Fall in love with supernatural spirits and explore a new side to the Date A Live franchise in this visual novel trilogy.
Title: Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
System: PC, PlayStation 4
Length: 25-35 hours (estimate for all 3 games)
Other Info: VNDB Page
When comes to seeing most games based on anime or any source material such as light novels or manga, it can be something of a pipedream to ever expect a release outside Japan. With most falling into the realm of niche and obscure, I can understand the skepticism of many companies to prioritize what they can reliably sell rather than worry about what might be difficult to in the face of licensing cost and other miscellaneous problems. However, with the popularity of visual novels making said companies a little bolder to push the envelope and vocal fan demands loudly echoing in the background, such titles are beginning to make an appearance with starling frequency. Date A Live, a mixed-media franchise consisting of light novels and anime has been a requested property that many wanted to see in English. Thanks to the efforts of Idea Factory International. Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation finally makes its way to a new audience. The best part: there are 3 games included in this release instead of just one.
Putting players in the shoes of Shido Itsuka, the series as a whole focuses on the efforts of this high school student to seal the power of wayward Spirits by making them fall in love. Where it would be advisable to have some knowledge of the series, it isn’t completely necessary as the games do give the player a skeleton explanation to work with. Extremely basic as it is, players won’t need to know terribly too much as Shido is placed under a host of different situations over the course of the trilogy. Where the first two entries in the series (Rinne Utopia and Arusu Install) are considered standalone, overall, the story elements and original characters introduced do culminate in the final game and considered sequels. That being said, where the original characters are slightly interesting and the story presented great, the real point of enjoyment and draw for many will be interacting with the main heroines. Of course, where newcomers to the series might have some success, longtime and returning fans will get the most mileage and a reason it is recommended to have some familiarity with the content other than what you’re presented with.
For those intimidated by the sometimes cryptic progression of visual novels, Date A Live is more akin to a dating sim in a few respects. Throughout the trio of games, players are given a map, icons denoting specific character locations. In addition to getting to view 2 optional events each day, the character then gets to hang out with the main heroine of their choosing, each event progressing along their route. With fairly obvious choices to be made, it doesn’t take much to avoid early endings or reach the best possible outcomes. In terms of content, where Rinne Utopia has the least number of routes, story-focused, but more pleased with how they turn out, Arusu Install has the most, but shorter in terms of reaching them all. Even so, I believe most fans will likely be looking forward to the Arusu Install content, despite the endings not being that great and more on the fanservice-driven side of the equation.
With Tsunako reprising her role for the artwork as with the light novel series, the pieces are both vibrant and eye-catching. Similar to most of the animation and effects found in previous Idea Factory titles, they make an obviously seamless transition for this one in particular. Having the first two games originally released on the PlayStation 3, the port to PlayStation 4 and PC can clearly be seen: lively HD sprites and crisp CG scenes alongside some moderately impressive backgrounds. The moving CG scenes can be a bit too much, but appealing in its own right. The music selection is average, sparse in number, yet gets the job done and makes for pleasant listening. I still won’t be able to exactly signal or point out specific tracks, yet noticeable when activating specific scenes. As aforementioned in the small informational guide I made, the drama cd’s and artbook material is included in this release as it was for the Japanese release. The only omission is that the drama cd’s don’t seem to have a translation included with them either in-game or separately included.
Seeing that Date A Live: Ren Dystopia is a long way off from its Japanese release or even an English announcement, the Rio Reincarnation trilogy is a nice and unexpected release. Having a narrative that is not exactly high caliber, but loveable characters and a few perplexing threads, it is should prove to be a good time for ravenous fans wanting more from the franchise and a decent opening salvo aimed at the uninitiated. In many cases, where I can say that video games based on established franchise have trouble presenting anything worthwhile to partake of in the first place, Rio Reincarnation just offers more to those already familiar with the series and for newcomers, possibly another gateway into this intriguing universe.
Final Verdict: Not exactly the most pressing of reads, but when it comes to characters and an interesting world, Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation provides a solid reading experience for fans of the franchise and a great opportunity for newcomers. Of course, with 3 interconnected novels that don’t take too much time to finish, it is also a quick and painless read for those ready to dive into the wider universe.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This is by my own volition. A review copy of the game was kindly provided by Idea Factory International.