The OG Aokana was a breath of fresh air. It managed to take the generic high school romcom setup and give it a bit of a competitive sport spin, and with a very defined and interesting fictional sport at that. However, it also managed to do all of this with the utmost production quality. Tons of moving images, high-quality assets, a mountain of event CGs, it had a lot going for it. So the question is, can a short spin-off focused on just one character maintain that level of quality?
So right off the bat, I gotta say, if you have not already played Aokana, this is not the game for you. I mean sure, you can try to play it and probably get at least somewhat of a grasp on the story, but you’ll be missing so much context that it really just isn’t worth it. So no, I would not recommend skipping the original game, because somehow that’s always a question a lot of people have.
With that out of the way, I’m going to go ahead and give this spin-off some props for actually addressing my main complaint from the base game: that being its handling of the romance elements. In the base game, those elements came second to the sport, with most of the story being focused on the competitions, the training, and whatnot and putting the romance side on the backburner. In fact, in some routes, that romance was so limited that it just comes off as forced and really took me out of the story.
So here comes an entire spin-off dedicated to fixing that very problem. This time, it’s focused on Mashiro – who may have been my least favorite character of the bunch, but still a likeable character all things considered. In the four or so hours it took me to finish the game though, it managed to provide all that was missing from the original. You get some actual romance progression, a fair share of character development (which is pretty impressive given how much of that was already done in the original), nice slice of life scenes, and an actually satisfying ending to wrap it all up.
In fact, you could even say the genres were reversed this time around. The sport aspect to the title is given very little coverage, with the romance put on full display. I won’t deny that this was a little bit disappointing, but at least they’re trying to balance it out a bit. And it does all of this without losing itself to the H-scenes that usually plague character routes in other visual novels. Yes, there are a few H-scenes here, but the material in-between does not come off as padding and that’s usually my main complaint with such visual novels (which tend to focus so much on these scenes that it brings down the rest of the route).
And for what is technically a fandisk, I gotta hand it to the studio for actually living up to the quality they showcased with the original game. Usually, such fandisks are lower quality and rushed out to sell at some fan event, but with EXTRA1, you get a full-fledged production, complete with all the high-quality assets, animations, and CGs that the original had. NekoNyan has once again ported the game with native 1440p support and it really allows all of the visuals the chance to shine. The original game and this spin-off are still some of the best-looking visual novels money can buy, and I really wish other VN companies would take note.
So yeah, I would give Aokana – EXTRA1 a positive recommendation. It may be a short experience, but it manages to tell a nice story during that time while also fixing some of the problems from the original game. And of course, it does this with some top-tier visuals in 1440p courtesy of NekoNyan. For fans of the original game and the character, it is definitely worth a look. If anything, this sets the standard for what one should expect from a GOOD fandisk.
Quote: Aokana – EXTRA1 may be a short experience, but it manages to tell a nice story during that time while also fixing some of the problems from the original game. Worth a look for fans of the original.
You can buy Aokana – EXTRA1 on Steam here. The game is also available directly from publisher NekoNyan on their website. A free 18+ patch is available for the Steam version.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.