Review: Da Capo 3 R

The Da Capo series is one of developer Circus’s best known titles. It is also one of the earliest games that publisher MangaGamer brought out in physical format. Years after both Da Capo and Da Capo II released in English, Da Capo 3 R is now available on Steam (and Da Capo 3 R X~Rated is accessible via MangaGamer’s storefront). This is huge news given there was effectively a seven year wait for localization to finally be completed on it. At this point, so many new visual novel fans have come into the fold – many having never played any Da Capo title before. Existing fans, on the other hand, have had more than enough time to forget basically all key points about the previous two games.

Fortunately, both groups are on relatively similar footing when they choose to play Da Capo 3 R. That’s because each game can easily be enjoyed in and of itself. You do not need to be aware of plot points of previous titles in order to grasp what’s going on here. Sure, you’ll miss some references, characters and such by going in completely fresh, but it’s not a huge deal overall. Those looking to get a glimpse into what they missed (or refresh their memory) can check out MangaGamer’s official summary post for spoiler-filled information. Otherwise, feel free to dive right in with this visual novel and enjoy what it has to offer. Just be sure to read past the first few hours as the initial story being presented is not quite indicative of the rest of the experience.

Here’s what that means. At the very start, players are introduced to a cast of high schoolers in what appears to be a modern day setting with bits of magical realism thrown in. You see, there’s this rumor about Hatsune Island’s cherry blossoms blooming in spectacular fashion unexpectedly. This old tale becomes relevant again when, spontaneously in the middle of winter, the cherry blossoms bloom. At that moment, the group of students we’ve been focused on all receive a text message at the same time. It instructs them all to meet the sender where the trees bloomed. An incredible feat of nature is not the only thing strange about this occurrence. There’s also the matter of the same text message getting dispensed to this group of friends specifically at the same time. Oh, and the send date of the text message says it was sent from the past – in 1951 to be exact.

This actually proves the jumping off point for another story to begin which takes place in a fantasy depiction of 1950s London. Our cast of friends is eerily similar to those met at the beginning of Da Capo 3 R, but in quite the different situation. Instead of just your everyday students they’re actually all members of a magical academy. Some immediately try to compare the game to the Harry Potter series, and in many ways, that’s a pretty good way to define it. Young magicians are split up into different groups which then compete against each other for no reason other than group glory. There is even a fictional sport somewhat like Quidditch for students to compete in. Of course, there’s also a tremendous amount of ways in which the two magical stories prove themselves to be completely different.

The fantasy setting is utilized primarily as a backdrop for a slice of life tale which should feel familiar to most visual novel fans. Protagonist Kiyotaka is just a normal guy (with some abnormally powerful magical skills) who finds himself surrounded by his female classmates. From his lively sister to variety of beautiful peers, there is practically no time for the guy to spend with himself. Because of a focus on stories of friendship and romance, there’s a lot of time spent simply interacting with the group as if they were regular students at a normal high school. In these moments the story sometimes drags. If you don’t absolutely adore slice of life titles then it might be surprising to see just how much feels like a slog.

This is important because Da Capo 3 R is currently the longest visual novels available in the English language, which is part of why it took so long to localize. Reading through this tale for hours on end is draining for those not in love with every single character and interaction. Fortunately, the writing is well done and the hundreds of high quality CG sequences keep things entertaining from screen to screen. Those who love its tale and characters will be able to immerse themselves in it for quite a long time. In general, expect to spend anywhere from fifty to one hundred hours depending on your reading speed and how far you wish to go toward completing the game.

Basically, players progress through this visual novel, they will see all manner of story points as the game goes back/forward in time. There are a ton of choices to be found, and multiple stories to unearth on that long road to completion. There’s even a form of gameplay beyond dialogue choices. Whenever Kiyotaka returns to his room he’s given the chance to do a few actions. This may include talking to a friend or exploring the school. Whichever you choose gives bits of additional interactions and helps things feel a bit more dynamic. This sort of gameplay is used in other instances as well. Unfortunately, given the often brief interactions your choices trigger, they can become cumbersome when you just want to continue with the main plot.

Closing Comments:

Da Capo 3 R is a massive visual novel that is set to provide hours upon hours of entertainment for the sort of visual novel fan who loves their slice of life tales with a dose of fantasy. Anyone not enthused with generally sappy tales of high schoolers may unfortunately find large parts of the story dull — in which case the huge length is a detriment. At least MangaGamer has provided an option for fans to get an all-ages edition or 18+ release via Da Capo 3 R X~Rated. No matter which you choose, you’ll be in for an enormous visual novel with a likable cast, mysteries to uncover and an anime-styled look at magic.