Your third paragraph, funnily enough, is the reason why I always recommend people to read D.S before D.C if one plans on reading both eventually. Even then, reading through D.C somewhat ruined my impression of D.S after the fact, but I was at least able to enjoy it to the fullest extent while I was actually reading through it, which is a big factor. It’s not really so much of a comparison thing like “D.C was better so D.S was worse by comparison or just a shabby imitation” or whatever. The best way I can really explain it is that it’s like a magic trick. Once you know the trick behind it, the “magic” isn’t impressive anymore. Reading D.C was kind of like learning the trick behind D.S’s magic, which ruined it somewhat for me, who didn’t know the trick beforehand. For someone who knew the trick all along, the magic was probably never particularly impressive to begin with.
That analogy feels really accurate now that I think about it.
Though, as for the choices about the format of the common route and its replayability, I probably actually prefer the way D.S does it. Because, while D.S probably doesn’t have enough variation, the Da Capo series has way too much, and I found it somewhat obnoxious and annoying after the first fifty choices. It also caused some problems with the branches that I mentioned in
my D.C.2 post:
Also, probably the thing D.S did the best, even better than D.C.2 I would dare to say, was the pacing. The common route lasted just long enough for me to enjoy it to the fullest without dragging on at all. I thought the length of it was pretty much ideal - this applies to the entire game, not just the common route - so I couldn’t really justify criticising the way they handled the branches to myself.
Though I can see why this change would bother someone who came into it looking for a successor to the D.C series.
As for the part about it being a series of fragments, it never really seemed that way to me. I can see how one might think that, because the scenes are very distinct from one another, but I never felt like we were missing anything in particular. Though to be fair I was already used to that kind of storytelling, with fragmented, distinct scenes, but the reason for that is a story for another time.
I did the route order Io->Himari->Hazuki->Noeri->etc.
I did Io first because, as I mentioned once before on the discord, I have an almost subconscious habit of doing the loli’s route first. Io’s route was probably my favourite route at least out of the first four, and Io herself was best girl, although it’s close between her and Ame. The resolution of the route was… fun. It was so stupid it was kind of charming. I liked at least, though I could understand if people didn’t take it seriously. As for the set-up and foreshadowing, I really think that’s the fault of the translation. As you mentioned, the “Maou no musume” title is such a huge part of her character that important foreshadowing is lost on the translated title.
I would pretty much switch your paragraphs on Himari and Hazuki. I was never particularly interested in Himari and her route was for sure my least favourite. You’re definitely right about it being confusing. The foreshadowing does technically match the solution, but it seems like Atsuya made a bit of a fucking leap of faith there. Of all the possible explanations, I see no reason why he thought of and singled out that one.
Inversely, Hazuki’s actually made a lot of sense to me. I had a vague awareness of the answer by the end, and Atsuya just put the pieces into place for me. I thought it was clever and reasonably well executed. Though I will say that even though you know there’s some kind of reason for it, Hazuki does come across as bipolar or something in an annoying way prior to the resolution.
I don’t have much to say about Noeri’s route, I don’t think I was really paying attention for it. It’s a lot more straightforward than the other routes but also a lot simpler and more plain. I do think doing Noeri’s route as the last before Ame’s was quite a lucky choice, because Ame gets a bit of a spotlight in Noeri’s route compared to the others and it made the reader even more interested in her.
There’s almost too much to say about Ame’s route. You said a lot of it, and the only thing I really want to add is about how I think the common route did a really good job of getting the reader interested in her. Almost too good of a job, I might argue, because I do remember feeling like rushing through the other heroine routes to get to Ame’s route.
Funny you should mention the h-scenes, because to me they were a very devisive part of D.S. (And it seems you agree.) So when you and KaiMiang were asking about D.S I was debating with myself whether to recommend the censored version or the 18+ version.
As you mentioned, the Himari and Hazuki ones were actually quite well-done and I don’t actually know what the story would look like without them. And even with Io they didn’t completely ruin the atmosphere or anything. But with Noeri’s route, as you said, it didn’t go down so well. Especially the shower one just had me thinking “for fucks sake.” But the worst was by far the Ame one. It was almost traumatising with how bad it was. What the fuck were they thinking!? I of course don’t actually bother sitting through the h-scenes anyway… But the window!? For real!?!? And, as you mentioned, the very fact that the h-scene existed at all was already really pushing it.
But more importantly did you listen to the soundtrack?? The vocal tracks are fire.
Overall I actually rate it as about equal to D.C.3. Though that’s probably as much because I didn’t like D.C.3 as much as you seemed to as it is me liking D.S. more than you did.