COLLAR X MALICE
Release Date: July 28, 2017 (North America)
Publishers: Aksys Games
Platforms: PS Vita, Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: +17 M (Mature)
Be warned: Collar x Malice has a very strong theme of violence and bloodshed. If you’re not comfortable with these aspects in fiction, this game is probably not for you.
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 hooo boi! CxM’s intriguing enigma just blew me away. I got hooked. I just love it when a visual novel catches you off guard like that.
Besides the usual straightforward narratives, Collar x Malice 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. I used to listen to these legends back in high school and hearing them play the soundtrack of your now-favorite otome game was such a wild treat, that I ended up buying their new 2018 album.
Besides Plastic Tree’s awesome soundtrack, I also wanna point out that this game had some amazing BGMs. Here’s my fav bgm below!
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 Sasazuka” – 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)
MAIN CHARACTERS (SPOILER FREE)
For best gaming experience, you can follow the recommended play order below:
1) Mineo Enomoto
2) Kei Okazaki
3) Takeru Sasazuka
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.
- Sengoku Fanatic
- gets very shy and unsociable when it comes to women.
Mineo is the perfect first route to start in Collar x Malice for the reason that his story offers very few spoilers of the game’s underlying plot. Romantic wise, his story events weren’t the most appealing to me. Half of his route was spent on Ichika trying to make him accept her as his partner while Mineo pushes her away because he had major trust issues. But despite all these very minor cons, I still enjoyed Mineo’s route as a whole.
Mineo is such an adorkable character, and I wouldn’t have him in any other way. I feel like he’s a well-fit match for Ichika since they are very much alike in personality.
Read my full character review here.
- Hidden Badass
- Very Physical *wink*
- Reckless Abandon
I have to admit, I thought Okazaki’s route would be pretty boring since it started very dull in 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 yet very passionate. His route was also action-packed, so expect to see him and the heroine in one badass back-to-back fight scene.
His route was a heart-pounding one that kept me at the edge of my seat. Romantic wise, I’d have to say, a relationship with this man is one hell of a ride and it’s REALLY infuriating (in a good way).
Read my full character review here.
- Baby Face
- God Tier Hacker
- Tsundere af
- Born in Japan, raised in America
One of the best routes of the game was Sasazuka’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. It made me grin pathetically the whole time ha! (*´▽`*) As a police hacker, It was also pretty interesting to see Takeru performing some wizardry in his field during his route.
I’m just a sucker for a smart-ass tsun tsun, so I really enjoyed him a lot. (cackles)
NOTE: His route will only be available on your second playthrough.
- The Eccentric Profiler
- Cat mom
- Angst, Angst, Angst!
I wanted to unlock Yanagi’s story asap, so I dove into Shiraishi’s route too quickly not knowing what I was in for.
His route completely shook me to my core lol (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 LOVED the roller coaster of emotions I’ve experienced in his route to the fullest!
NOTE: His route will only unlock after finishing the other four’s happy ending.
- Father figure
- Best Cook
- chain smoker
Just like any other unlockable characters, Yanagi’s story is only playable after finishing everyone else’s good endings, making him, the “True Route” of Collar x Malice. His story also had perfect solid pacing where it didn’t feel too rushed when it comes to breaking in a few conclusions.
This pretty much answers all the mind-boggling cliffhangers you’ve experienced 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, on the other hand, was rather timid due to the rise and fall of plot events. His character was also very reserved and distant towards the Ichika 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 a thing. (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. She’s also a very caring older sister and a benevolent police officer with a very strong resolve. All in all, One very strong and likable protagonist.
Almost all the side characters of Collar x Malice were very notable in the game and I think it’s 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.
Ichika’s little tete-a-tete exchange with other minor characters were never a wasted filler. If anything, it’s there to lighten up the game’s rather dark theme. Besides, who doesn’t love the main character’s gossip sessions with her kickass girlfriends?!
My overall gameplay for Collar x Malice was a good 30-35 hours and none of these hours were considered a waste of time. To be honest, I kind of wished it lasted longer.
Plot-wise, it’s really well-crafted and compelling enough to keep you at the edge of your seat. The pacing for each route was really good, but what generally got me absorbed was how the overall story was introduced and concluded. I applaud the writers for not leaving any kind of major plot holes in the game. How they uncovered the X-Day cases were brilliantly executed and the background stories of each culprit and their individual motivations were all very interesting, it was honestly hard for me to put the game down even for a second.
I guess the only con I have was the game’s text typos. There wasn’t a lot but there were certainly prominent ones you can’t overlook. Though I don’t think this will completely ruin the experience for you.
Other than that, I had a great time playing Collar x Malice. This game was such a stellar experience that I would no doubt pick it up another day and play it all over again.
Would I recommend this game? YES
You’re probably missing half of your ‘otome experience’ if you haven’t played Collar x Malice. This game is a solid Otome title and definitely worth its full price. Give this one a whirl and you’ll definitely won’t regret it.