying experience. Initially shown as aerially inept, she does not give up and quickly shows an aptitude (or dare we say… Altitude!) and motivation for the Flying Circus. Honest and upstanding, Asuka trusts her coach and teammates wholeheartedly and believes in the goodness of others.

misaki window

Tobisawa Misaki (CV: Asakura Azumi) is Masaya’s long-time classmate and resident sloth (The Misa-zaru!). Although she excels in academics and physical activities, her primary concerns are food and sleep. Even so, she deeply cares for her friends and family and is one of the instigators to draw Masaya back into the Flying Circus. Misaki turns out to be one of the stronger FC club members and is regarded as the ‘ace.’

Arisaka Mashiro (CV: Sera Mito) is the twin-tailed kouhai who joined the FC club mostly because of Misaki. Energetic and doting, she has no fear of telling Masaya her thoughts about him and is swift to make dubious judgments on his character. However, Mashiro also has her own insecurities and wonders if she truly does fit in the FC club as the rest. She’s also a hardcore gamer.

rika pot visit

Ichinose Rika (CV: Yonezawa Madoka) is literally the girl-next-door despite attending a separate school. Serious and mindful, she sometimes gets the wrong impression of people (usually Masaya). Yet she understands herself to a fault and recognizes the value of Masaya as a coach even if she may not fully comprehend his teachings. This leads to a personal request to attend his FC club.

[Story, setting]

In a world where flying in the sky is as simple as riding a bike, “Flying Circus” (FC) is the most anticipated sport of the world.

It is the exact sport where our protagonist, who was deemed to be the next rising star, closed his heart to when he experienced utter defeat. But, through the meeting with a new transfer student, from teaching her how to fly, he regains his passion.

weeee

Through the discovery of “anti-gravity particles”, グラシュ(Grash), Anti-Gravity Shoes was invented. Requiring no engine nor feathers, Grash soon revolutionized the way humans travel. Though due to air traffic controls, it is heavily regulated in its usage; Civilian usages are only still in experimental stage, conducted in controlled environments. One of it being 四島列島 (Shitou islands).

howtoflyingcircusFlying Circus, a sport using specialized Grashes, takes place over the seas of Shitou in a 300 meter square formed by four buoys. A one on one match between 2 players where the player with more points by the time limit wins.

There are two ways of getting points: touch a buoy, or touch your opponent’s back.

While the concept is simple, there are many intricacies to the sport. For example, if your opponent is faster than you, short-cutting to the next line to stop the opponent’s advance is a valid strategy. The contact between two anti-gravity objects causes repulsion, and causes deceleration/acceleration. Some players may choose to sacrifice a point to the back in order to gain acceleration towards the buoy.

grash

As such, there are specializations for FC Grashes: Speeder, those who wishes to focus solely on touching buoys, has the highest speed and acceleration of all. Fighter, those who wishes to fight their way for points, has highest initial start up speed and can change directions quickly without building momentum. And the middle ground, All-rounder, where you can do both sides. The question is, do you want to be stepped by one of ‘em? AHUEAHUE.

[route impressions]

Well, I’ve never completely understood people’s fascination with the sky. They tend to talk of abstract ideas, especially about being free. That is why when I come across works that involves sky, I worry if I will truly understand the marvel behind it. It’s easy! Just imagine yourself in this video!

My favorite Misaki face!

But I think Aokana was easy to grasp. Moreover, I could easily relate to the characters as it is as much a story about flying as it is about struggling with setbacks.

That is why I really liked Misaki’s route.

Misaki’s route continues from the common route, after the first tournament where many expectations were betrayed and many hearts shattered. Misaki, being one of the victims, decided to quit FC club after, and Masaya chases after her.

Misaki realized that she will never become as good as Asuka will be. Lacking either FC sense, or talent, things that can never be covered through working hard alone.

Genius. Gifted. What people call those who were born with an innate aptitude towards something. If that person was someone who is beside you, as a competitor, of course there would be fear, even jealousy. I enjoyed how the sentiments in Misaki, and in Masaya were portrayed in this route. It is a very ugly side of human nature, but a very real one.

There’s no clear answer to how to deal with this emotion except to stick with it. And I’m glad the route doesn’t make it any easier for the two to overcome their own problems. Masaya himself said, he is training Misaki not to beat Asuka, but to be able to “fly straight” again. I strongly believe that it is only in this route Masaya truly moved on from his past.

In short, I liked the DARK SIDE of FC. Kukuku. Like the wise one once said, the sun is too bright for some of us! We also get to see why the strategy of control by Inui is so powerful, instead of turning FC completely into mythical magic power-level matches.

While I do concur that Misaki’s route is the most revealing in certain mindsets of serious competitors, it is unfortunate that I don’t share the same level of enthusiasm as Emperor Palpatine my co-writer. This is all due to the fact that I find Misaki to be a very able Skywalker yet she refuses to acknowledge her own set of skills or talent. Considering that she tends to not take FC training and deliberate practice as seriously as Asuka, it is difficult for me to sympathize with her struggles. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

asuka sky

Compared to Misaki’s route, Asuka’s is almost the complete opposite in direction and theme. Masaya takes charge of Asuka’s training and does all he can to make her the best Skywalker she can be in preparation of the greatest obstacle, Inui Saki. Through their practice, Masaya learns about Asuka not only as a player, but also as a person. Grateful for the one who introduced her to the joys of the FC, Asuka supports him as he overcomes his fear of past failings and reignites his former love of the sky.

