Release Date: 28th May 2004
Age Rating: 18+
Length: ~30 Hours
Links: Official Website, VNDB
As I’ve been playing and reviewing more galge over the past year, I figured that it would be a good time to go back and play some of the games that helped establish and shape the genre as we know and love it. Da Capo is definitely one of those games, with the original version coming out in 2002 and introducing us all to the cherry-blossom imagery that’s plagued charage ever since.
The version that I played is the adult re-port of the console versions. Compared to the original, this adds in an extra 6 routes, giving a total of 13. Now, my motto is that games with more than 6 routes/capturable characters generally mean that the individual routes start to suffer. This was definitely the case here, even when only considering the original routes, as not all routes are even in length or quality.
Since this is a charage, the characters pretty much make or break this game, and there’s none that we as readers spend as much time with than the protagonist Asakura Junichi. Unfortunately, he’s absolutely insufferable. To explain it simply, he whines and complains whenever anything happens – whether it is something minor or life-and-death he literally reacts the same way. This might’ve been bemusing for the first route but it gets so annoying after a while. I mean I guess I should give some credit to Circus for attempting to give him some sort of personality but I would’ve rather had one of the generic faceless nice guys over this whiny baby.
Because it would annoy me too much otherwise, I’m going to cover each heroine and their route individually. First up is Junichi’s beloved younger sister Nemu. She’s huffy when other girls are around him and probably considered a tsundere but it’s because she loves her brother really. Anyways, her route is probably the one where I think Junichi whines the worst, he seems to lack any real consideration for his actions and such. I thought the ending of Nemu’s route was extremely convenient, which kinda ruined my opinion of it but it wasn’t exactly a terrible read.
Sakura is Junichi’s cousin who has fatefully reunited with him after studying overseas for years. She is, of course, in love with him too so a lot of the common route involves her being over-affectionate with Juinichi and him shutting her down. Haha, so funny?? Anyways, Sakura clearly has one of the more “important” routes in the game, explaining a bit about just what exactly is going on. It was perhaps one of the better routes in the game and I found Sakura’s character to be quite cute.
I believe Kotori was the most popular character when the game originally came out, even getting her own fandisc. After playing her route, I can definitely understand why – she’s cute, kind and actually has half-decent character development. A good girl.
Moe is the older of the Mizukoshi sisters and is absolutely the better of the pair. Her sleepy, chilled personality is an archetype I like and the fact that its explained by the plot of her route was really well-done. Definitely one of the better routes in the game.
Mako is the younger Mizukoshi sister and is also one of Junichi’s classmates. Now, if I didn’t know any better I genuinely would’ve thought that this was an additional route – it’s noticeably shorter than the other heroines and truly just felt like an awkward addition. This was such a shame because she’s quite a prominent character throughout the common route.
Miharu is the adorable kouhai character and the epitomy of the “notice me senpai” meme. Her genki character brings some light to the common route, even if her voice is a tad grating at times. Now, her route is a really weird one. It’s certainly unique but I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not, it felt a little bittersweet compared to pretty much every other route in the game. That being said, Miharu is still super cute.
Yoriko is the final original heroine, and is technically a secret route but considering how old the game is I figured it was okay to reveal it (lol). I mean, she has animal ears & wears a maid dress so the creators were clearly going for a moe character design. I actually enjoyed this route too, it was a bit cheesy but was the kind of thing that I like. It definitely encompassed the “wish” theme that the game had.
First additional heroine is Alice, a quiet and lonely ojou-sama who carries around a talking puppet. Alice herself is fine, and definitely quite likable. Her route, on the other hand, is terrible. More specifically, the way Junichi decides to try and get Alice to overcome her past traumas is absolutely horrendous. It was so cruel and insensitive but we’re just meant to accept that Junichi is sooooo clever and right in the situation. Let me just say if anyone did that to me, I wouldn’t fall in love with them but instead run very quickly in the opposite direction.
Nanako is a clumsy, perpetually stressed shoujo manga artist. Whilse Nanako could be quite funny at times, her route was honestly super forgettable.
Tamaki is a transfer student and miko at a local shrine, who immediately announces herself to be Junichi’s fiancee, much to his confusion since he has no idea who she is. Tamaki completely falls into the “Yamato Nadeshiko” trope, which isn’t really one of my favourites but she is a decent example of said trope. Her route was “meh” but the thing that I mainly remember was the terrible placing of one of her H-scenes. She was meant to be feeling unwell but of course magically feeling up to ecchi activities. Weird.
Clearly running out of ideas, the writers decided to introduce one of the weirdest heroines I’ve ever seen. Izumiko is an alien, who wears a bearsuit essentially like we would wear a spacesuit. However, Junichi is the only person who sees the bearsuit (she uses some alien mind-trick so that most people see her as an average student) and acts in pretty much the way you would expect, which actually was hilarious. Honestly, this whole route felt like an out of body experience as it was just so weird compared to everything else in the game, haha. Izumiko does look really adorable underneath the bear costume though!
Kanae is a classmate and good friend of Junichi. I’m pretty sure you can guess excatly what is going on in his route but it’s fine, it was decent. Probably not as generic back then as it is now. Possibly should’ve left him as a side character but, as mentioned, the writers were running out of ideas.
Kasumi is the final heroine of the game, although I hesitate to say that she even gets a route – more like a short ending. It was simple, and you could see the twist coming from a mile away but, given the length, there wasn’t much else for the writers to do. It’s a shame though since I think the idea of her character was fine and could’ve lead to a really emotive route. Oh well.
Whilst there are a few side characters, none are worth mentioning except the (in)famous Suginami, whom is simply a top-tier dumbass best friend to Junichi. It’s pretty much a joke that he appears in all of the Da Capo games and I can understand why.
The game is very old so some aging of the artstyle can be accepted, and forgiven. What can’t be though is that the original artwork looks better than a lot of the stuff for the aditional heroines. Maybe it was the budget on the console ports or something but the new heroines had very inconsistent CGs.
The BGM was super nostalgic and there were a lot of tracks, which was nice. The vocal songs are pretty decent too. Unfortunately, the voice recording quality wasn’t great but that’s also probably an age thing. I ended up turning the voices way down which improved my reading experience.
Each heroine has between 1-3 H-scenes. The content was pretty poorly written (but probably comparable with other games at the time) but the placement of these scenes was genuinely just terrible in the majority of the routes. Honestly, I’d recommend the console version if it wasn’t on outdated systems and thus hard to get ahold of.
My Score: 5/10
Whilst there were some routes that transcended “decent” to “good”, the majority of this game was simply lackluster. Unfortunately, the additional heroine routes are generally pretty weak and only pad out the reading experience without giving much enjoyment. I’d truly recommend playing the original Da Capo over the Plus Communication version because it’s cheaper and contains the better routes.
I’m still glad that I played this, if only so that I can move onto the Da Capo II games with knowledge of the setting and world the games take place in.
Thanks for reading!