DATE A LIVE is a popular light novel series (visual novel) imported from Japan. DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation is the latest video game adaptation, which Idea Factory International has published for Western audiences. Including not one, but three games, could your next summer read be on console? We’ve spent a week with Rinne, Tohka and the rest of the cast for our DATE A LIVE Rio Reincarnation review.
In the world, set up with some introductory cutscenes, Spacequakes are phenomena that have occurred in the past, one of which killed hundreds of millions of people. Spirits are beings which, despite having the innocent appearance and behavior of young women, have immense power hidden within them, which can cause them to go berserk and devastate entire cities in the blink of an eye. These Spirits are conveniently satiated by protagonist Shido’s special power to seal their powers away, via a kiss. Yes, DATE A LIVE’s video game adaptations are dating simulators.
Settle in to Read
Light novels involve, as the genre name suggests, a lot of (light) reading. Rio Reincarnation includes tons of reading across three different (and distinct) adventures with Shido and Crew. Each story only takes around 4-6 hours to complete, but that is 4-6 hours of essentially non-stop reading, to give you an idea of just how much reading each game entails. All characters other than Shido are fully voiced, and all three games are subbed. Thus, everyone speaks Japanese, and gamers who are unfamiliar with the language must completely read each and every screen to understand what is going on.
The voice acting is impressive for the amount of lines that are in all three novels. The odd exclusion of Shido’s voice in all but introductory cinematics is a bit strange at first, but this may have been a design decision to help the game feel more immersive. If the only character that has no voice is that which the player is taking control of, then it is the player’s internal voice that gives him one. Might be a scary thought for some of you, but it is a neat trick of the mind.
All DATE A LIVE stories have branching dialog and choices to be made. In between the very lengthy exposition chunks, players are presented with a map of two areas, usually the local high school and whatever city they happen to be in for any given game. Icons that represent key characters and sub-characters can be selected, but usually only one or two main characters can be selected before the story progresses. Unless someone is a major fan of the series, they will have a hard time figuring out which characters will use up a time slot, and which ones won’t. Using a time slot is irreversible (except for simply reloading a save slot), while up to two sub-characters can be interacted with before being forced to choose a main character to interact with. This can be a bit frustrating for non-fans, as the sub-characters can provide some interesting or entertaining story moments that many will miss out on the first time.
DATE A LIVE Rio Reincarnation Review - Easy Reading (PS4) | PSLS
Prepare to Replay
With over 150 dating events in the new Rio Reincarnation (and perhaps around the same amount in Rinne Utopia and Arusu Install) and not nearly that many opportunities in a given playthrough to see them all, DATE A LIVE is designed around replays to view all endings. Each dateable character has a good ending, a bad ending, and a true ending, all of which hinge on picking one particular option during particular dates with those characters to unlock. It is pretty daunting to map them all out, but that sounds exactly like the sort of thing hardcore light novel fans do.
The issue of censorship of Japanese games is one that seemingly won’t go away any time soon as far as Sony is concerned. The PlayStation 4 localization of these three DATE A LIVE novels resulted in two animations being modified, and the outright removal of four in-game art book images. Those who want the full, uncensored experience will need to purchase the Steam release, as it has everything intact as developer Compile Heart and crew originally intended. It’s a strange issue considering the small amount of content removed, but something to be aware of.
DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation is great for fans of light novels, but especially for fans of the DATE A LIVE series. Even those who aren’t familiar with the series won’t be too confused with what’s going on, as the reading is easy and characters easy to like. Very long segments between making choices may turn some people off who want to have more say in what happens with the story, however. The lack of differentiation between main and side characters can also frustrate in causing some players to accidentally progress the story when trying to unlock additional scenarios, but an easy save system at least makes backtracking easy. DATE A LIVE: Rio Reincarnation should provide for a fun summer read during the many long, hot days ahead.
DATE A LIVE Rio Reincarnation review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.