Endless Ocean Luminous review: Deep blue sea

Feel free to take a relaxing swim, though you probably won't want to be in the water for too long.


It has been a long time since Nintendo explored the majestic seas. Beneath the surface live hundreds of unique creatures, all dependent on their surroundings and on one another to keep the natural order going. Players are getting a chance to explore and learn about many of these amazing creatures with Endless Ocean Luminous, the first time Nintendo has visited the Endless Ocean series since 2010. There's a lot of wonder to behold, but the wonder works best with a friend and starts to wane when swimming alone.

Under the sea

Swimming alongside a whale shark in Endless Ocean Luminous

Source: Nintendo

Endless Ocean Luminous takes players to the fictional Veiled Sea, where exploration is totally straightforward. Players can move straight into the game's story and are introduced to secondary characters like AI assistant Sera and diving partner Daniel. The World Coral is being threatened by a mysterious ailment and players must aid it through light collected from scanning the ocean's various denizens. Scanning fish is about as simple as catching a Pokemon and just about as satisfying, especially since there are so many beautifully rendered exotic creatures, from the tiniest minnows to the greatest of sharks and whales.

While the story sounds heavy on the surface, Luminous (like its predecessors) is a strictly cozy affair. There's no death or any real fail state in this game. Even the ocean's most dangerous creatures are docile for reasons explained by the narrative. Players are welcome to explore at their leisure for however much time they want.

Progression in the story is dependent on how many creatures are scanned across casual Solo Dives. While there is an overarching narrative and there are occasional missions delivered by HQ during Solo Dives, Luminous is a pressure-free environment. Players are encouraged to explore the ocean's depths, scan wildlife, and learn about them through Sera's narration. There are "goals" in the game, but they come secondary to the overall experience of simple exploration and witnessing the amazing animation of the ocean's denizens. It feels more like a playable nature documentary than anything else, though that does make me wish the ocean creatures would engage in more complex behaviors than swimming.

Scuba class

Posing with other online players in Endless Ocean Luminous

Source: Nintendo

The greater appeal of Endless Ocean Luminous is in its single map, which changes every time a player starts a fresh dive. It's possible to start a new dive each time out and explore different layouts, but I do appreciate that I can stick with a single layout for multiple sessions. Each time the map layout is generated, players are presented with different points of interest like sea caves, sunken ships, or icy depths. The sea's various environments attract different species of ocean life at different times of the day, so dives do feel different in that sense.

The main downside of Luminous is that regardless of the different ocean layouts, this isn't a game that's meant for long sessions. The charm of the ocean can wear thin after about an hour and, as meditative as the whole experience is, it can feel equally dull after a while. However, there's a much greater charm in experiencing the ocean with other people.

Shared Dives allows up to 30 friends (or 10 strangers) to go on expeditions together, easily accessed via a Session ID. Goals that are usually aimed at a single player can be shared by everyone in the session, which helps speed up overall story progression while also allowing everyone to bask in the same relaxing atmosphere. There's no pressure to stick together, but those that do want to call in nearby divers can use an intuitive pinging system. Plus, there's a multitude of customization options for anyone who just wants to show off, like different colored suits and emotes.

Dive in

While Endless Ocean Luminous feels limited as a single player game, it works far better as a communal activity. Whether it's with friends or random players, Luminous is at its best when there are more fish (figuratively and literally) in the sea. There are a few things that hold it back from being truly transcendent, like the limited ocean life animations and the story's overall structure, which is told through all-too-short individual chapters. With that said, Endless Ocean Luminous doesn't make a big splash, but it does feel like a relaxing swim.

This review is based on a Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Endless Ocean Luminous will release on Nintendo Switch on Thursday, May 2 for $49.99 USD. The game is rated E.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

  • Relaxing, pressure-free gameplay
  • Beautifully presented ocean with so much wildlife to meet
  • Layout changes with each new dive
  • More satisfying when sharing with friends
  • Wonder can diminish in long sessions
  • Limited sea creature animations
  • Mundane story
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