Friday, 10 October 2008
Aquanaut's Holiday - PS3 - First Look
At last, my copy of Aquanaut's Holiday dropped through the letterbox yesterday afternoon and I've put around six hours into it. So, time for some impressions.
The game is more mission based than Endless Ocean, so that means quite a chunk of Japanese text. However, I've been making steady progress without many problems.
Initially it seems your travel is rather limited - you are only able to explore a fairly small circular area - similar to Endless Ocean. However, that doesn't last long. At the edge of your starting area is a powered down Sonobuoy. To get it working again you have to head back to base and purchase a battery. When a battery is placed in the Sonobuoy, your area of exploration increases.
So far I've managed to find nine Sonobuoys and have opened up a significant chunk of the ocean, although I've not even uncovered half of the play area yet.
The first section takes the form of a tutorial, getting you used to the handling of your mini-sub. Here, you also have to locate four singing stones. When found, each of these stones adds a different note to the PS3 controller's shoulder buttons. With this new ability you can sing to certain creatures called Singers. As you explore, you'll occasionally hear a Singer somewhere in your vicinity.
Approaching them, you have to replicate their song pattern using your new found ability. These songs start off easy, but get increasingly harder. Successfully singing to these fish fills up your Meme Chart. Filling this chart upgrades your sub, so you can dive deeper, turn faster, carry more stuff etc.
Each 'Singer' has 20 levels. The first level of songs requires you to match two or three notes in sequence. However, at level 20, you will have to replicate close to 30 consecutive notes. This, as you can imagine, is complicated, so have a pen and paper ready to scribble the notes down. Completing the Singer's 20th level rewards you with a trophy.
Every fish, mammal, piece of stone, rock formation etc you click on is added to your Aqua Library, and with around 420 different things to find, Aquanaut's Holiday will last you quite a while. Every new discovery also rewards you with cash, which is used to by new equipment such as batteries.
I've been playing through the main story mode, but I've also discovered one side-quest so far, which involved looking for a sunken organ near the wreck of a wooden galleon.
You'll have to make frequent trips back to base to stock up on new stuff and to progress the main story. Here you'll find project manager Kemelman and your assistant Jessica. Developer Artdink have used actors from the West for these two roles, and the signs on dry land are in English, so I hope this is a sign the game will be translated and make its way to the UK.
All menu headings are also in English, although their contents are in Japanese. This makes navigating your way through the menu system hassle free, although I have found myself button mashing the 'X' button to make my way through indecipherable conversation trees. Still. at least it is clearly marked where to save the game etc.
The graphics are gorgeous and even if you're not following the main mission, it's still great fun to explore the ocean depths. Late last night I unlocked a camera, so all the pictures here are my own. Once a picture has been snapped, it is automatically downloaded to your PS3's hard drive. Of course, the game looks so much better and sharper when you see it in motion, so make sure and check out the video clip below to see Aquanaut's Holiday in all its glory. Everything there is actual gameplay.
The ambient music adds a great deal of atmosphere to the game, while the Hawaiian-style track that plays back at base is wonderful. It's all very laid back and is the kind of game made for lazy Sunday mornings.
There are also 50 trophies to unlock and this is the first Japanese retail release I've come across which features them. I've only discovered two so far, so I've a long way to go!
Aquanaut's Holiday has so far lived up to my expectations. It's what I hoped it would be and can't wait to take another dive. I'll post more pictures and observations as I progress