Availability: Free, Online/Browser-Based
Format:Visual Novel (Well, more like Visual Short Story...)
My Scores (Out of 5):
In A Date In Italy, you are “a young SINGLE FEMALE student studying abroad in Italy”. You're sitting in a park when a young man suddenly shows up and insists on showing you around. What do you say, Bella Mia?
The writing in this is kept very simple. There isn't much in the way of tension or plot or what-have-you; in fact, since the game is so short, we don't actually get to learn much about Italy or, for that matter Feliciano. However, Feliciano's sunny personality definitely shines through in every line he utters, and the choices in the dialog are distinct enough to create a strong sense of personality for your own character, as well. Whether you like Feliciano's personality is, of course, a matter of taste.
Like Hetalia Dating Sim: Canada, this game is based on the manga/anime Axis Powers Hetalia. While I'm only casually acquainted with the series, this version of Feliciano felt right, based on what I know. He's out-going, friendly, and energetic, and if you think it's cheating to have a main character who's already been created for you, then let me tell you first-hand that staying true to someone else's creation has its own set of challenges.
I also think NamiOki was smart in downplaying the game's connection to Hetalia. To someone unfamiliar with the original, this is just a normal story about a normal girl who meets an enthusiastic young man that really loves his country: nothing odd or remarkable to see here. For a Hetalia fan, though, Feliciano's comments and “patriotism” suddenly take on a new meaning. I like that balance.
The three backdrops are all photographs. I briefly wondered if this was the better choice for a story about being shown around another country, but if so, I think the blur filters ruin it. On the plus side, Feliciano himself is quite well drawn, with a good range of very expressive sprites. Together with the writing, they help give the sense of someone who's bold and hot-blooded. I also think it was an interesting choice to have location-appropriate background noise instead of any music: it helped put more emphasis on the setting itself.
The game is as simple as the writing. It's fairly easy to tell which answers lead to the bad end, and I'm pretty sure there are only two endings: win or lose. The shortness of it means there's no real sense of exploration or discovery; but then, it also means there's less to object to. So, in the end, it gets a middle-of-the road score.
A Date in Italy is short, cute fluff that manages to throw a bone to fans of Axis Powers Hetalia without requiring you to be one. The writing has almost no plot, but still does a great job of bringing character across, which I think is more important in these kinds of games. The artwork more or less matches the writing by having expressively-drawn character sprites against a bland background. I'd say it's worth playing if you have nothing else to do.
Well, that's just my opinion. What do you think? Is this game molto bene, or just a terrible tragedia?