Release Date: July 30, 2021 (North America)
Platforms: PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
TW: BUSTAFELLOWS is rated “M” in ESRB. It depicts a lot of gun violence as well as drug references, if you are uncomfortable with these themes in fiction, this game may not be for you.
STORY (From PQube’s Official Website for BUSTAFELLOWS)
Arrive in New Sieg, a beautiful fictional town. Step into the shoes of Teuta – a strong, smart and gifted journalist, in this romantic adventure set in America. After witnessing the murder of crooked lawyer, Limbo, Teuta is destined to save him. With the ability to leap into the past for a very brief moment and take on the body of another – you must find clues, search for data, and help those around you. Thus, our journey begins. Travel to the past to warn Limbo of his fate and figure out how to save him!
ART AND MUSIC
Here’s a fun fact for ya! The artist in charge of BUSTAFEELOWS’ overall character design is the ultra-famous eroge illustrator Kohaku Sumeragi. No surprise there! After seeing side characters, Valerie and Carmen’s swimsuit CG, I just had to look up the artist! 👀 Her other popular works include Nanairo Reincarnation and the recently localized visual novel, Musicus. Kohaku Sumeragi was also the artist behind Side Kicks!, EXtend’s other “noir” otome game, that’s basically set in the same world as BUSTAFELLOWS.
Speaking of Side Kicks!, characters like Kirara, Shisui and even (Side Kicks! LI’s) Chika and Shishiba made cameo appearances in BUSTAFELLOWS.
The opening theme NOVALIS, is an in-game song in BUSTAFELLOWS, far-famed as the debut track of Adam Krylov as a singer. (Adam is a famous news anchor in New Seig who’s also the heroine’s best friend). This track is performed by Kaito Ishikawa, who also voices the side character Adam in the game.
NOVALIS will be in BUSTAFELLOWS’ soundtrack CD (aka Scarecrow’s Mixtape), which comes with the game’s Collectors Edition.
One of BUSTAFELLOWS’ highlights was its stellar casts of voice actors that I’m pretty sure every otakus and VN players are highly familiar with. From the main characters to its side characters, the VA line-up was nothing short of impressive!
Yui Kondo “Teuta” – Kuon Stroheim (XBlaze Series), Mio Ichinose (Saku Saku: Love Blooms with the Cherry Blossoms), Biwa Hayahide (Uma Musume), Tao Mongarten (Atelier Ryza)
KENN “Limbo“ – Futo Asahina (Brothers Conflict), Minakawa Asahi (Gakuen Club), Totomaru Minowa (Kenka Banchou Otome), Kei (Ken ga Kimi), Masaki Shinnosuke (Glass Heart Princess), Shelby (Cupid Parasite)
Yoshimasa Hosoya “Shu“– Futomimi (Shin Megami Tensei), Julian (Black Wolves Saga), Loki (Kamigami no Asobi), Hidaka Subaru (Robotics;Notes), Yukimura Sanada (IkeSen), Kira Rintaro (Kenka Banchou Otome)
Hiroyuki Yoshino “Helvetica“ – Heisuke Todo (Hakuoki), Heishi Otomaru (Norn9), Auger (Black Wolves Saga), Debito (Arcana Famiglia), Sendo Kiyoharu (Vitamin X)
Jun Fukuyama “Mozu“ – Vynn Richter (Tears of Themis), Ito Keita (Gakuen Heaven), Aido (Vampire Knight), Tokiwa (Dairoku), Tweedle Dee & Dum (Heart no kuni no Alice), Keiichi Shimizu (Kin’iro no Corda)
Shirai Yusuke “Scarecrow“ – Eltcreed Valentine (Steam Prison), Watson (London Detective Mysteria), Amemura Ramuda (Hypnosis Mic), Ars (Period Cube), Usui Masumi (A3!), Miki Hiraizumi (Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome)
Kaito Ishikawa “Adam“ – Marius Von Hagen (Tears of Themis), Dante Falzone (Piofiore Fated Memories), Il Fado de Rie (Café Enchanté), Dimitri (Fire Emblem 3H), Hikage (Psychedelica of the BB)
Tetsuya Kakihara “Carmen“ – Victor Frankenstein (Code Realize), Shin (Amnesia Series), Karasuba (Psychedelica of the BB), Isora (7’Scarlet), Clyde King (Iris School of Wizardry)
