Availability: Free, Online/browser
Format: Dating Sim
Genre: Sci Fi
My Scores: (Writing: 4, Art: 4.8, Gameplay: 5) out of 5
In Chrono Days Sim Date, you are Saige. A hole has appeared in the sky, leading 100 years into the past, and your friend's brother has invented a device to let you jump through it. What--or who--will you discover?
One thing that impresses me about the setup is the fact that, in this game, at least three characters are candidates for "The Canonical Love Interest". Generally, in these sorts of games, either all of the suitors are equal, or one is considered "canon". Here, though, out of eight possible love interests, you have one childhood friend with a marriage promise, one long-time acquaintance with an obvious (and possibly mutual) crush, and one kind but lonely stranger who takes you into his home. The game hasn't started, and already, feelings are on the line. Let the shipping begin!
The characters themselves are well written and interesting, and it's quite easy to develop an emotional attachment to them. What's more, the cut-scenes go a long way toward developing the characters and sense of story. I'm not saying that every Dating Sim should have cut-scenes throughout, but they are something to consider and are used to very good effect here.
The time-travel concept is interesting, but the game obviously doesn't take itself too seriously here. Apparently, there is only a 100 year span between The Old West and a Jestsons-like future with AI Robots and time travel. The approach here is almost child-like, actually, with little or no attempt at basing the setting on any real or recognizable history. What's more, everyone Saige meets in the past seems pretty open-minded about her being a time-traveler from the future.
The art and animation here are exquisite. However, I wouldn't dare to call it perfect. There are a couple points where characters are, according to the context of the scene, supposed to be bending or moving somehow, but the animation consists of tilting a static figure back and forth, making the characters seem like blocks of wood. This is especially odd in light of the other cut-scene pictures and animations in the game which have the characters in different poses. In other words, it could have been done differently, in a way that didn't look so clunky. Personally, I think one or two still drawings would've had a much better effect; sometimes a simple technique used well is more effective than a fancy technique used poorly.
Also, I had to take off part of a point for the music in one scene. You may call me pedantic, if you like, and I probably am. Still, it bothered me that a clearly tragic scene - with a beautiful job on the tears, I might add - was scored with the same cheerful background music as other parts of the game. Again, since the soundtrack does change in places, this is not excusable as something the creator "simply couldn't do".
This game blew me away. I feel like, for the first time, I've seen what Dating Sims have the potential to be, and it is more astounding than I could have ever expected.
This game uses its concepts. The time travel plot isn't merely a premise that introduces you to a dating sim scenario and then leaves until the epilogue; it comes back. The cut-scenes move the story along, and characters are introduced at different points, keeping it moving. You end up being able to shift between two wildly different settings at a whim, and are able to bring objects from one time into another in order to impress the locals.
Best of all for a time travel game, you can actually influence the future a little by your actions in the past. A man is going to another city. He arrives, settles down, gets married and has children, and one of his descendants returns to the old town and meets you. OR: A man is going to another city, but he remembers he made a promise to a strange girl he met before leaving.... And suddenly history is changed. It's beautiful. It's what a time-travel plot should be.
What's more, there are multiple unlockable characters, some more difficult to attain than others, giving a nice bit of challenge for those who seek it without alienating those who don't.
This game is a Must Play. It's not infallible, but it shows the heights Dating Sims can reach, while leaving room for others to go even higher. It's very rich in story, uses its premise beautifully, and does more with this medium than I had come to expect. Whether you're a DS fanatic or just a casual game player, I highly recommend this one.
Of course, this is all my opinion, and I'm not infallible either. You might decide it's not worthy of all my hype. Feel free to state your own opinions in the comments.