This is the first time I've covered a dating sim visual novel after doing reviews for series like Mages Inc Science Adventure visual novels and CINGS mystery oriented Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk 215. I figured sooner or later I was going to be looking into the genre as I really don’t see them in video game stores. Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation was released in 2015 in Japan but took four years to reach the western hemisphere.
Dating sim visual novels are romance oriented and the plots range from hentai to more “platonic and casual romantic”. They have a strong cult following among the Japanese Otakus but are very underground here in the west. The main theme about this game is love, friendship and romance. The stories were endearing and intriguing. It’s a fairly long game combined together. Rio Reincarnation also adds a digest scenario which is required to look at before you can access the main game. One odd thing not explained is that in the sequel Arsu Install, how Shido and the others met the other spirits.
Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation is a remastered port of 2 PS3 games and a new entry Rio Reincarnation. The games take place between the series of the anime. In the story, a series of bizarre events known as the spatial quakes have devastated Eurasia taking the lives of 150 million people, and for 3 decades, smaller spatial quakes were frequent. These spatial quakes were caused by “spirits”. Each of the games focus on a different narrative relating to the spirits and how they are connected to the world.
Shido Itsuka is a high school student who encounters a spirit on the rooftop of the high school and this encounter leaves him injured. Shido has no dating experience before the events of the game as he is just an average high school student. He and the spirits live together in a special mansion and Shido’s foster sister Kotori is the leader of Ratoskr, a group dedicated to saving the spirits.
Each of the spirits has their own elemental power and personality. Spirits must be completely emotionally stress free as the slightest misgiving is enough to cause a disaster. In Arsu Install, the dating scenarios puts you into hypothetical fantasy situations that range from kawaii, seductive and overall Kinky. In Arsu Install, the virtual reality segment is called My Little Shido and it places all of the dates into a virtual reality world.
Rio Reincarnation focuses on a mysterious new spirit who appears out of nowhere and Shido trying to figure out the origins of the spirit. There are two ways to deal with spirits kiss them and have them fall in love with you which will seal their powers, or kill them. The main goal is simple keep the spirits stable and kiss all of them so their powers will be sealed. But the only way to kiss them is to get them to trust you enough. Shido is a very nice guy and he will do just about anything for the spirts. He’s sympathetic to the spirits plights and will always go out on limb to save them from just about anything.
Each plot of the series is part of an overarching narrative but its accessible to newcomers of the franchise especially since many of us in the west were acquainted to the series by the anime adaptation and the books.
The background drawings were really incredible to look as were the cg art. The character designs were pretty neat as well. The musical score was low key and lighthearted but fitting for the game.
The user interface its simple and straightforward enough to understand. The characters now have moving animations but it feels stiff and their expressions are not varied. The voice acting is Japanese but English subtitles are provided and the Japanese voice acting is really good especially with Kurumi’s voice acting as she has the perfect mix of seductive and psychotic tone. Polygamy is something you are going to have to get accustomed right away as all of the spirits in the game will be in a relationship with you and you are going to have to date all of them in order to get the true ending.
The game uses a choose your own method approach, a common design mechanic in dating sims. You can choose whether to interact with the sub characters or the main dates. There are two maps in the game, one is the town map and the other is Raizen city map.In the later games it reduces the time to choosing only one character.
There are multiple choice answers which you can choose depending on the situation. If you choose the wrong answer, you could get the bad ending. You can skip the dialogue you’ve already read which is very useful.
After a while dating a girl, you’ll be locked on to the girl and everyone else will be locked out until your next playthrough and depending on what choice you make you either become romantic partners or else its game over. The dialogue choices were pointless since the story will play the same no matter what you go through especially in the case of Kotori. She’s almost always is going to get angry and will physically strike Shido.
The characters can make really stupid decisions especially when Kotori is involved. She was always incredibly impulsive and she always was just physically abusive and very toxic to Shido despite him doing everything and anything in his power to help and she just keeps abusing him. Ai, Mai and Mii were incredibly impulsive but were really nothing more than just characters who do nothing but give toxic advice.
The control system is easy to learn but you are going to be reading mostly text. Since the game is a bishojo visual novel, you are required to beat it more than once to reach the true ending. You can rewatch cutscenes and look at cg art. You can also look at the concept art of each game.
There is a lot of fanservice in this game and it makes perfect sense seeing that this game is a remastered version brought to the west. It doesn’t tone down due to any censorship policy be it from Sony or the ERSB. The dialogue can sound awkward due to the translation errors.
My first experience with the dating sim visual novel was very positive and I enjoyed this remastered port.
It gets 4 out of 5 stars.
Playing this game does not make you the real life version of Kamoshida and all of it is just purely text and drawings and its perfectly fine to play games like these.
If you like dating sims like bishojo and otome games, you will find enjoyment from this. But if you are squeamish from sexual content you are not going to enjoy this game. I am going to be reviewing more games and novels like this and will include stuff that is Japan only like Chaos Head Noah and Love Once Mermaids Tears.