Tomukazu Sugita “Sauli“ – Ron (Norn9), Kuroba (Olympia Soiree), Gintoki (Gintama), Takuma (Hiiro no Kakera), Oda Nobunaga (IkeSen), Gandamu Tanaka (Danganropa Series), Usagi-sensei (Bad Apple Wars)
Showtaro Morikubo “Troy“ – Impey Barbicane (Code Realize), Souji Okita (Hakuoki), Gilbert (Piofiore Fated Memories), Toa (7’Scarlet), Jocus (Period Cube), Reiji (Utapri)
Mei Sonozaki “Valerie“ – Kujo Subaru (Sakura Wars), Tamamo (Dairoku), Lady Phoenix (High School DXD), Carmellia (Castlevania), Nana Shimura (My Hero Academia), Alt (Cyberpunk 2077), Shirona (Pokemon Masters)
Shunsuke Takeuchi “Zora“ – Takumi Sunaga (Kin’iro no Corda), Juuza (A3!), Akechi Mitsuhide (IkeSen), Kitty (Gunka Haita Neko), Salum (Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World)
Komada Wataru “Narrator“ – Iruma Jyuto (Hypnosis Mic), Fennel (Nekopara Catboys Paradise), Rintaro Yagumo (Root Film), Nagusa (Olympia Soiree), Katsura Kogorou (Ikemen Samurai Romances)
Kazuhiro Yoshimura “Pepe“ – Seiji Minegishi (Collar x Malice), Haniwa (Cafe Enchante), Hideyori Toyotomi (Kurenai no Homura Sanada Ninpou Chou), Maki (Side Kicks!)
There aren’t any locked routes in BUSTAFELLOWS (save for the finale which is only playable after completing all the main character’s best endings). That means you can end up with any of the five main routes in your first playthrough if you’re going blind. The routes don’t spoil each other either, so you can start with whichever LI you want. For best story experience (from lightest to the heaviest theme wise), I recommend playing in this order: Limbo ► Shu ► Helvetica ► Mozu ►Scarecrow ► Main Story. Mozu and Scarecrow’s route tackled really heavy topics, so I suggest playing them last before going through the main story (Full Circle + Auld lang syne).
There will be three indicators that’ll give you hints in the common route regarding which LI route you’re currently heading to:
- First is the cat’s name. In chapter 3, each LI will suggest a cat’s name, and whichever name Bustafellows‘ resident cat responds to is the LI route you’re heading to.
- Second is the guy who’ll approach Teuta, and encourages her to open the “Rookie of the Year” letter in chapter 4.
- Third is Teuta’s swimsuit. You’ll know which route you’re heading to once Teuta wears the swimsuit an LI picks for her during the last scene of chapter 4.
Spoilers below are kept to a very minimum amount (they’re mostly the grayed out parts), but I’m placing my spoiler banner here anyway to remind everyone to read and skim with caution!
- rich american boi★
- lightweight drinker
While coined as the “crooked lawyer” in New Seig, Limbo is rather popular for his other reputation in the city as the “hero of the people”. That said, he is infamous for winning innocent verdicts in murder cases and is known for bringing justice to even the toughest criminals in the courtroom. He’s cunning and plays by his own rules when it comes to the cases he takes.
Limbo is the true definition of a rich, American stud who walks that walk & talks that slick talk! 😂 😂 😂 Jokes aside, for a poster boy, Limbo’s route sure was the tamest out of everyone. It was the typical crime drama with some good romance to boot. Not that I’m complaining, his was indeed the best first route to start the game with!😃 Moreover, I enjoyed how the villain in this route was so straightforward with his motivation (which was to get revenge) that it didn’t need any conflicting twists nor big reveals to make the story interesting. The pacing in Limbo’s route was so smooth that it made me forget how platitude his good ending was.😅
Romantic-wise, Limbo is an awfully confident man that knows how to please a lady for sure! The gradual development of his relationship with Teuta from being friends to something more was quite relishing! His Side B story CG was one of the spiciest in the game.
