Publisher: Fruitbat Factory (the Orange Juice series, Magical Eyes – Red is for Anguish, ENIGMA, Miniature Garden)
Available on: Switch (reviewed), PC
Release date: March 19, 2020
Price: $19.99 USD digitally, $29.99 physically via Eastasiasoft (limited collector’s edition is $39.99)
With the PlayStation Vita seemingly dead and buried (according to Sony, not its rabid fanbase) the Nintendo Switch has become a beacon of hope for visual novel fans looking to get their fix on the go. And with so many to choose from, I can safely say that Paleontology’s SeaBed is among the absolute best — not just on the Switch, but in general.
This slow-burn mystery plays out through the perspective of three childhood friends whose lives continue to intertwine with one another. Two of them, being Sachiko and Takako, eventually became lovers that separated at some point in their adult life. However, neither remember when or why that occurred, having not seen each other since the incident, and you’ll spend a majority of the experience slowly piecing that mystery together with the help of Narasaki, their mutual friend who is now a doctor specializing in psychology and hypnotherapy.
The game switches perspectives and timelines in an almost dreamlike state, plotting out the trio’s childhood, Sachiko’s adult life running a design company while suffering from memory loss, her being treated by Narasaki, and Takako’s new life without her. You’re taken along the former couple’s many vacations and business ventures and given a voyeuristic perspective on their relationship (yes, sex life included).
This is marketed as a “yuri-themed” visual novel and while sex is a part of most adult relationships, SeaBed is a mysterious love story through and through. So I wouldn’t worry too much about not being able to play this in public — there are a couple of sex scenes, though it’s all explained through text (not graphic images) and are few and far between. This is not a hentai, nor a sex-fueled romp.
Paleontology and the wonderful localization team at Fruitbat Factory did an excellent job keeping me guessing, where I never truly knew what to expect in future chapters while always being glued to my Switch, eager to see what happened next. This is a mystery that plays out so well and remains thought-provoking throughout and kept me guessing while I slowly pieced together the overarching plot.
SeaBed’s characters have an obvious anime aesthetic, but the story isn’t full of quirky anime tropes or wacky adventures. It’s an incredibly endearing and romantic tale full of plot twists and intrigue that spends the bulk of its time humanizing and building the entire cast before swiftly punching you in the jaw with the next big reveal.
As I said above, SeaBed is a slow burn, and I think the pacing may be a problem for those used to more action and adventure. This is a visual novel in the most literal sense — there are no decisions to be made and no branching paths with multiple endings. It’s you reading expertly-written text placed over images while the game’s sound design and music elevate the mood for a solid 20-or-so hours. Most modern visual novels offer more for the player to do, but not this one, and I was just fine with that.
Visually, SeaBed feels inconsistent and serves as my only complaint. It uses a lot of backdrops that are real-life images run through a filter but periodically switches to crystal clear environments designed in a 3D modeling program.
This is a little jarring at times. While playing, I chalked it up to having a deeper meaning and eliciting a more dreamlike state, but couldn’t fully connect the dots when it was all said and done. I’m still not sure what the purpose of this artistic decision was, other than the 3D models mostly being used during the storyboard scenes whenever character portraits were shown. Some of the game is left up to player interpretation, which I love, so who knows? Maybe there’s a method to the madness.
Overall, though, I was fully enthralled by the world Paleontology created. The story *goes places* and the final cash-out carried enough weight that I unknowingly started tearing up during the credits. When it was all over, I just kind of sat the controller down and mentally pieced together its narrative puzzle. It leaves just enough to your imagination.
SeaBed became a nightly ritual for me, sipping on a hot cup of coffee while eagerly flipping through its virtual pages. The next day was always full of anticipation, waiting for the later hours of the day to strike so I could fire up my Switch and dive back in. For a solid week, it was just me, my Switch, and a cup of coffee. I know the slow pacing will be a hurdle for some people, but this is an unforgettable journey I can’t recommend enough. If you own a Nintendo Switch and you enjoy visual novels, SeaBed is one of, if not the best of the bunch.
This review only refers to the Nintendo Switch version of SeaBed, which I received from the game’s publisher, Fruitbat Factory. It is also available on PC.
Cheap Boss Attack does not use a scoring system. If you have any questions that were not answered in the review, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it. As always, thanks for reading!