After a six year wait, we finally get the three Date A Live games released officially in English and in HD on top of that. As a fan of visual novels and a fan of the Date A Live series, I was pretty excited to jump into this one. I found that the game is full of what makes the series tick, but does come with some problems of its own.

Pros:

Excellent character designs. Having already seen the Date A Live anime, this pro was pretty much a given. The Date A Live series is full of excellent character designs and the game is no exception. Everything from the clothing, to the hair, and even the character’s personalities are all nicely done and work in tandem with each other to give us a bunch of vibrant and fun characters. Given that this is a largely character-driven experience, this definitely works in the game’s favor.

On top of that though, the game also breathes life into these characters by animating them. Characters actually breathe, blink, and make simple movements. There’s also mouth animations that actually match the tone of voice and pauses within a character’s dialogue. Normally, when we get such animations in a visual novel, it is usually done in a very lazy manner, with only a few frames of animation. As such, it was nice to see some actually decent animations for once, even if they could still use some work. These animations, when combined with the already great character designs, provide for a pretty good-looking visual novel.

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Wealth of content. Despite the fact that the game is being released as “Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation”, it’s actually a bundle of three games, one of which is titled Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation. The other two are Date A Live: Rinne Utopia and Date A Live: Arusu Install. When Rio Reincarnation was released in Japan, it was released as “Date A Live: Twin Edition Rio Reincarnation”, which makes a bit more sense considering what was being packaged. Idea Factory dropping “Twin Edition” from the title kinda hides the fact that this is actually a bundle, which I think could be detrimental to the sales, but I’m no marketing expert so who knows.

Regardless, the fact that there are three entire VNs in this one package provides for a lot of content to play through. Each game comes with its own routes, events, characters, endings, and pretty much everything you’d expect from a standalone VN, but this time all bundled into one. The stories build on each other too, with Rio Reincarnation serving as a sort of conclusion to the two games preceding it. As such, it is required to either play through those two beforehand or view the digest provided in Rio Reincarnation. The digest basically sums up the events of the anime and the first two games, although I would still recommend at least watching the anime before jumping into it, as the games do skip over some content.

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The content doesn’t just stop there though, the game also includes a couple extras to take advantage of. The first is a collection of special books translated into English. These books include character introductions, sketches, 4-koma strips, and even light novel side stories. From this same menu you can also access the bonus drama CDs. There is one for each game, but the downside being that they are only available in Japanese. It would have been nice to get these in English too, but at least they are there for those interested.

Pure fanservice character routes. Now, when I say fanservice, you’re probably getting the wrong idea. Although the games do include a bit of “fanservice”, I’m mostly referring to the literal definition of the term. By that, I mean that the games give the Date A Live fan exactly what they want: a chance to pursue their character of choice without having to juggle a harem like in the anime. You can jump right into the game, ignore the events of the anime, and just go down whichever route you want. There are 11 characters to choose from and over 150 different dating events to play through, it’s pretty much just pure fan service. Now, this does lead to some problems (more on that later), but if you’re already a Date A Live fan, you’ll find a lot to like here.

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Multiple language options. Keeping up with the trend established by other localization companies, Idea Factory is releasing Rio Reincarnation with support for three languages: English, Chinese, and the original Japanese. As someone learning Japanese, this is a tremendous help, especially in games like this where the language is relatively simple. However, the downside is that you are not able to change the language on the fly. It has to be changed from the main menu, which is a bit annoying if you’re trying to compare lines. Regardless, it is nice to at least have the option and I hope that Idea Factory does the same for future VN releases (hopefully with the ability to change the language while in-game).

Cons:

Lackluster true routes. While the character routes can be good, the “true” routes are unfortunately lacking. These are the routes involving the characters exclusive to the games, those that do not appear in the light novels or anime. These routes are also where much of the actual story takes place. However, in order to not interfere with the canon established by the light novels, these routes were written in such a way as to have no lasting effects on that canon. The result is a rushed story that ends up feeling like filler more than anything. I don’t want to spoil the endings for these games, but I will say that they are pretty big copouts. The game obviously places more focus on the other characters routes, which is an absolute shame considering that these new characters were not even that bad.

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Text issues. Rio Reincarnation is a visual novel developed for consoles first and foremost. As a result, us PC players get to deal with the issues that arise during porting, several of which relate to how the game displays text. Right off the bat, the first thing that I noticed was just how large the font was. If I were sitting across the room from a TV, it would be the perfect size, but for someone sitting just a couple feet away from a monitor, it’s just a bit too big and narrow. This wouldn’t be an issue if the font could be configured, but unfortunately the game lacks that option.

Outside of the port though, the text still has some issues regardless of the platform you play the game on. These issues mostly come down to the occasional typo, grammar issue, or some questionable localization choice. For example, the game does not localize the term “onee-chan”, which is definitely not a problem on its own, but the game writes it as “one-chan”, without the extra e that’s usually seen in the romanization of the word. These are some more minor issues, but I felt they were worth the mention regardless.

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Wonky keyboard controls. Keeping up with the trend of being developed for consoles before PC, Rio Reincarnation also features some rather bizarre keyboard controls. By bizarre, I mean that the button to advance text is bound to “K” by default, with enter being used to toggle skip mode. Fortunately, these bindings can be changed, but with a few limitations. For example, you’re unable to bind an action to more than one key. I’m accustomed to using both enter and space to advance the text, so this was a bit disappointing.

Given that, I tried to assign “advance text” to the space bar, only to then find out that the game does not let you bind anything to the space bar. Space bar does not appear to have a use in-game, so I don’t understand why it cannot be selected here. Given all of this, I ended up resorting to using an Xbox One controller to play through the game. At least the controls there made some sense.

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As a Date A Live fan, I was pretty satisfied with Rio Reincarnation. There’s a lot of content to play through, the art is good, and the character routes were definitely a fun read for the most part. However, the game tries too hard to avoid messing with the canon established by the light novels, leading to the true routes and endings feeling like rushed filler. On top of that, there are a few technical issues, mostly with regards to the PC port. Even so, I would still recommend this to other Date A Live fans. It may not be the most well-written experience, but it’s at least a fun one.  If you have no experience with the series though, I would highly recommend watching the anime before jumping in.

Score: 6/10

You can buy Date A Live: Rio Reincarnation on Steam here.

I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.

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