SHU LYNN O’KEEFE
- marlboro daddy-kun
- loves classic western movies
Shu is a bounty hunter who makes a living by eliminating other hitmen and assassins. He’s a top-class, professional sniper who’s well adept in stealth and combat. He possesses an unmotivated, lazy attitude but definitely had some hidden charms up his sleeve. Shu is also a chain smoker who’s *trying* to kick the habit.
Shu became the dark horse in this game for me. He was the character I was least interested in at first, but his route really took me by surprise. Shu’s story delved into a lot of his past upbringing, alongside his life growing up together with his mentor, who gave him tough love and taught him the ways of
the jedi a skilled hitman. I thought it was clever that his backstory built up the conflict of his route. It was a fun read that certainly kept me on my toes from the start ’til the end!
In the romance department, I find Shu’s no beating around-the-bush type of attitude towards Teuta really refreshing. Surprisingly, for a couple who’s pretty much the complete opposite in personality, they sure hit it off pretty well!🤭 I thought they were cute together, and I adored seeing Shu show his vulnerable side to the heroine from time to time. 🥰 His Side B story was so worth it!
- playboy with layers
- pink beautiful nipples 👁️👁️
Helvetica is a popular plastic surgeon in New Seig. He’s a master of disguise and is pretty good with changing his personal aesthetics if a situation calls for it. He believes that 90% of the first impression a person makes is through his physical appearance and welcomes the thought that anyone can be reborn by changing their natural features.
All aboard the angst train, aka Helvetica’s route! Helvetica’s story tackled a heap of serious issues involving his past life, and I did not expect his backstory to be so controversial. I liked it! My only problem with it was that the conflict was short-lived. It all resolved too quickly and conveniently, and the villain who was mysteriously intriguing at the beginning turned out very maladroit at the end. Nonetheless, I appreciate how Helvetica showed so much development in his route. He really shined throughout his story. Oddly enough, I kinda like his melodramatic bad ending more than his good ending.😁
As for Helvetica’s Side B story, I thought it was interesting to see the couple’s first lovers quarrel where I was completely on Teuta’s side the whole time (lol). However, as much as I wanted to see Helvetica change his playboy exterior for Teuta, I liked that he remained his self as-is and showed his love for the heroine as to how his character would. He stayed true to his complex nature, and I appreciate the writers for sticking with that.
- Bustafellows’ resident chef
At a very young age, Mozu became the chief of the autopsy department, who at the same time works with the police force in New Seig. He’s normally silent and always thinks from a medical standpoint, which in turn makes him an odd duck to many. Despite his stoic personality that sometimes comes off as apathetic or emotionless, he is rather kindhearted and deeply cares for his family and friends.
Mozu’s route became another unexpected favorite of mine in this game. I thought the story-telling here was very precise, and I loved that it mainly focused on Mozu’s storyline alone, (his search for his missing sister). It made me feel like I was watching a compelling crime drama, where my engagement level remained at its peak the whole time. I loved everything about it! From the investigations, the obvious villain and how painfully impactful the ending was. Mozu’s theme was also quite heavy, and it certainly hit home differently in more ways than one.😭
His Side B story continues where his Side A story left off. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t like how nonchalantly this part resolved Side A’s brooding cliffhanger, (that small tidbit detail about Teuta’s brother didn’t have to be said).However, their cute romance and valentines day prom episode more than made up for this, so I ain’t completely mad!😇
- get you a guy who carries a respect jar w/ pride!
- best boi 😭
Scarecrow is an extremely talented cyber-geek hacker who brands himself as “the boss of the underworld”. Despite his seemingly dubious presence online in the darknet, only very few people have met him in person. He owns the huge mansion everyone in Limbo’s gang resides, and he possesses a transparent (sometimes awkward) personality when it comes to the opposite sex.
