Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Games for Adults: Da Capo 2

Da Capo 2 Review

            A funny thing I’ve noticed about sequels in the game department, unlike movies, sequels to games tend to have a higher chance of being better than their prequel games especially in the area of story such as Mass Effect 2, Persona 4, the .hack//GU games, or Lunar 2: Eternal Blue. Of course that isn’t always the case (Star Ocean: The Last Hope anyone?) so when Da Capo 2 was announced I had some mixed feelings. What MG had to say about the game certainly interested me, but the noticeable change in art style plus the fact that a number of the characters were related to characters from the previous game did have me a little worried. Thankfully Da Capo 2 proved to be a delightful Christmas present when I got it on its release date of December 24, 2010. Not only was it a good game but it proved to be superior to its prequel, a game I enjoyed, in every way. I barely noticed the 10-30 hours it takes to complete this game go by.

Pros: Very good story, excellent characters, good artwork, great voice acting, very good music, more user friendly system.

Cons: Not all heroines are winnable (in this version), the truer endings leave some questions unanswered.

WTF!?: What the hell is Mr. Garrison doing in Japan?! No, I’m not kidding here, look:

           Da Capo 2 takes place 50 years after the events of Da Capo’s Nemu route and you play as Yoshiyuki Sakurai, a carefree young man who has been raised alongside Junichi and Nemu’s two granddaughters, Otome and Yume. Like in the first game, you decide which of the heroines Yoshiyuki will interact with and form a relationship with, and in some cases come close to uncovering mystery concerning the island and Yoshiyuki himself.

            As I said before, one of the reasons I wasn’t so sure about this sequel was because a number of the heroines were related to the DC1 heroines; basically I was worried I’d end up being nitpicky in comparing them in terms of character and story and have trouble enjoying the game as a result. Thankfully, my worries were put to rest very quickly; not only are those heroines their own characters but their stories are better than their DC1 relatives’, and it doesn’t stop there. I’m going to go right out and say it, and bear in mind I’m saying this as someone who loved the first game, Da Capo 2 is superior to Da Capo 1 in every way.

            To begin with, the story for this game manages to take a lot of the concepts from the first game and improve on them, while at the same time adding their own things to the story that actually serves to add more plot diversity such as whether you’ll have your class do a play or haunted house event at a school festival or if you’ll stay home for the winter break or go on a skiing trip. Each of these events have their own unique character interactions, many of which either lead into or are a part of a heroine’s route, and they’re all interesting and amusing. Also improved are the characters’ interactions with one another; they feel much more believable than in the first game and the comical ones succeed at being funny and the dramatic ones succeed in conveying their respective emotional scenes. Now while you are eased into the drama of each route like in the first game, Da Capo 2 does it better adding a bit more depth to it since the story not only explores each heroine as a character but often involves other characters that said heroine, and sometimes even Yoshiyuki, has some connection to.

            Now I know the question some of you are going to ask me: “Can I play Da Capo 2 and enjoy it, without having played Da Capo 1?” My answer is yes, for the most part. The story is certainly enjoyable and understandable without having played the first game, but you will miss out on a couple of passing references/jokes and pretty much anything important storywise that involves returning character Sakura Yoshino ties in with the first game, especially in the D.C. segment unlocked after completing all the routes.

            Here’s how the heroine’s routes rank, in my opinion (click here for profiles):

1)      Anzu

2)      Otome

3)      Tie between Nanaka and Minatsu

4)      Yume

5)      Koko

Now in the case of this game, I’ll explain a bit as to why I’ve ranked them as such, but let me make something clear: I enjoyed every one of these routes, just because I put Koko and Yume’s at the bottom part of the list doesn’t mean I hated their routes. Also don’t worry, I’ll keep this spoiler free.

The reason Anzu ranks at the top is for quite a few reasons. First, I found her to be a very entertaining character, second I found that she and Yoshiyuki had the best romantic chemistry both before and after their relationship started, and third, her story was the most interesting and emotionally engaging to me, involving a large portion of the cast and doing a very good job of showing just how much of an impression Yoshiyuki makes on Anzu’s life, especially after learning her backstory. Also once you’ve cleared the game and look back at a certain story element in Anzu’s route in comparison, you’ll probably say something like “Oh, I see what you did there”. Otome comes in at a very close second as her relationship with Yoshiyuki is just as interesting to see as Anzu’s, and her route has the most story revelation. The only thing that keeps her from tying with Anzu has to do with her role in the later part of her route that’s, for lack of a better word, lacking in comparison. It’s understandable why it’s that way considering how the route is written, but still…

As for Nanaka and Minatsu, the reason they tie is because they both have very good routes, but for different reasons. Nanaka’s route does a very good job at telling a romantic story along with looking at how friendships can be damaged and repaired; it also examines a story element that’s very similar to one in her ancestor Kotori’s route in the first game but manages to explore it better than in that game. In Minatsu’s route romance (while certainly there) takes a bit of a back seat to one where Minatsu develops as a character before she essentially finds a place in a society she initially rejected and the ending actually stands out from the other routes because of the outcome of what happens in that route.

