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 Afringe Home / Reviews / AIR 12/04/2022 



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Visual Art's
NEC InterChannel
A big hit Japanese PC game, reborn on the Dreamcast game console.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
By Ever Cheung

At first glance, one might think that AIR is just another relationship game developed with that never-changing formula - a young man in a town he had never been to, a few female characters with multiple endings... that would be it, right? You can't be more wrong.

Developed and released for use on Japanese PCs at the beginning of 2001, AIR was originally designed to be an R-rated romance adventure. To the surprise of many of the critics in Japan, AIR was actually able to capture a much larger and much broader audience than just the expected target group. Far more than other factors such as the excellent graphics and soundtrack, the crowd was captivated by the extraordinary storyline and the vocal works that brought the game to life, such as "Tori no Shi" preformed by Lia, an opening song that fits perfectly into the theme. Other examples of this are two other songs also featured in the game - "Aosora" and "Farewell Song".

On September 18th, in order to bring the highly regarded tale of romance and adventure back to the market once again, Visual Arts and NEC InterChannel finally released the slightly modified version of AIR on the Sega Dreamcast game console, with R-rated materials filtered out to make it more suitable for gamers of all ages. The modification also helped to draw the focus of attention more toward the story itself, which was one of the key elements that led to its huge success several months ago.

~~~ Stepping off of the bus at a bus stop near the outskirts of an unknown seaport town with the sun shining down on you like there is no tomorrow, you reached for your wallet... there wasn't enough money to eat, much less enough to get a ticket to catch the next bus out of this tiny town. You sighed and lay back on the bench nearby. "What to do now?" you thought to yourself. With only a dusty duffle bag by your feet, pawning valuables was obviously out of the question... then, your thoughts were distracted by a sudden burst of laughter not far away. It was two little kids, a boy and his older sister. A thought crossed your mind, "How could I forget?! I still have one talent!"

Quickly, you pulled out a worn old puppet from your back pocket and placed it on the ground before you right at your feet, just as the kids were walking by hand in hand. "Now or never!" You cleared your mind and concentrated hard. "Tic-tac-tic-tac" Without touching the puppet, it suddenly began to walk on its own. To move objects without touching them was one of the only two things that you - Kunisaki Yukito - had left from your mother before she passed away.

An hour passed, and despite your best effort, the puppet show didn't seem to interest either of the little kids at all. Tired and with no money (it was stupid to expect the kids to give you anything for your puppet show to start with, now that you think about it), you decided to walk over toward the bay area to find a place to spend the night in the great outdoors... Suddenly, a slender female figure appeared in front of you, standing on top of the concrete walkway by the sea as the sun shed its last rays of light behind the girl. Shielding your eyes from the dying sun, you gazed at the girl and a strange thought wandered into your mind, "... Is she by any chance... the girl I had been searching for all these years...? The one whom I'm destined to meet?"

"On the other side of the cloud, lives a girl with wings who had been trapped for a long long time... it is only you, Yukito, who can save her from her own sorrow..." Those were the last words that your mother left behind. Ever since that day, you have been wandering all over, in search of that girl... is she the one? This girl standing in front of you? Just when you were about to open your lips, the girl, who seemed to have noticed your approach from afar, turned to you and smiled... and so, the story began. ~~~

The most significant difference in terms of the development of the storyline itself that distinguishes AIR from others in its group is that typical romance adventure games employ a system that can be simplified as a triangular shaped story structure. The player starts at the top of the triangle, and with each decision made, the player will then be sent off to a sub-branch that brings him or her closer to one of the few designated endings made for that particular game until the very end. But for AIR, the story is much more similar to a diamond shaped event structure, with three phases - I: Dream, II: Summer and III: AIR. Although the player may be able to reach one of the endings with the female characters in the game, once the player had cleared all the available endings, the game itself will actually evolve into a second stage, with a different title background and an entirely new game for the players to start with. All of the events will eventually lead to one single, final conclusion at the very end.

Personally, I would say AIR is more like an interactive novel than a game. But of course, without the high quality artwork and the touching soundtrack, it would be much more difficult to bring out the soul of the game. If you are a person who can get emotional easily, better have a box of Kleenex around for this one... T_T *sniff*

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