I’m so glad I saved Scarecrow’s story for last as this route became my most favorite in BUSTAFELLOWS, hands down.🙌 This man deserves every penny in his respect jar! Scarecrow’s story introduced a heavier theme than most, but sadly, it didn’t go full-ham on the darker aspects of things (like his past trauma). I would’ve liked to see the writers go into detail with it, but I guess I was expecting too much? Despite this itty-bitty gripe of mine, I truly loved everything about Scarecrow’s story, and I think it was also in his route where Teuta was highly proactive as a protagonist. Kudos to Scarecrow’s VA, Shirai Yusuke, for making this character extra fun!😍 He was indeed an absolute joy, and no doubt will go into my ‘husbando hall of fame!’ (cackling).🤭
One of the highlights in this route was Scarecrow and Teuta’s mutual chemistry. Their romance took me on a nostalgic trip back to my high school years, and I am just l i v i n g for it. 💚😘 You can’t miss his fluffy Side B story!
FULL CIRCLE + AULD LANG SYNE (!!WARNING SPOILERS!!)
After completing all the routes of the main characters, a bonus episode unlocks called “Full Circle“, followed by another extra episode, “Auld Lang Syne”. Full Circle provides us tidbits of information regarding the secret organization, Ruy Lopez, while Auld Lang Syne tells the story of how Teuta’s brother Zora died.
While Full Circle more or less gives you an insight on how the Ruy Lopez org started, including who are its founders and forerunners. It felt rather lacking in development. There was absolutely no build-up, nor any kind of foreshadowing in this story making the big reveal such a drab. Presenting a villain that was barely there the entire game was such an odd choice. I did like the suspense and action this episode had to offer though.
Auld Lang Syne suffers the same problem as the former episode with its lack of story build-up. The idea was there, and it looked good on paper, but it almost feels like they didn’t know what to do with it. If anything, I thought this episode thrived too much on shock value. I was expecting to learn more about Zora and his relationship with Teuta and the others, but everything kind of ended abruptly without giving you any takeaway on what exactly went down. Again, It felt like the writers were so afraid to go into detail with the scenario. Rather than piecing the plot together, it left me with more questions than answers. It was a little disappointing to end the game in this regard. On the flip side, since eXtend announced a sequel of the game, perhaps we’re finally getting those closures in this next entry!
TEUTA BRIDGES (Main Heroine)
- reading steiner
- lethal cook, but tries anyway 😂
Teuta is a 21-year-old freelance journalist in New Seig. After her brother’s mysterious death, she took to the field of journalism to take part in serving justice. Teuta possesses a mysterious ability that allows her to leap in the past for a very short period into the bodies of other people. This helps her change the course of events in the present time.
I admit I felt indifferent knowing this heroine had mysterious powers at first, but I was so happy to learn that her character did not rely solely on her superpowers to make her seem important in the story, and that she actually had a vibrant personality, not to mention a whole lotta spunk! In all honesty, she really grew on me.😚
I like that she cracks jokes, drinks beer, and even occasionally teases the LI’s for fun. She beams with so much life and enthusiasm which I thought was really charming.🥰 The fact that she can’t cook makes her a wildcard in otome heroines 😂 (where they’re always portrayed as supreme chefs in the kitchen). Tbh, I like it when heroines have some kind of quirks, or imperfections like these because, to me, it makes them more genuine and relatable. She’s also bad at taking pictures which I can 100% relate to!😂
I was honestly impressed with her in Mozu and Scarecrow’s route, where she was highly proactive and was mostly THE character that carried the plot forward. And while she’s not an action-packed protagonist who can physically fight bad guys, she always makes an effort to work up a sweat and deem herself useful in every situation she’s in. There are times that she gets a bit foolhardy and acts on her own accord but they were mainly in bad endings so I can totally forgive that. Ha!
