It’s LeafyGreen back again with another otome game review! I’ve been busy with daily life, but I won’t give up my gaming life. This is one of the titles I’ve recently played that I’m sure you’ll want to check out. It’s called Collar x Malice by Idea Factory.
Summary by Aksys Games: A dangerous shadow organization launches a campaign of fear and violence in the city of Shinjuku, pushing society to the brink of chaos. As a young police officer tasked with restoring order, you become the target of an attack, and have a poisonous collar attached to your neck. With the situation spiraling out of control and time running out, five mysterious strangers appear to aid you in your quest for the truth. Who can you trust? Will you be able to save yourself and the soul of Shinjuku from the clutches of oblivion? In a city bound by malice, you are the only hope for salvation!
Platform: PS Vita
Story: As the story revolves around discovering the identity of who collared the protagonist, Ichika Hoshino, I can’t reveal too much. If you liked the anime Psycho Pass, this is the closest comparison I can give this game. Collar x Malice delves into some pretty deep questions regarding justice, the police, and what the law can do for the people. While Ichika remains steadfast in her beliefs, she’s certainly tested to her limits when Adonis’ (the terrorist group who collared her)true goal is revealed. As a rookie police officer, she is in over her head. She can’t inform anyone of the collar on her neck or she’ll be killed. She can’t dig too deep into Adonis’ goals or she’ll be killed. And etc. Despite the literal death threat locked around her throat, Ichika strives to protect Shinjuku and her family. There’s just so much going on in this game and so much that could easily be spoiled. It’s best to go into this game knowing as little as possible. The game excels in the individual cases leading Ichika closer to Adonis through carefully written mysteries, and it doesn’t hesitate to show the darker sides of humanity.
Characters: Ichika Hoshino is a blessing. She’s does her best to remain true to herself when her world is falling apart. She’s a rookie with little experience but she uses her head before charging. She reigns in her emotions before she cracks. She’s a fantastic lead for the story and a strong reason as to why this game was half as good as it was. It’s a shame she wasn’t voiced, but she still left a mark. If you liked Cardia Beckford, you’ll like Ichika. Yanagi Aiji is the dad of the group who reaches Ichika first after she’s been collared. He has some ties to her past and struggles to find his own purpose. He’s certainly the canon of the group considering how the events unfold and while not my personal favorite, he is the one who provides closure. His route was the only one that felt like an otoge route. Sasazuka Takeru is the fan-favorite donut-demon cyber hacker. Despite his sweet-tooth, he’s got a sharp tongue. I really liked him but I personally found his relationship with Ichika to be a little demeaning with how he treated her. Okazaki Kei is an SP officer whose goals are pretty morbid to say the least. He’s a little ball of sunshine with a huge cloud threatening to engulf him. Enomoto Mineo is the goofy genki guy who’s a little too into Japanese historical figures but his heart is in the right place. His route lends the least to the narrative. Kageyuki Shiraishi is the mysterious profiler who wears cat ears and is a precious cinnamon roll. He has a really dark past that reveals a lot of the game, and I thoroughly enjoyed the DESPAIR his route was.
Music: The game boasts a wide variety of tracks from exciting guitar riffs to tension-filled orchestrations, to more relaxing pieces. Plastic Tree, the band chosen to perform the opening and ending songs, are a perfect taste as to what this game has to offer in the sound department.
Voices: Again, I wish Ichika had a voice. Kaji Yuuki does a great job pulling out that vulnerable side of Kei’s and while some veterans may be a little tired of seeing him in another game, I think he earns his place. Saitou Soma was near unrecognizable as Mineo and when I saw who voiced him I was shocked. I was only introduced to his voice through Dance with Devil’s Rem Kaginuki so this was a complete 180. Masakazu Morita does a lovely job as Yanagi. Daisuke Namikawa, who was recently involved in a pretty bad scandal, voices Takeru. As I’m still learning more about seiyuu, this certainly made his name stick 😛 Ryohei Kimura nailed Shiraishi’s role and I want to see more of him in future otoge. There’s so many more characters, and a lot of them are actually criminals in this game, so I can’t really spoil that. As expected, this game boasts a stellar cast.
Gameplay: Unlike most otome games, Collar x Malice includes a little bit of gameplay. Trigger Mode can lead Ichika to a good or bad ending-although bad endings plague this game like no other-and it all depends on how good of a shot you are. Of course, this isn’t really too difficult but just pressing the button at the wrong moment could spell Ichika’s fate. Collar x Malice doesn’t have skip-to-next-choice, but after completing a route you can go back to previous chapters to try new choices. You can even adjust the affection levels, further leading to more endings.
Art: Absolutely gorgeous! Collar x Malice boasts some of the best art I’ve seen in an otoge to date. It supports the grim narrative perfectly and doesn’t fail to paint a lighter tone when needed.
Intended Audience: For many, the translations stirred up a huge controversy. As this would likely take another whole section to discuss, along with why this was the case, how they can improve, and etc. I’d recommend heading over to my blog if you want to see samples of the translations and my thoughts on them. Overall, this game is one of the best otome games available in English. This is a title that would be perfect for people who aren’t big on romance or people who want more story to their otoge. There’s a lot of dark stuff in this and it doesn’t shy away from violence, gore, twisted thinking, and etc. The romance takes a backseat to the mystery and character development, which some may find disappointing considering Yanagi is the only guy to get a decent romance. Still, what romance is there is employed well into the game and serves not as a weakness but as a strength for the cast. Shiraishi and Kei in particular grew the most thanks to Ichika. I thoroughly enjoyed this game. I took off a star due to translation errors and because the romance isn’t a strong part of the game. While that’s not a bad thing, most people will expect an otoge to have a decent amount of romance, and this title isn’t that big on it. It’s there, just not the focus. Regardless, I’d recommend this game. If you want a title with more romance, Code Realize is your game. Collar x Malice is a title not to be missed.