COLLAR X MALICE
Release Date: July 28, 2017 (North America)
Developers: Idea Factory, Otomate
Publishers: Idea Factory, Aksys Games
Platforms: PS Vita
ESRB Rating: +17 M (Mature)
Be warned: Collar x Malice has a very strong theme of violence. If you’re not comfortable with these aspects, this game is probably not for you.
Read the game synopsis here.
How Do You Define Justice?
Oddly enough for an otome game, the story touched up in creating a grim atmosphere from day one of its prologue and the theme continues to get darker with each route you play.
The common route revolves around the main protagonist Ichika Hoshino, an honest and hardworking police officer of Shinjuku, who was one day kidnapped and blackmailed by an anonymous terrorist group called “Adonis”. She found herself in one difficult predicament as she woke up after her ambush with a collar on her neck and an order to investigate the X-Day cases, a series of mass murder events that was done for the purpose of purging Japan from its lurking sinners. With the help of an independent detective agency, Ichika will unravel the truth of Adonis’ murders and their true meaning of justice while facing circumstances that can end her life in an instant.
At first glance, I honestly did not expect too much of the game, but then I started playing it and my gosh! This game’s intriguing enigma just blew me away. I got hooked. I just love it when an otome game catches you off guard like that. TFW you’re so engrossed in the story, you can’t help but formulate theories in your head and that lingering curiosity of wanting to know what happens next.
Besides the usual Visual Novel’s straightforward narratives, the game offers a few interesting mini-games making it more interactive for players.
- Investigations – Just like Ace Attorney and Danganropa V3, you get to click a few various objects in a room to get clues and unlock conversations.
- Elevator (Go to) – structured like the main protagonist’s workplace, you will get to choose which floors or office you’ll need to visit as you progress in the story.
- Trigger Mode – a mini-game where the main protagonist draws her gun and fires it. Missing the target will get you a bad end while a direct aim lets you progress in the game.
The trick is to aim at the middle inner red circle of the target. A burst of red outline will flash if trigger mode was a success. A gray outline will flash if it failed.
God bless Hanamura Mai, for Collar x Malice’s beautiful artwork. She’s also famous for her other works such as Desert Kingdom and of course the ever popular Amnesia series.
MUSIC AND SOUNDTRACK
During my first playthrough, I was awestruck to hear the band, Plastic Tree performing the game’s opening theme. Oh man! I used to listen to this band when I was in high school (swooning). They were a legend back then and hearing them play the soundtrack of your now-favorite otome game is such a treat, I swooned so hard that I bought their new recent 2018 album.
Besides Plastic Tree’s awesome soundtracks, I also wanna point out that this game had some amazing BGMs. Mood transitions from lighter themes to the dark ones were pristine. Here’s my fav bgm from the game!
Soma Saito “Mineo Enomoto” – Tadashi Yamaguchi (Haikyu!), Rem Kaginuki (Dance with Devils), Sota (Possession Magenta)
Yuki Kaji “Kei Okazaki” – Kanato (Diabolik Lovers), Finis (Code Realize), Souma Kazue (Hakuoki), Yuiga Kakeru (Norn9), Kurusu Kaoru (Uta no Prince-sama), Ryuichi Naruhodo (Ace Attorney)
Daisuke Namikawa “Takeru Sazasuka” – Eigetsu/Yougetsu☻ (Saiunkoku Monogatari), Komura Yuuichi (Hiiro no Kakera), Luka Redgrave (Bayonetta), Miyamoto Musashi (Sengoku Basara)
Ryohei Kimura “Kageyuki Shiraishi” – Kou (Diabolik Lovers), Roche (Neo Angelique Abyss), Kaito Momota (Danganropa V3), Masato Kadowaki (Arata the Legend)
Masakazu Morita “Aiji Yanagi” – Kija♥ (Akatsuki No Yona), Auel Neider (Gundam Seed DESTINY), Kazuki Hihara♥ (Kiniro No Corda), Maeda Keiji (Sengoku Basara), Whis (Dragon Ball Super)
Takuya Eguchi “Kazuki Hoshino” – Koichiro Sera (The Charming Empire), Kyoya Mochizuki (Possession Magenta), Nomura Risaburo (Hakuoki)
Natsuki Hanae “Akito Sera” – Nova (Amnesia World), Jaco (Dragon Ball Super), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Sengoku Night Blood), Satoru (Bad Apple Wars), Libera (Period Cube-Shackles of Amadeus)
Toriumi Kousuke “Rei Mikuni” – Shuu (Diabolik Lovers), Saitou Hajime (Hakuoki), Momochi Choujirou (Nightshade), Takizawa Saku (Gakuen Club), Azusa (Brother’s Conflict), Uesugi Kenshin (Sengoku Nightblood), Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Ikemen Sengoku), Kagiha (Psychedelica BB)
Maeno Tomoaki “Keisuke Sanjou” – Arsene Lupin (Code Realize), Son Hak♥ (Akatsuki No Yona), Natsume (Brother’s Conflict), Camus (Uta no Prince-sama)
For best gaming experience, you can follow the recommended play order below:
1) Mineo Enomoto
2) Kei Okazaki
3) Takeru Sazasuka
4) Kageyuki Shiraishi – I highly recommend playing him 4th, before unlocking Yanagi’s route
5) Aiji Yanagi – his route only unlocks after finishing the four above.
