Endless Ocean: Luminous review: Deep waters, shallow gameplay

Endless Ocean is a famous franchise that's been around since the Wii era. The newest one has just arrived and...it definitely exists.
Endless Ocean Luminous Key Art courtesy Nintendo
Endless Ocean Luminous Key Art courtesy Nintendo /

Back in 2008, a neat little title came out for the Wii called "Endless Ocean", a "spiritual successor" to the Everblue games on Playstation 2. It was a gorgeous (for it's time) title with an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack by Hailey Westenra. In it you were a scuba diver observing and cataloguing sea life. It was my chill out game. Fish would move out of your way, you'd occasionally encounter a large creature like a whale and you could hold on to it's side to help track it's migration pattern. It was so soothing.

There was a sequel that was, okay. But the first one really struck a chord with me. It was a rare video game that showcased the beauty of the real world and taught me weird stuff about sea life. Sea life being a classification of creature I normally avoid at all cost because outside of real life I'm terrified of deep water and the creatures within it are just demons. Hell is below the surface but it is water and not flame. Just saying.

ANYway, recently I found out that a new Endless Ocean was about to come out called Endless Ocean: Luminous. And while the Switch isn't exactly known to be a powerhouse, it's way more powerful than the Wii so I was really excited to see what I was in for.

Turns out...I wasn't in for much.

Endless Ocean Luminous screenshot
Endless Ocean Luminous screenshot courtesy Nintendo /

Endless Ocean: Luminous is one of those weird titles that you don't fully understand why it released. Endless Ocean was not a hugely successful franchise. Despite getting high ratings, the first game only sold about 50,000 copies. To put this into perspective, the absolutely incredible Guardians of the Galaxy game, was the second best selling game in the UK the year it was released and by the years end they had clocked that it had been played by over 9 million player accounts. Square Enix felt it didn't make sales expectations and so a sequel will more than likely NEVER happen.

So despite their most successful game only selling about 50,000 this game was released and it almost feels like the developers did it at gunpoint.

I try to approach games with an open mind. I'm a journalist, I try to be objective, but between you and me *looks around and then leans in* goddaaaaaamn is this game put together wrong.

Endless Ocean Luminous screenshot
Endless Ocean Luminous screenshot courtesy Nintendo /

It does not look like a game that came out in 2024 at all. The very first shot of my character I got excited. You get dropped into a little spot filled with colorful coral and you learn the ropes. Then you leave the area and find that most of the game is flat and sand textured unless it's a vertical wall, and in that case it's flat and rock textured.

Hidden objects are really easy to find because the development team didn't render them to be effected by water haze or lighting effects so from the moment it's within view you see it hovering over the rest of the game like a cut out, broken from the background.

And the fish do not seem to realize you're there. It was as if I was a ghost. I could swim through a school and LITERALLY swim through it. Passing through fish. I saw a young whale and sped straight for it, hoping to cling to it's side like I did on other creatures back in the original only to just...pass straight through it like Tidus trying to hug Yuna at the end of FFX.

The soundtrack is rough as well. There's music...sometimes. It's odd, you'll play without a soundtrack for about 20 minutes and then all of a sudden a song will play. Some generic thing. But you've gotten used to silence for so long that when the music plays you think something is about to happen and...nope. The game just randomly decided it was music time.

Endless Ocean Luminous screenshot
Endless Ocean Luminous screenshot courtesy Nintendo /

Story wise, the game was also really disappointing because, while Endless Ocean could be a great game about actually learning and caring for sealife, this story is a nonsensical fantasy thing that teaches nothing. Instead of learning the migrational patterns of fish or understanding the local ecology like in past games, you're instead scanning as many fish as possible because they're covered in "light" because "reasons". This light than gets absorbed by you and then, in turn, kills the fungus growing over and killing the "world fungus" which, I guess, keeps the oceans alive? It might be cool if the game actually cared about it's own story but it barely members it and instead turns the entire game into a fetch quest where you can't go on to the next three minute story stage until you've scanned about 1,000 or so fish.

All in all it's really disappointing. With all the technology available to us today, this game should have been an absolute blast, but instead it feels like the developers didn't give it room on their floating door and just let it drown.

Endless Ocean: Luminous (Nintendo Switch) Score: 3/10

If you're looking for a game where you can control a scuba diver and occasionally see a fish, you're in luck. If you're looking for ANYTHING more than that though you're going to be deeply disappointed. A step down from Endless Ocean's original Wii entries, Endless Ocean Luminous has you exploring a version of the ocean depths so boring and devoid of detail that it may as well be the background.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.