If there’s one thing I love about anime and Japenese storytelling overall, it’s the creativity. You’ll find storylines in manga and light novels that simply wouldn’t happen on a Western TV show or mainstream hollywood movie. In a world filled with remakes and rehashes, it’s refreshing to see new ideas. DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation is certainly a new idea.
This visual novel and light dating sim, based on the DATE A LIVE anime and light novels, places you in the shoes of Shido Itsuka who must save the world from destruction at the hands of female spirits by sealing their powers within himself. How does he do this? By making them fall in love with him, of course. All it takes is a kiss. I told you it was unique, didn’t I? Let’s find out if this love story manages to pluck at your heart strings.
A Collection Packed With Content (But Only For Fans of This Genre)
Among all of the genres I play , visual novels have played a fairly large role. From the classics like Danganronpa, to the phenomenal Zero Escape series, I’m always game for a good story told in the form of an interactive book of sorts.
While I haven’t partaken in many dating sims, DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation seems to be a lighter version of this sub-genre. I say that because the actual dates don’t involve a ton of interaction of decision-making. Instead the game is mostly directed story with the occasional request of choice from the player.
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s review the concept once more. You play as Shido Itsuka, a high school student who lives in a world where strange events called spacequakes have wreaked havoc on the planet.
These destructive events are tied to Spirits, which take the form of female humans. A secret organization known as Rataoskr has been working for some time to destroy the spirits and protect humanity, but given how powerful they are, they’ve been seeking an alternate solution.
The answer comes in the form of Shido, who is recruited to pacify the spirits by sealing their powers. The only way to do this, is to make them fall in love with him. When he gives them a true love’s kiss, the powers are sealed.
It’s actually a pretty heartwarming idea, but Shido isn’t exactly faithful when it comes to these spirits. In fact, you’ll date and mingle with a variety of women throughout the adventures here. There are actually three different novels included in this collection: Rinne Utopia, Arusu Install, and Rio Reincarnation. I recommend playing them in that order since the stories, while mostly separate, will spoil each other in their recaps otherwise.
There are two kinds of people who will be reading this: those who are fans of the novels and anime, and those who are curious. For the fans of the source material, this is a faithful and often hilarious way to enjoy the world and interact more with these quirky characters.
For those who are curious, DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation mixes together sci-fi elements with plenty of awkward sexual tension and some hilarious moments of oddball dialogue. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. After watching some of the anime myself to connect the dots, I can say that’s intended.
The first novel in the collection was a little inconsistent with the pacing for me. Even though I liked the slice of life and the perils of daily high school life, the storylines in the other two were far more compelling from the get-go in my opinion.
So, if you find yourself getting a little bored with the slower pace of Rinne Utopia, I would jump into one of the others (but be forewarned it will spoil the events of Rinne Utopia). Now that you have an idea of how the stories are structured, let’s talk about how it all plays in motion.
There are stretches of narrative where you basically click through dialogue (or enable a customizable auto function that lets you read along). These are where the pacing can fall into a bit of a rut. However, once you have free time you are able to choose what you do next.
Mini-events with side characters around the game’s map do not cost time, but you do have a limited about of dates you can go on per day. This allows you to choose which spirit you want to hang out with.
These were my favorite moments, mostly because the one-on-one interaction highlights the game’s strengths in terms of dialogue and awkward teenage tendancies. The game leans heavily into the innuendo at times, and you’ll find a few cliches in there as well, but the game doesn’t lean heavily into these elements.
Instead, it focuses on the most awkward time of a person’s life: high school. There’s an authenticity and awkwardness to the dialogue that I really enjoyed as Shido tries to keep all of these women happy. The sheer jealousy of his classmates watching these girls fall all of him was also hilarious.
It’s simultaneously a high school boy’s fantasy and worst nightmare all at once. For the most part, the ecchi elements didn’t bother me at all. I do find it somewhat awkward at times when the game jokes about Shido’s relationship with his sister, Kotori, but this is explained somewhat in the later novels.
There’s also the fact that some of the spirits look really young, which again, is a little awkward for me. As a result I tend to lean towards Tohka, Miku, or Origami, who all seem to be closer in age for Shido.
There are fail states in DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation that take you back to the main menu, but you can skip quickly through text you’ve read to get back to the choice in question. I would have liked to see more interaction, and more focus on the actual dates which offer the best character development.
Despite these things, however, fans of the anime or novels will absolutely love this collection of content. It’s well worth the price, given that you’re getting three stories for the price of one. Those who are curious, I would recommend checking out the first two episodes of the anime to get a feel for the approach before diving into these lengthy novels.
Subtle Details Add Life to This Visual Novel
DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation goes the extra mile in terms of presentation by offering more than static art and character models. During dialogue scenes, the people on screen are fully animated and move realistically while talking (not counting any fan service). You can also see them blinking and breathing while they’re idle, which helps the world feel more alive than many other visual novels.
I must say, DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation is unlike any other visual novel I’ve played. As a dating sim, I would imagine that it’s pretty light on the actual gameplay in terms of winning over the girls, but there is some interaction there that allows you to participate in the events.
The science fiction elements are more prevalent throughout the second two novels, but this unique mash-up of romance, sci-fi, and awkward high school humor works surprisingly well. As I said before, fans shouldn’t think twice about this one.
Those who are curious, check out the source material and see what you think. Now get out there, Casanova, and make these girls fall in love with you for the sake of humanity! No pressure or anything.
Final Score: 7.5/10
A copy of DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation was Provided to PS4 Experts for Review Purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 7/25/19