Now with Yume’s route, while it was good, made interesting story revelations, and had an interesting concept, what brings it down on my list is that the ending leaves you with questions that aren’t answered until you play the unlocked D.C. segment. Koko’s route does a good job in establishing the relationship between her and Yoshiyuki and it also makes for a good introduction to the game making it the route I recommend clearing first. The only problem is that the route gets a little heavy on the melodrama in the later parts of the route and with how the route is written we don’t get much of a look at Yoshiyuki and Koko’s relationship after they get together like we do with the other routes.

In the area of flaws in the story, the only major ones in my opinion are that some heroines aren’t winnable, which is a real shame considering events in this game do get you to wonder how those particular heroines’ routes go, especially in the case of Maya after you learn some things about her in one of the routes which certainly have potential for an interesting story. There is an expanded edition that has these routes, but at the moment we can only hope to see that translated someday. Another flaw is that the truer endings, Yume and Otome’s, along with the D.C. segment, leave you with a few unanswered questions.

Now with that mention I’m sure some of you may remember that bit I said in my Koihime Musou review about true endings. Well, I can say in this case Da Capo 2 actually does things right by not discrediting the other routes in any way, in fact the D.C. segment is written so it can take place after any of the routes. Actually, the Da Capo series tends to take advantage of the multiple endings with its fandiscs by having them contain after stories to the routes.

Now while this game doesn’t have gameplay, similar to the first game which heroine Yoshiyuki interacts with depends on when he gets up and what locations he visits. Da Capo 2 makes this a little more user friendly by actually showing you where each heroine is at on the map. You’ll still need to either experiment or use a walkthrough for the wake up times though.

In the area of presentation, this game certainly manages to completely eclipse its predecessor by a lot. The artwork is very well done to say the least, and the artists also went the extra mile in a several cases. Character portraits have several different poses and variants not just to show emotion and a change of clothes but also to show which direction they’re facing, when the option of where to go comes up you see animated chibi version of the heroines over what location they’re at, and during scenes where cherry blossoms are falling there’s actually animations of falling cherry blossoms over the background CG. The music is also really good this time around, and do I even need to mention that this game has three different opening sequences and themes for the beginning of each important story segment of the game?

            Next the voice work in this game is also very good as each character’s voice actor turns in a very good performance. A treat for some Code Geass fans though would be an almost unrecognizable Jun Fukuyama as Wataru Itabashi who does just as great a job playing his role in both the comedic and dramatic scenes involving his character (though you may recognize him during a segment where he tells some horror stories which I have to admit were actually pretty creepy).

            Finally, the ero scenes. Well, I can say they’re good; a lot better than the first game’s in both drawing and voice acting.

In Conclusion:

            Da Capo 2 is an excellent game that not only succeeds its predecessor, it surpasses it in every way with great storytelling, characters, art, music, and voice acting. It is without a doubt one of the better games in Mangagamer’s library and wholly worth playing, even if you haven’t played the first game or even if you disliked the first game because the leap ahead in quality really is that different, almost like that of the case with Persona 3 and Persona 4.

Final Score: 9/10 Must Own

Author Recommendation: Legendary

            On a side note, you can get a physical copy of this game too at J List, not much of a price difference this time aside from what you’re paying for shipment):

            As for the anime…I have to be blunt with you, I hate the anime for this game with a passion. I say this as someone who tends to be forgiving of changes in adaptations, be it from book to movie or game to anime. I even kind of like the Tsukihime anime for crying out loud! But this… In some ways, I hate it more than the OVA for Magical Witch Academy because at the very least that was only two episodes of fail, this on the other hand is a lot longer than that and that is far too many episodes of fail for even me to handle. The creators of the anime essentially try to cram in major events from each of the routes before making a combination of Otome and Yume’s routes as the final story scenario and it is just a mess. Many of these elements they’re using were intended to be important story arcs in their respective heroine’s original game arcs which had to do with their relationship with Yoshiyuki, which at the point that they occurred in the game had already turned romantic but with how the anime presents it they’re using it as an arc to just show how they relate to Yoshiyuki as just good friends instead which just doesn’t work. They also change some of the characters, the worst case being Koko’s in which they really mangle her character by having her do stuff she never does, or would do, in the game in any of the routes (hers included). I honestly feel really sorry for fans of the original game who bought even one DVD of the anime only to have their hopes for a decent adaptation crushed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the returns went something like this:

As for the openings for the anime, they’re okay (though I think the animation for the second one is kinda lazy), I’ll even admit the first one has better music than the game’s first OP:

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion Da capo was better than Da capo 2, but Da capo 2 is still awesome even if i don't really loved few heroines here. I'm really a fan of the serie.