Developer: Idea Factory / Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory Intl.
Platform: PS4, PC(Steam)
Price: $49,99 USD
Release Date: July 23th, 2019
Over the last decade, Japanese light novels have skyrocketed in popularity among all groups of otaku. This literature format has given birth to several popular works, many which have gained sizeable overseas fandoms. One such is DATE A LIVE, a series about dating super-powerful teenage girls.
The first concern that an outsider would have when facing this game: Must I have read/watched the novels/anime to understand this?. The answer is yes.
There is a short introduction to the story and characters at the beginning of each game. However, it is more of a recap than an infodump. You could play Rio Reincarnation without any previous knowledge of the series but I honestly would not recommend it. The DATE A LIVE anime has three seasons, with 12/10/12 episodes each. It’s a hilarious show that I would recommend to anybody without reservations.
This release of the game is, in fact, a compilation. It contains the stories from the two PS3 games, Rinne Utopia and Arusu Install, as well as an original PS4 story, Rio Reincarnation. This is the first time these are available in English. You are expected to play these games in chronological order, as Rio Reincarnation is a story that binds the events from the first and second together.
Rinne Utopia takes place after the end of Season 1. Arusu Install is right after Miku joins the group, which is in Season 2. The events are non-canon to the main story, mostly because the cast forgets the events that take place during these games. The engine, art work, music and game systems are very consistent between all three game. Arusu Install is the longest while Rio Reincarnation is the shortest.
Before you begin, a word of warning. Upon starting the game for the first time, absolutely DO NOT choose the Digest option. This option will surmise the events of the first two games, complete with spoilers, in order to prepare you to play Rio Reincarnation. You do not want this, play them first and then click Digest. I wish someone had told me that.
The general purpose of both Rinne Utopia and Arusu Install is to immerse the cast in a parallel world where the player can control the protagonist and have fun with their favorite DAL girls. Both games have plots but they are mostly excuses for the cast to come together as one. Rinne’s game does this with magic while Arusu’s does it through means of a VR game.
The character routes in both games are basically bad endings where you never escape the fake world. In other words, you get stuck in a never-ending loop to date the girl of your choice. Clearing all routes enables a True Route, where you find the truth of things and escape.
The plot to DATE A LIVE is hardly the reason anybody reads or watches it, it’s a pure character-driven show and unabashedly proud of being a harem rom-com. The kind whose online discussion always boils down to arguments on who’s best girl. By the way, it is my duty as a completely impartial reviewer to point out that Origami is undisputed best girl, although I will agree that Kurumi and Tohka aren’t terrible choices.
On the other end, Rio Reincarnation has a different vibe altogether. It is a much shorter game and only has a few routes, just for the game-exclusive characters. It is a wrap-up to the events in the two previous game. There is also a complete tone shift from the rest of the series.
If I had to describe Rio Reincarnation, it would say that instead of being a highschool rom-com, it’s a happy family simulator. The character named Rio is young girl that claims the protagonist is her Papa and Rinne is her Mama. And then you get scenes such as these below.
Dear reader, I don’t know about you but I am an absolute sucker for this sort of stuff. If I didn’t know better I would say that Abe himself was whispering Japanese family-building-and-procreation propaganda into my ears.
For all three games, periods are split into days. Every day after school you get the choice of going on a date with a girl of your choice. You can also choose to converse with side characters too, which is required to get all the trophies.
As for getting your desired ending, it doesn’t take someone with a galaxy brain in order pick the choices that will take you to the good ending. There is a section that lists every scene you’ve watched and have yet to watch, in case you get lost. You can quick save/load or jump back from the backlog in order to see all possible outcomes from a scene.
A plethora of digital bonus content is bundled with this release of Rio Reincarnation, including Artbooks, Light Novels, some 4koma, and Drama CDs. Regrettably, the audio CDs are not translated in-game but I’ve found that a handful of them had fansubs on Youtube.
A little thing that I found was very useful was the use of the DualShock 4’s touchpad. Tapping the touchpad advances the text, which you can do instead of pressing the X button. I tried playing Rio Reincarnation using the PS4’s new Remote Play on Android devices and I found that this little feature made things so much easier, just tap the middle to pass.
The show’s soundtrack is reused in the games, and it’s all shared between the three of them. The ending themes are really good but, otherwise, it’s nothing worth writing extensively about.
Naturally, the game is fully voiced by the same cast that plays the characters in the show. There are no scenes where lines are not voiced. The protagonist, Shidou, is not voiced anywhere but the Drama CDs, which is the norm for visual novels anyway.
DATE A LIVE characters are designed by Tsunako, which you’ve perhaps heard about before. She has designed characters for Idea Factory’s Neptunia series, as well as Fairy Fencer. To say her designs aren’t fantastic would be a lie. That said, the quality of the art assets used in these games is quite good.
For one, all characters have multiple poses and clothes. Not just shifting face animations, their entire bodies change. Hairs move, eyes blink, lips move in-sync with speech, and chests are visibly moving from breathing. It’s basically the complete opposite of the last game I reviewed from Idea Factory/Compile Heart.
The locations you choose in the map are quite literally irrelevant, sometimes your character will just be there for the first screen and then move on, which struck me as nonsensical. There’s also the fact that this isn’t really a game aimed at new viewers, but rather just for the fans of the series.
By far the worst issue with this release is the censorship though. I will bring this up every time, as many times as it takes, because I believe it is an important thing to mention. The PS4 version had a handful of CGs and even a couple pages of the Artbook removed in its release. The Steam version is uncut though, and as such, I would recommend our readers to purchase the PC version of the game instead.
There were several little things that I liked in this game. The touchpad feature, separate save slots for each game, and the slightly naughty scenes that each of the girls have in their own routes. However, more than anything, I’m just glad that we got more DATE A LIVE content to enjoy in English. Despite appearances, DAL is not just a regular harem rom-com. I found myself grinning like like an idiot while playing this, simply because I enjoyed the contents. It’s pretty much everything I’d want from a non-canon entry of a series I enjoy.
I took way too many screenshots of this game, so I’ll put up a few more here at the end.