**Because I love this game so much, I will be reviewing each of the main characters and their routes on separate posts. So contents below are spoiler free! (yay)
- Sengoku Fanatic
- Gets very shy and unsociable when it comes to women.
I recommend playing Mineo’s route first, due to the fact that this is the only route that won’t reveal a lot of spoilers when it comes to the game’s underlying plot. Romantic wise, his events aren’t the most appealing (to me anyway). Half of his route was spent on Ichika trying to make him accept her as his partner and him pushing her away because he has major trust issues. But despite that, I admit, I still fully enjoyed his route as a whole. Mineo is such an adorkable character, and I wouldn’t have him in any other way. This route also had the right amount of drama and action that keeps you going in the story. Plus, the fluff content was great!
- Hidden Badass
- Very Physical *wink*
- Reckless Abandon
I have to admit, I thought Okazaki’s route would be pretty boring since it started very dragging at the beginning. But man, it got so good in the middle (between Chapter 2 & 3) that I freakin’ yelped a few times scene after scene. This man is very stubborn but very passionate. His route was also very action-packed, so expect to see him and the heroine in one badass fighting duo scene.
- Baby Face
- God Tier Hacker
- Tsundere af
- Born in Japan, raised in America
One of the best routes of the game was Sazasuka’s. His story had perfect pacing from start to finish and his ending was probably the most satisfying one among others’ prior to unlocking Aiji’s. Takeru’s tsundere characteristics were very charming in his story, to say the least. I was grinning the whole time while playing his route. (*´▽`*) It was also interesting to see Takeru’s amazing hacking knowledge and skills bring into play in his story.
NOTE: His route will only be available on your second playthrough.
- The Eccentric Profiler
- Cat mom
- Angst, Angst, Angst!
Aw man! I dove into Shiraishi’s route too quickly because I wanted to unlock Yanagi’s asap, not knowing what I was in for. His route completely shook me to my core lmao (no kidding!) This route contains so many spoilers of the game’s overarching plot. That said, I highly recommend playing him last (4th) prior to unlocking Aiji Yanagi. Although I had mixed feelings on Shiraishi’s story, I can’t deny that I fully enjoyed the roller coaster ride his route has to offer.
NOTE: His route will only unlock after finishing the other’s happy ending.
- Father figure
- Best Cook
- Best Boy!
Just like any other unlockable characters, Yanagi’s story is only playable after finishing everyone else’s good endings, making his route the “True Route” of Collar x Malice. This route also had perfect solid pacing where it didn’t feel too rushed when it comes to breaking in a few conclusions. His story pretty much answers all the mind-boggling cliffhangers you’ve experience in previous routes giving you the: “Oh so that’s why this happened” or “..Ahh now I get it” reactions. The romance factor in Aiji’s story was rather timid due to the rise and fall of the plot’s events. His character was also very reserved and distant towards the main heroine at first. Thus delaying the spark of their relationship mid-way of his story. If it wasn’t for Ichika’s “forwardness”, both of them would’ve never been an “item”. (laughs)
Ichicka Hoshino (Main Heroine)
- Cool Big Sis
- Badass Marksman
- Best Girl!
I thoroughly enjoyed playing Ichika as the main protagonist of this game. Mainly because her character was very realistic. This heroine was flawed in so many ways but she managed to acknowledge them wholeheartedly (in every route) and accepted her imperfections making her totally relatable. Ichika is probably one of the coolest heroines I’ve ever played. She gets drunk, cracks jokes, gossips, talks trash, gets agitated and is one wicked sharpshooter. All in all~one very strong and likable protagonist.
Almost all the side characters of Collar x Malice were very notable in the game. Mainly because they are all relevant in the story. It is also very refreshing to see the protagonist surrounded by friends and family she engages significant conversations with. These little tete-a-tete exchange Ichika has with other minor characters are never a wasted filler. It’s as if it’s there to lighten up the game’s dark theme.
…And who doesn’t love the main character’s gossip sessions with her kickass girlfriends?!
TRAILER / OPENING MOVIE
Plot-wise, it’s really well-crafted and compelling enough to keep you at the edge of your seat. I guess the only con I have in the game were the very few typos that I literally overlooked (that’s just how absorbed I was while playing, that even these minor issues didn’t pose a problem~ well, to me anyway!) Other than that, this game was such a stellar experience that I would definitely pick it up another day and play it all over again. It’s addictive, it’s enthralling, it’s one of the best visual novels Otomate has released.
Would I recommend this game?
Definitely! You’re probably missing half of your ‘otome experience’ if you haven’t played Collar x Malice. This game is definitely worth its full price. Give this one a whirl and you’ll definitely won’t regret it.