Endless Ocean Luminous is the third title in the scuba-diving series that began with the Wii in 2007. This latest entry gave fans a nice surprise when it was announced by Nintendo only months before release. It may be a slightly different take on the series, but it still brings a relaxing underwater experience full of sea life for adventurers to enjoy. 

You play the role of a deep-sea diver who catalogs the environment by scanning each and every creature dwelling below the surface. This simple premise creates the perfect form of escape. There’s no life meter or timer to worry about; in fact, there’s nothing stressful at all. Even your air tank never runs out of oxygen. If you want a chilled experience to help unwind after a long day, there’s nothing quite like sitting back and enjoying a dip into the world of Endless Ocean Luminous.

There are four modes to enjoy. When you first dive in, you’ll automatically begin in Story mode, with Chapter 1 taking you through the basics of how to play. This is a great way to start things off, gently introducing you to the mechanics of diving. Once complete, further chapters are unlocked, allowing you to choose to progress with the story or try another mode. 

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The story itself involves a mysterious underwater tree that’s losing light. The premise is to collect light from sea life by scanning them during your dives. This, in turn, powers up the dying tree, bringing balance back to nature. It’s a feel-good story that’s perfectly fine; it’s just enough to motivate you, though, honestly, the scanning itself is so enjoyable that you don’t really need an overarching reason to do so. Still, the chapters are generally short and sweet enough to enjoy between dive sessions, giving you a nice story to follow if you choose. One niggle is that you eventually reach a point in the story where you can’t proceed until you’ve scanned a certain amount of creatures. While I had no qualms about returning to dives, it seems like an unnecessary blocker if you’re generally interested in the story.

This leads us to Solo Dives. As the title suggests, this is the spot for diving into the ocean on your own. You’re presented with a large area to explore, specially generated when you begin a new dive. Although some elements like caves and reefs are bound to appear each time, it keeps each dive feeling fresh. You can save and return to an existing dive, too, which is just as well; it takes a long time to thoroughly scan the entire area. 

A map in the top right shows your position in relation to the area’s boundaries. The map is blank to begin with, filling out with topographical blues as you swim through. A handy percentage indicator updates as you progress, and it’s easy to see which areas are still blank. 

The other incentive to visit new areas is that this also tends to lead to the discovery of new aquatic life. This is where Endless Ocean Luminous truly shines. There are well over 500 species to discover (578 to be precise). There’s something calming about casually swimming through crystalline waters and witnessing the amazing life that dwells within.

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And everything looks fantastic. The humble Switch does a great job of presenting players with a beautiful world to explore. The water is simply teeming with life. I’m genuinely impressed by this. Not only is there a lot of data to load when you dive (with thankfully short load times), but the fish look so real. I constantly felt like I was swimming through a National Geographic documentary.

Cataloging creatures is super satisfying. It’s a two-step process. Firstly, you scan an area with a quick tap (or hold) of the L button. Holding allows you to scan multiple fish at once, cutting down on any tedium that might set in. Once scanned, you can optionally snap a photo since there’s an album to fill out in addition to the scan logs. This is equally fun; I love lining up the perfect shot, preferably with choral or something interesting in the background. 

The documentary aspect comes from the description of each creature. This is also optional, but once a creature is scanned, a quick tap of the A button presents a blurb of text that’s also read aloud. It’s not too long, not too short—the perfect amount of info for learning about sea life.

The next mode is Shared Dives. This is very similar to the solo mode with one key difference: this is where you go to dive with friends or random online players. I was curious about the online experience, which the trailer promised would group up to 30 online players in an expedition. The Switch isn’t known for its online prowess, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this mode works quite well. I was equally surprised at how fun it is to swim with other players. There’s an instant bond that develops when you encounter another person sharing this world with you, and you can wave and perform other antics to show your camaraderie. It would be even better if you could talk to them, but that doesn’t appear to be a feature of this version.

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Another missing feature is the jukebox. The music that accompanies each dive is lovely, with ambient tunes that twinkle serenely in the background. It adds to the serene mood and helps sessions feel like short stints rather than the long stretches they turn into. It’s easy to pass time in this world. However, if you’re looking for a way to revisit the soundtrack outside of the water, you won’t find that in this title.

Endless Ocean Luminous still offers plenty to do, helping to justify its high price tag (it’s a first-party published title, after all). Apart from creature logs, photos, and shared dives, you can also salvage for sunken items. There are 340 of these to discover, which fills out another separate log. You can also purchase different suits for your diver by using coins earned by scanning. Plus, there’s a fourth mode I haven’t mentioned yet (were you keeping count?). This is Event Dives, which are special time-limited dives that present you with unique opportunities to encounter rare underwater life. It helps generate a community feel to the proceedings, again providing a sense of belonging when you share these events with other players. And who knows what you might find while you’re down there?

Overall, Endless Ocean Luminous is an extremely relaxing way to spend your time. It’s easy to lose yourself in this environment and enjoy the interesting creatures sharing your space. While it’s not necessarily for everyone, newcomers like myself should enjoy it. There’s no doubt this is a fun experience, even if some elements might not appeal to fans of previous entries. Still, I genuinely enjoyed my time in the water. And I’ll continue diving for some time to come.