Love can make people do crazy things. In this case, it’s able to prevent superpowered chicks not blow up and potentially kill thousands of people. And if that’s not a good enough concept for a visual novel, then I give up. Based on the light novel-turned-anime by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko, Date a Live: Rio-Reincarnation is a triple-pack of visual novel goodness. Rehashed clichés, fanservice, and a genuinely gripping experience with lots of replayability make it an irresistable pick.
Thirty years ago, mysterious entities known as spirits began causing ‘space quakes’, killing millions of people as a result. These quakes became sporadic but dangerous occurrences; the spirits are actually pretty girls (who are 18 or over, as clarified by the Steam store page – rest easy, weebs) who just need a bit of love to prevent them from going ka-boom. The plain-as-cardboard MC, Shido Itsuka, realizes that he alone is the only one who can save the spirits and determine the future of the planet in a series of dramatic events.
The title is made up of three visual novels previously released exclusively in Japan, but now with new endings and cutscenes. Thing is, some players might dive into it without checking out the source material first. Don’t worry about getting too lost. Thankfully, the prologue and ‘Digest’ mode will give you a brief little background check on all the members of the cast, not to mention a run-down of the events in question. The three scenarios don’t exist in a bubble; the decisions you make in one game will have an affect on the later ones.
As you traverse around the map, you can interact with side-characters, go on dates, or take part in mini-events, of which you have a limited amount of turns to take part in. The map restricts you from exploring areas that have no effect on the game, so at least it’s courteous enough to prevent you from wasting time. Socializing with the extras feels a bit pointless; they’ll talk just about any sort of fluff. Use the limited time you have with the ladies wisely, as there will be plenty of mandatory events taking place in between. Considering the amount of opportunities and scenarios there are in the game, it’s easy to say the title just oozes replayability.
Dating and socializing the ladies alone isn’t enough. Every now and again, you’ll be given dialogue choices that’ll have noticeable effects later on in the game, so you’ll definitely feel like your actions do indeed have consequences in this. The rewards you get (no spoilers!) are satisfying enough, yet you can earn yourself a Game Over or two if you’re careless enough. It’s not a difficult game, so it’s not like it springs them onto you unfairly. There are plenty of achievements to be awarded if you goof up, condescending though it may feel.
Unlike some visual novels out there, Date a Live: Rio Reincarnation does not rely on still images of characters with little-to-no voice acting. The artwork and animations are simply stunning. the creatively designed cast of characters move about and change their facial expressions during dialogue exchanges. Backgrounds are full of colour and detail as well, much like the visually impressive CG cutscenes. It’s just such a pretty-looking game, which helps set itself apart from a lot of the competition out there. Its delightfully peppy soundtrack is certainly worth a gander, too.
While the voice acting is exclusively in Japanese, there are English (as well as Japanese and Chinese) subtitles available. The writing can be dopey and the kind of stuff you’d expect from any other harem anime, but it knows how to set the mood or crack a laugh, no matter how over reliant on clichés it can be. The heroines in particular all have their own memorable quirks and traits to them, like the incredibly shy and introverted Yoshino, who uses ventriloquism with her hand-puppet in order to be more outgoing and confident. A few, game-exclusive characters can be found here as well, though they’re not quite as special in comparison. Shino, the main character, is as generic as they come, and his dialogue is often made up of excessive use of capital letters at times.
There’s quite a bit of bonus content popped into this one: galleries, cutscenes, comic strips, CGI movies, and even Japanese drama CDs. Sadly, the latter lack English translations, so listening to audio-exclusive skits with no way of deciphering what they’re saying outside of learning Japanese yourself is a bit of a pointless inclusion in a Western release. Additional bits ‘n’ bobs like these are still great pieces of fanservice to go alongside the – ahem – other kind of fanservice…
Date a Live: Rio-Reincarnation is a three-course meal of visual novel goodness that fans and newcomers (so long as harem tropes that you’ve probably seen a million times don’t rub you the wrong way) will surely get a mighty big kick out of. Its memorable and wacky story is strengthened by its mostly-memorable cast of odd jobs, writing and visuals. Excessive use of capital letters and a few dull characters are minor nitpicks, especially considering the amount of replayability and unlockable knicknacks on offer. It’s the kind of date that’s hard not to daydream about.
Game code supplied by Idea Factory.