Date A Live: Ars Install Review – Never Ending Quest for the Harem Route

    Title: Date A Live: Ars Install
    Developer: Compile Heart
    Release Date: July 23, 2019
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Idea Factory International
    Genre: Visual Novel

With a series like Date A Live, I feel like fans know what they’re getting themselves into. The series doesn’t really shy away from the fact that it’s a fan service filled waifu fest. However, my first time playing through the series has left me with a better understanding about why these characters mean so much to western fans and why this series, in general, is an overall great romantic visual novel series for all to enjoy.

While the collection of games in Date a Live: Rio Reincarnation contains three different stories, we decided to divide and conquer here at Noisy Pixel so I will be reviewing Date A Live: Ars Install.

Date A Live: Ars Install opens with a strange girl recapping the events of the series by giving a brief explanation of the story so far and the characters. In the event that someone was to skip the first game and anime altogether, this could potentially catch you up to speed, but the emotional attachment that you are supposed to have for the characters might be lost.

During Ars Install, Shido Itsuka has done his best with trying to keep the Spirits he’s collected under control. All the girls make their return and are back to fighting over Shido’s attention. The opening scene gives off the impression that everything is going pretty well for our man Shido, that is until Reine Murasame invites Shido to do some testing on a new VR game that is meant to help him subdue Spirits easier. You see, in this world, if a Spirit ends up going on a rampage they could bring destruction to the world.

This VR game puts Shido in a world just like his own, but everything is purely data. However, he ends up encountering an anomaly in the program who doesn’t belong, Maria Arusu. This collection of data is represented by a girl who is trying to figure out what love is and it’s up to Shido to teach her if he wants to escape. However, things get a little more complicated when someone who appears to be Arusu shows up with some ideas of her own. While things do end up getting a little more serious towards the game’s final route, the common routes leading up to it are mostly light-hearted in nature and include some dream-like date scenes with the girls.

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The strong writing of the Date A Live series returns here to present these girl’s large personalities. I found each of them equally adorable in their own way, which did make it difficult to choose who to go on dates with. Since Arusu is trying to learn about love, she seldom manipulates the world to have Shido go on dream dates with the girls and whatever happens happens. These dates each have a rather cheeky CG scene attached to them, but it all fits in well the concept of the story. Getting locked into a route will teach you a lot about the characters, but since this is a VR world I often wondered what was real and what was fake. I mean, Shido could have easily just gone on a rampage himself here, but instead, he stays his respectable self. Furthermore, he continues to go to school which was mostly to show Arusu his daily life, but still, the rules of this world were only ever briefly touched upon, but never really pushed to the limits.

During gameplay, players will need to choose how to spend their time by moving around a map with the avatar of a character who you can talk if you choose. Some events are just side events that reveal more information that does end up coming up later on down the line, but it’s also possible to just go on dates to see some anime girls in their panties, which there are a lot of here. However, that comes at the expense of not getting the ending that you were looking for.

While the tone of the game is comical and features plenty of jokes that will make any Neptunia fan feel right at home with. A serious side does come out from time to time that is handled better in the later parts of the game when Shido has more information. In the beginning, when things are going down, he plays dumb and is confused about the doppelganger character who appears as if it’s impossible for him to put two and two together. Still, the strong ending does make up for it.

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Illustrations in the game are cute and there are so many CGs that I easily lost count. The game has some character movement and animations that play out, but this is a visual novel so expect to read a lot. There are text options available to the player who wishes to skip read text, which is useful when going through additional routes as well as sound control options.

The soundtrack does have some standout tracks, but I felt like I heard the same few tracks over every scene. With that said, there is one track that seriously reminds me of Neptunia, those of you have played the game will know when they hear it. However, the game does have some nice sound design with background noises during dialog scenes which helps with the immersion a bit.

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Date A Live Ars Install is a well-written romance visual novel that allows fans of the series to spend that extra bit of time with these characters. However, if that’s not what you’re looking for then the dream dates will most likely satisfy you because there is a catgirl in one of them and everyone loves catgirls. Through all the shenanigans present in the common route, the final route of the game is an emotional rollercoaster that those who are most attached to the characters will appreciate.

Date A Live Ars Install is a fan service visual novel that has no right having characters with this much complexity and depth, but it does, and that’s what makes it great. While I don’t think it was as strong as the first entry in the series because of how they opted to just send Shido to a VR world and not really improve on the game’s mechanics. The writing is what makes this series stand out and Date A Life Ars Install delivers on that with some nice character development, a gripping final act, and so many panty shots.

Please also read our review on Date a Live: Rinne Utopia and Rio Reincarnation.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.