Collar X Malice Review (Switch)
Release Date: June 25, 2020
File Size: 4.7GB
Developer: Idea Factory
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Justice is something that we all have our own definitions and opinions on. Some people believe in the law and believe that those in power will do what is right, while others believe that you have to take justice into your own hands instead of relying on law officials. But what happens when you find yourself trapped in your city due to a criminal organization enacting their own force of justice due to police corruption and inaction? You find yourself stuck smack in the middle of an otome game known as Collar X Malice.
You play as Ichika Hoshino, a hardworking police officer who wants nothing more than to protect those important to her. Unfortunately, she ends up being kidnapped by an anonymous criminal group known as Adonis, whose main goal is to enact their own form of justice. She is able to get away with a collar around her neck, however she finds that there is now the threat of death hanging around her head, as well as the suggestion of figuring out the connection of the X-Day incidents.
Each individual route will take place through December, and depending on who you decide to pursue, you will learn more about specific X-Day incidents that have happened throughout the year. Each route is interesting in its own way, although the later routes will be the only ones that really start to answer any questions concerning Adonis.
Concerning character archetypes, you will of course come across anime stereotypes. Thankfully, individual routes do better to flesh out characters past their generic stereotypes. Nonetheless, you will still come across archetypes that are at this point common in other otome games.
Collar X Malice is an otome game, first and foremost. What this means is that it is a visual novel specifically aimed at women (although that doesn’t mean men can’t play them!). As such, there is no actual “gameplay”, outside of a few quick time events where you must press a button at the correct time. As this is a dating sim, that means that you have a cast of characters available for your choosing. There are five different love interests: Enomoto Mineo, Sasazuka Takeru, Okazaki Kei, Shiraishi Kageyuki, and Yanagi Aiji. However, all five are not available for you to pursue on your first playthrough. You will only be able to romance Mineo, Takeru, or Kei during your very first playthrough. After your first route has been finished, Kageyuki’s route will unlock. And after you finish all four other routes, Aiji’s will unlock.
Quite unlike the other dating sims that have been covered for the site, this game does have bad endings. This means that, depending on the choices you make, you can end up essentially with a game over. