Vision of Aurora Borealis is a very short but beautiful kinetic visual novel with mild elements of fantasy and romance that don’t become very obvious until a bit later in the story. The visual novel was created by a small Hong Kong based indie developer called Purin Productions who is still quite new to the industry. The project was funded through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign that ran from late May to late June of 2015. A little over a year from the end of the Kickstarter campaign the completed version of the visual novel was released on Steam late August 2016 by the developer Purin Productions. The game does not come with any Steam achievements or Steam cards at the moment but there is a DLC for the fanbook and official soundtrack that might be worth checking out if you enjoy extra content.
The visual novel takes place in a fictional version of Iceland and surrounds legends of elves and the aurora borealis. The story begin when a young but inexperienced photographer named Chris travels to Iceland in order to get the perfect shot of the northern lights. After a troublesome little fox attempts to take off with some of his food a mysterious young girl appears to scold him for feeding the fox things it shouldn’t eat despite the fact that the fox stole the food. While remaining unapologetic the girl introduces herself as Gryla and they continue to talk. Since it is cold and Chris needed a place to sleep Gryla eventually invites him to stay at her home but instead of resting they begin to wander in search of the northern lights using her ability to mysteriously sense where it will show up. As the story progresses she begins to reveal who and what she really is and Chris’s life forever changes as a result of their meeting. Despite being very short the story is not only beautiful but it also accurately depicts certain qualities of Iceland throughout the story. The very gentle mix of romance into the story adds to the importance of the character’s bonds with each other without going overboard and thus keeping the story itself in the spotlight rather than the romance. This is among some of the best when it comes to story telling but it could have gone deeper than it did.
As mentioned previously Vision of Aurora Borealis is a kinetic visual novel meaning that it does not have multiple endings and you cannot make choices in the game. The game does not feature any complicated gameplay mechanics and all you really have to do is click through to continue the story or set it on Auto so you can sit back and read the dialogue. It is not as dark or tragic as other visual novels such as Narcissu or Train of Afterlife making it a perfect option for those times you want to simply relax and unwind. While you probably wont really need to use most of them the visual novel has the usual options for Saving your game, Loading a different save file, skipping through parts of the story, Auto playing through the story, and accessing the options menu. I don’t really recommend using the auto or skip options since the game loses value from the use of those options due to how incredibly short it is. It is best to enjoy each and every aspect of the game at your own pace. Since most of these features are a default for visual novels they don’t add or take anything from the game but some of the features seem a little unnecessary.
The visual novel features some strikingly beautiful artwork that is inspired by Iceland’s gorgeous winter scenery. Each of the images in the game are colorful and detailed but the images of the characters and the northern lights are some of the visual novel’s best. Gryla appears similar to a basic anime girl but it is the perfect cover for her special traits that don’t come into the light until later so it is almost as if her normal appearance was strategic in this case. Chris’s appearance remains a complete mystery until the end of the game where you will finally see a scene showing both him and Gryla. As for the scenery, it all has a bit more of a soft and enchanting appearance that blends well with the appearance of the characters. While many other visual novels have a greater degree of an artistic disconnect between the characters and their surroundings this one manages to keep it very minimal. The images transfer from one to the next very well and at times it creates a bit of movement to the characters. The art is definitely one of the visual novel’s strongest points and adds greatly to the overall atmosphere but it is even stronger in combination with the game’s story and beautiful soundtrack.
I can’t recommend the game to anyone looking to get days or even hours of gameplay from a visual novel but if you enjoy visual novels more for the quality of their story telling or art then this would be a perfect addition to your Steam library. The Story and art were enchanting enough to make me overlook the very short length of the visual novel since it felt like there was enough closure in regard to the characters lives by the end. The biggest issue with the short length is that it leaves you wanting more when it comes to getting to know the characters and watching them grow not that it lacks character growth so much as it feels like it left out parts that were important to their growth. With the only possible deal breaker for potential buyers being the very short length the visual novel is otherwise very solid and as a first game from Purin Productions I have to say they have amazing potential.
PROS (+): Enchanting Art, Beautiful Story, Endearing Characters
CONS (-): Very Short Story
This review is based on a purchased copy of Vision of Aurora Borealis on Steam.