"Innocent Finale isn't a bad game, but there's nothing special about it either. It simply exists."
Before playing Innocent Finale, my experience with the Da Capo series was rather limited, and since this installment is a pseudo-retelling of Da Capo II, there were a number of references I was not familiar with. This is certainly a game designed for existing Da Capo fans. There are some heartfelt moments, but the fairly flat plot is unlikely to appeal to any new players. What's worse, even those with experience in the series may prefer to give this one a miss.
Da Capo Innocent Finale puts you back in the shoes of Japanese high-schooler Jun'ichi. Nemu, the main heroine of the series and Jun'ichi's adopted sister plays a much smaller role this time and instead, the red-haired Kotori gets a chance to shine. Innocent Finale follows the story of how Jun'ichi learns to deal with a tragedy that occurs early on (I can't mention it without spoiling it!) and his complicated relationship with the adorable Kotori.
Near the beginning, there are some intensely dramatic and emotional scenes that are sure to tug at your heartstrings, especially where Nemu is involved. Unfortunately, the story doesn't really go anywhere after that. The majority of it revolves around Kotori and the mother who abandoned her, which is quite touching, but fails to have any real impact. You can't help but love Kotori and her sweet demeanour, but other than that, Innocent Finale is extremely bland and very slow. A cameo appearance by Sakura is sure to please fans of Da Capo II, but as Kotori is the only real heroine, there are a very limited number of dialogue options and endings. Plus, Nemu is knocked out of the picture pretty early. Secondary characters like Jun'ichi's classmates are equally uninteresting, and only Kotori's overly-protective father is particularly appealing. Assuming that you make it to the end of the game, however, the beautiful ending sequence is sure to put you in a more forgiving mood. And if you're looking for more, there are some extra scenarios you can play from the options menu.
As with most visual novels, gameplay is basically limited to making dialogue choices. In the case of Innocent Finale, there are only a handful of choices across the 10-15 hour game, and most of them happen early on. Some additional turning points in the story would not only have added to the replay value, but been more immersive for players, too. This issue is somewhat remedied by an interesting in-game map used in the first half of the story. You're given the option to select from a list of locations to visit on some days, which gives you access to different scenes and interactions with different characters. This is great for replay value, but is not without a major problem: you never really know who you're going to get. For example, you can choose to visit the park, but without any indication of which character will be there for you to talk to. Perhaps choosing to spend time with particular characters would have been a better option.
Your own taste will play a big part in how you feel about this game's graphics. Absolutely massive eyes (even by genre standards) and strange hairstyles are prevalent. The quality of CGs generally varies from image to image, too. Some are stunning, particularly where cherry blossoms are involved, while others seem like they were rushed out the door without being given a final polish. During story sequences, characters have the usual number of static animations showing various levels of emotions and responses. These are pleasant, but generally only pretty at best. More effort was taken with Kotori than with other characters, and this is quite noticeable at times. Like the story, the graphics fail to leave any sort of impact.
Depressingly, the sound and music suffer from the same issue. The background tracks are barely noticeable and generally not overly interesting. They don't sound out of place, but they're so unexciting that you may well go through the whole game without even realising that music is playing. Luckily, the voice acting is much better than the music. The cast is solid and does a pretty decent job across the board with portraying their respective characters. Kotori's actress does an especially wonderful job of conveying her shy but determined nature, and there's nothing bad I can say about any of the others, either. The game is wrapped up with quite a beautiful voiced song during the credits that brings everything to a nice close. Unfortunately, it's not subtitled. That said, this translation is one of the best MangaGamer's done so far, and is a considerable step up in quality from their earlier work.
At the end of the day, it's hard to recommend Dap Capo Innocent Finale to a very wide audience. The story is sweet and heartfelt, but is not even remotely memorable. The characters are decent, but won't stay with you for long after you finish what the game has to offer. The lack of choices, unpolished gameplay mechanics, and only a single heroine really limit the replay value; usually a strong selling point for visual novels. Innocent Finale isn't a bad game, but there's nothing special about it either. It simply exists.