SYSTEM AND LOCALIZATION
Perhaps the biggest flaw in this game was its janky controls. The skip/force skip option was really slow. It literally took me around 25-30 minutes to skip the entire common route after my first playthrough. Luckily, there is a “Jump” option in the main menu that will let you skip to the next choice, a saving grace that circumvents the aforementioned issue. On a different note, it’s also impossible to save during choices, so you’ll have to backtrack a conversation early and save there. Lastly, during the movie or slide transitions, the subtitles won’t play. To view the subs, you’ll need to open your logs and read the translations there instead. While these are rather minor inconveniences, I admit they did bother me a few times.
As for the localization, it was very satisfactory, in the sense that the minor typos in the game didn’t take me out of my immersion. I did notice some naming inconsistencies, like Zora changing to Zola and Teo into Theo. There were also a few rare cases where the lines spill out of the text boxes. Again, these were only a small amount which I don’t think will ruin your experience.
One of the pros I really loved about BUSTAFELLOWS’ system was the game’s EXTRA content. There were tons of unlockable short stories to enjoy, and a couple of them involved cooking food! Really now, who doesn’t like that?!🤤 Most of them included dainty food pics too, which was quite a treat!😁(Pun indented). I liked that the “Archive” section of the game was laid out to be very diary-esque, and was narrated from Teuta’s perspective. Moreover, I thought it was really smart to use Anima (Scarecrow’s AI) as the game’s main UI. It’s very stylish and surely fits the game’s modern theme.
I believe it took me a total of 40-45 hours to complete BUSTAFELLOWS, including unlocking its extra contents, such as the game’s ‘Archives’ section and ‘Memorabilia’. The length of the game was very optimal, and I wouldn’t have it in any other way. All of the routes consist of two different endings (Good and Bad), except for Limbo’s, which curiously had two bad ends.
What really stood out to me, in this game was how nearly perfect its pacing was. It was like watching a crime drama off the TV, where it had episode recaps and everything. This made the game very easy to follow, and it tremendously helped the overarching events flow like clockwork. The fact that it also shows the character sprite’s back profile gave the game a movielike feel to it. In addition, it was such a pleasure to hear Komada Wataru, say “Stay tuned for the next episode!” after every last scene of each chapter. (Laughs)🤭
I also enjoyed BUSTAFELLOWS’ funny parodies and direct references to American locales and landmarks. E.g. Time’s Square (Central Core), Coney Island (Sunny Island), New York Times (New Seig Today), Trader Joe’s (Trader Joneses’), ELLE Magazine (Fashion Magazine “L”), and I think “Olivia Lee” in the game was a reference to the famous young photographer in Brooklyn, Olivia Bee. They’ve also brought up lots of western media references like NY’s Fashion Week, the Casablanca star Ingrid Bergman, Calamity Jane, and the movie Snowden. Just from these minutiae of American culture alone, you can tell that the writers comprehensively did (and had fun with) their research.
Story-wise, I like how spot-on some of the plot arguments were, especially when it came down to the issues surrounding marginalized people and how powerless they can be in this world’s injustice system. It was one great thematic eye-opener, and I really wished they went all-out in detail with this topic further.
As far as the main characters and their routes, I thought all of them were SUPER. I loved that each LI had a specific storyline and that their conflicts significantly focused on their unresolved pasts. While I enjoyed every bit of each route in BUSTAFELLOWS, the ones that hit me right in the feels, were Scarecrow and Mozu’s. In the romance category, I adored Scarecrow so much as a love interest followed by soft bad boy, Shu. Collectively, everyone in the main cast was astounding, and as a group, they ooze with camaraderie, which is always a selling point in my book.
Do I recommend this game? YES
What a fun ride! If you love “noir” inspired visual novels topped with just the right amount of romance to sweep you off your feet, BUSTAFELLOWS is the perfect otome game to indulge yourself in. This title was indeed worth the hype and is by far one of the best otome games I’ve played this year. I was even feeling sad now that I’ve finished it. (The separation anxiety is real!)
There is just so much to love about this game, such as its movielike cinematics, its captivating crime stories that’ll take you on an immersive journey, and best of all, its stellar cast of crime-busting characters that will surely win your hearts. Otome fans, do yourself a favor, hop in the New Seig bandwagon, and play BUSTAFELLOWS for the experience you’ll never forget, nor regret!😉