asuka bright

When it comes to Masaya’s growth, I believe Asuka’s route is at the same level of emotional power if not more so than Misaki’s. This is the only route where he legitimately showcases his personal ability as a Skywalker and it is further reinforced when Asuka performs his signature maneuver during the final confrontation. This is a metaphor that Asuka and Masaya are flying together as one. Their answer for what the Flying Circus is all about is the constant strive to stretch the human potential and the sky is the limit. In short, I think overcoming personal obstacles through hard work and dedication is an admirable and attractive quality.

mashiro sd gurash

Mashiro’s route is more or less a step back from the finer details of the Flying Circus and looks on her status as an underdog. To put it mildly, she is the most underachieving member of the club and she is at a crossroads of what she wants to do especially when Misaki prematurely leaves the FC. However, she takes to heart Masaya’s promise to make her a better player and does not give up despite the oncoming succession of failures. But that is what gives her charm and her effort finally pays off, ending her pursuit for Misaki’s return to the club.

mashiro hoodie

While it seems like Mashiro and Misaki are forever two peas in a pod, her route really shows off her attraction to Masaya in full force. Arguably, this is the most romantic story of them all because the focus is almost exclusively on their personal relationship. This is a different but not necessarily a bad approach though it does cut down on the amount of high-speed FC matches except for the very end. Instead, the reader is given many cute Mashiro scenes including “cat-in-a-box” and “stuffed animal dubs.” But for the diehard Mashiro fans, that is probably all they need.

Mashiro route should be renamed to Marshmallow route. Everything is designed to melt your heart away: cute heroine, cute stuff dolls, and just filled with sweetness. While Mashiro’s route isn’t the most FC-oriented one, I feel it does a good job of giving perspectives from a third person view on the FC club. In the route itself there are several view switching between Mashiro and Masaya. Although filtered over the love goggles, we have a view of Masaya interacting with other members of the team objectively.  Furthermore the route develops Misaki’s character quite abit, her past with Mashiro can be summarized as… UDON KNOW ME. (I wouldn’t want to be on the mother’s bad side.)

rika sd laptop

Rika’s story covers her dramatic change from a rigid, by-the-textbook, Flying Circus player to a softer and more flexible Skywalker, not only in skill but also in personality. Though suspicious and reluctant with Masaya’s unorthodox training methods, she has grown to trust in his guidance and more importantly, enjoy the activity of play regardless of results or scores. This is put to the test when she meets another Skywalker, Kurobuchi Kasumi, who utilizes dirty tactics to grab an edge on her opponent. Rika’s greatest challenge is not only adapting against a style that favors foul play, but proving the value of fairness and sportsmanship.

rika date

There are many different philosophies regarding training and sports in general so the internal clash between Rika’s formerly serious nature with Masaya’s formative one makes the route interesting to me. It also doesn’t hurt that Rika is pretty darn cute and is absolutely adorable before and after she breaks out of her shell. The following conflict between her and Kasumi and the ensuing FC match is exceptional where both players ‘take off their masks’ and show off their skills and techniques to their utmost ability. A solid route with a sweet balance of FC exposition, Skywalker battles, and individual character development.

A surprising route that had good balance of FC and character. Most of which my co-writer already addressed, but it’s a light version of Misaki’s route and Asuka’s route combined. As I played Rika’s route last, seeing in all the other routes especially Misaki’s how much Rika wanted to improve her FC, it was a satisfying end to an interesting side of FC. Foul play is prevalent in many sports, but moreover the FC techniques (Cobra, Angelic Halo etc) always struck me as something that doesn’t directly help one get points, but rather a method of interfering with the opponent’s chance of getting points. I’m glad it was explored in Rika’s route.

[System]

saveload

Why is there no music library! My only gripe ;_;.

They’re doing it on purpose I swear. The music is absolutely amazing and really enhances the FC matches and dramatic portions to another level. This proves that you don’t need music character CDs to bring in the dough. Make a killer soundtrack and sell it separately!

The SD art are adorable. H-scenes are okay. One thing I was impressed with was how the sub-characters were all very memorable.

 Pr0n content was great as always but the transitions are sometimes awkward. SERIOUSLY WHERE ARE THE SUB-CHARA ROUTES?!  

[Conclusion]

Aokana shows us that sums of excellent parts does indeed make an excellent whole. The art, though no longer done by Akinashi Yuu, stays consistent through the franchise. And like the art, the setting continues from previous works (Takafuji academy from Koichoco). Daily life scenes also feel more instrumented/meaningful than the average chara-ge.

numberonemeat

FC Battle scenes were well-done. They have good tempo and the action feels smooth even though there are dialogue in between. The musics are great and does wonders to heat up turning points of the match. The personalities also really start to show in the matches, portrayed in each character’s playstyle. But most of all, the rush of speed and unrestrained movements really did share, not only to the characters but also to us readers, the joys of flying in the blue sky.

The only thing that made me confused is how in the world can the players continuously banter with each other when they’re always flying around at different velocities and wind conditions. I can tell you that you won’t hear ANYTHING when you’re jetting at supersonic speeds.

Though, I’d say the eroge goes a very orthodox method in it’s plot developments. So some scenes will feel, perhaps, cliched (and cheesy!) to some. If that doesn’t bother you, Aokana is a great read.

I like crackers with my cheese and this is nothing compared with anything Lass or 3rdeye comes up with. Aokana is an immersive and engaging experience and if you like cute GRILLZ in SMEXAY suits and spreadeagled in all their glory, THIS IS THE GAME FOR YOU.

…sigh.

Read the full review over on Tomato Conspiracy

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warum

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