Review written by Misya Danielle
The Waters Above: Prelude is a vibrant and enchanting kinetic visual novel set in a unique fantasy world. The story is split into four parts each of which will focus on a different character, each of the story fragments connect together in some way to clarify how the characters relate to one another. This visual novel was developed by Studio Elan as a free prequel to their yuri visual novel titled The Waters Above, which will follow the same 4 characters presented in this prequel. Sekai Project published The Waters Above: Prelude to Steam in late June of 2018. The visual novel includes features such as a CG viewer, access to the game's music, a guest art gallery, and accessibility options. Due to it being a free visual novel there are no Steam trading cards with the game.
The story takes place within a magical oceanic world set in the vast space of the heavens where sea nymphs are tasked with taking care of the living stars, separating their world from the Earth is a dome known as the Vault of Heaven. in this magical world set far into space magic is fading and the stars die off. As magic continues to fade from the world not only are the stars of the heavens dying off but so is the very purpose of the sea nymphs who have spent many thousands of years tending to the stars. Despite the tragedy, many of the unique residents of this vibrant ocean-like world continue on as if all is as it should be but their are four very unique girls who are left to figure out what their purpose is in a world that is quickly changing. In this short visual novel we will see the world from the unique perspectives of Apple, Maeru, Clio, and Iris each of which play their own unique role in the preservation of the world.
Apple is the first star born in hundreds of years, she has taken on a human appearance and can often seem like a young and adventurous child. As such a rare and special star Apple is naturally being watched over to ensure her survival as stars continue to die off. Maera is the one tasked with looking after the rare human-like star who's name is Apple, she is incredibly formal and takes her work with stars seriously. Maeru has been purely dedicated to her task as the star's gaurdian until her romance with Clio begins. Clio is a spunky girl who is in charge of maintenance with the Celestial Authority, she manages to obtain Maeru's affection quickly with her straight forward yet laid back behavior but even her love for Maeru doesn't keep her from wanting to venture away and escape. Iris assists with archives and also dedicates much of her time to researching the stars in an attempt to save them, she appears to be very self centered and aggressive about reaching her goals and comes across as sadistic. The four girls have their own unique roles in the unfolding of this tragic story about relationships, tragedies, and forgiveness. While the visual novel is rather short, we get to see enough of each of the characters distinct personalities to see their strengths and flaws. The characters are mostly enjoyable and it will be great to see the four girls develope in much greater detail in the visual novel The Waters Above.
The graphics are absolutely stunning, the vibrant colors and the beautiful designs make the visual novel very pleasing to the eyes. The character designs are all unique and well thought out, the color schemes and clothing of each character is well suited to their roles and personalities even as the characters develope. The background art is well suited for the oceanic and fantasy themes of the visual novel truly bringing it to life, everything from the ocean floors to the town cafe maintain the setting of a fantasy world with an oceanic theme. Despite the lack of overall animation, the world is brought to life thanks to the beautiful art work full of vivid colors and beautiful sceneries. As far as the visuals are concerned, there is hardly anything lacking.
Currently the visual novel is only available in English interface, it would be great to see more language options in the future so that a wider audience can have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful visual novel as well. The English text is well translated with minimal errors and no issues when it comes to the flow of the words, it is very common in visual novels for their to be noticeable text errors despite the great importance of the English text on the quality of visual novels. I hope that The Waters Above will include other language options and quality voice acting unlike its free prequel, for a free game it is far more forgiveable to lack these things. When it comes to voice acting, the visual novel would be even better with quality voice acting but it is not a huge deal breaker especially for such a beautiful free visual novel.
Keep in mind that this is a kinetic visual novel, this means that the player has no affect on the outcome of the story as there are no choices to make. As with most visual novels the gameplay simply relies on clicking through the text. The main menu has options to begin one of four character stories, change the options, or access the gallery. The stories have to be played in order once to have access to all four freely. The in game menu only features the basics such as save game and load game, it is by no means a bad thing since this is a kinetic visual novel. With such an interesting story it would have been interesting if the player could affect the outcome of the story in some way or at least change some of the interactions between characters. In general it feels like a lot more could have been done with the gameplay. Again considering that the visual is free maybe The Waters Above will deliver a lot more than this free prequel.
If you enjoy kinetic visual novels with vibrant graphics, fantasy settings, and tragic back stories The Waters Above: Prelude is definitely worth a try. There is of course some plot holes in the story that are likely to be covered in The Waters Above, it can honestly be a bit confusing at times if you don't study the plot and characters carefully. Something else to keep in mind is that this is a yuri visual novel and not lightly so. Two of the characters are quite obviously in a girl with girl romantic relationship, however there is no sexual or explicit content of any kind. The visual novel is lacking in a few areas where hopefully its successor will not be so lacking. Overall this is a great visual novel especially considering the zero dollar price tag.
PROS (+): Unique Story, Beautiful Graphics, Enchanting World, Quality English Text
CONS (-): Plot Holes, Lacking in Features, Lack of Language Options.
SCORE – 8.0/10
This review is based on a free download of The Waters Above: Prelude on Steam published by Sekai Project.