The Date A Live series has been around for quite a while.
Since its initial creation as a light novel series, it became a popular anime series. After that, it spawned a video game series whose first game, a visual novel dating simulator called DATE A LIVE: Rinne Utopia, came out for the PlayStation 3 in Japan. The game’s sequel Arusu Install is followed by the current instalment DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation and includes a brand new story and access to the first two titles so you can play through the entire series in one convenient place.
In the universe of DATE A LIVE, there have been catastrophic spacequakes which have caused mysterious entities called Spirits to appear. Shido Itsuka, the game’s protagonist, is the only one that possesses the ability to seal away the powers of these Spirits. How can he do this you might be wondering? Well, by dating the Spirits and making them fall in love with him, of course! It’s an… intriguing concept to say the least, and is both adorable and cringe-worthy in equal measure.
As someone new to the DATE A LIVE series, jumping into the game can be rather overwhelming. I recommend playing through the first two titles – which are included – before tackling Rio Reincarnation, but if you do want to head straight into the third game, it gives players the options of reading through a 20-30 minute digest that describes the general details from Rinne Utopia and Arusu Install. You’ll be all caught up with the major plot points of the series after reading the digest, but you’ll be missing some of the more minor details. Of course, if you’re a seasoned DATE A LIVE player than you can jump right into the third game with no problem.
When it comes to gameplay, DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation plays just like your average visual novel. You take on the role of Shido as he goes about his everyday life: having conversations with the female Spirits, going on dates with them, and just generally having a good time.
Of course, that wouldn’t make for a very interesting story so the plot will thicken. In Rinne Utopia, you’ll meet Shido’s supposed childhood best friend who turns out to not quite be who she seems. Arusu Install is based in a virtual reality game: Shido and his friends (his girl posse) get trapped there by the Spirit Arusu. In order to escape, the group must teach Arusu the true meaning of L-O-V-E. Rio Reincarnation introduces a new Spirit by the name of Rio who calls Shido “Papa” and is searching for the “most important thing.” Shido is determined to figure out the mystery behind Rio as well as discover what this “most important thing” could be.
Each title takes places within a certain number of days and during this time the players will be dealing with the major plot points of the story. You’ll learn more about the protagonist, some of the major characters and move the story forward by choosing between different prompts. There are also “free time” segments, which is where the majority of the game’s romancing will take place. You’ll be able to speak with characters, take them on dates and decide which path you might like to take to the end. DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation is all about replayability so if you get to the end of one path and decide you don’t like how it ended up, you can always go back and try again to get a different ending.
All three games play in the same way, making playing through all three of them in a short period of time a bit of a drag. Especially if you decide to romance the same girl two or three times. You’ll start to wonder why these two kids can’t just stay together. It’s best to play through one and take regular breaks to keep things fresh and interesting. In the end though, each game follows many similar tropes to the others with only changes in the story.
DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation is a good visual novel with everything you might want: an intriguing story, tonnes of different endings, a great art style and cute anime girls. And considering it packs in three games in one, it’s a bit of a bargain for fans of the genre. Some players may be put off by the game’s story – there is something a little strange about a guy dating so many girls at one time – but it’s written well enough that it keeps its distance from being actually creepy. I’d recommend picking up DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation if you’re a fan of the genre or interested in a dating sim with a unique concept. Just be aware that there’s a lot of franchise history here, so you’ll really have to commit to jumping in.