Endless Ocean wasn't the greatest game I had ever played, but I found myself discussing it in great detail to whoever would listen. It was like having an aquarium, but without any of the slimy bits, accidental dead fish or curious cat paws to contend with. I found that Endless Ocean was what one writer deemed a veritable "puppy cam" game. Over time, my marine notebook filled up with discoveries, and my appreciation for real aquariums increased as well. But other, flashier games caught my attention, and the lure eventually faded. For a while, I simply forgot about it.

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The desires to improve the gameplay and push the technology were powerful motivators in the development of Endless Ocean's sequel, Blue World. In a developer interview, Nintendo Producer Hitoshi Yamagami commented, "Right after we'd finished that last game, [ARIKA Producer] Mr. Mihara began telling us, 'If we had a little more time, we could do this and that.'" But even with those time constraints, the game did remarkably well for a game of its type. With approximately a million copies sold worldwide, Endless Ocean found great success outside Japan, selling nearly five times more copies in the North American market and taking ARIKA by surprise.

"We really didn't expect it to sell as well as it actually did overseas," ARIKA Producer Ichirou Mihara said. "A child in Europe sent us a letter by airmail; I couldn't read it, so I had someone else read it for me, and it said, 'I love Endless Ocean, and I pet the dolphin every day.'"

I found out about the sequel a couple months before its release as a side mention on a web forum I frequent. The more I read about it, the more interested I became. Blue World promised more "game-like" elements, like coin collecting, achievements, the ability to level up skills and upgrade equipment. Further sweetening the deal was the promise of more realism in both fish variety and diving locations (like the Weddell Sea, for example). And to top it all off, the graphics had improved. That was enough for me to unleash my inner fangirl and, in a moment of excitement, pre-order the game. In a sea of $60 titles with disappointing sequels, I figured even if I enjoyed Blue World only half as much as the first, it would still feel like a bargain considering the $30 price tag.

"This game has a failing, you know. The problem is that it's hard to explain in a word just what genre it belongs to," Yamagami remarked. He was right: While the first game was designed for explorers, it is clear Blue World was designed for achievers while simultaneously trying to appeal to the more action-oriented crowd. The developers added tools like the Pulsar Gun, simplified interaction with animals, increased the number of swimmable locations, and added an overall sense of danger with a limited airtank and animals that attack the player. It was a bold step to move from a calm ocean to a dangerous one, but compared to other games that appeared at the same time as Endless Ocean, ARIKA didn't have much to lose in the first place in terms of an established fanbase.

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categories: 3d, fantasy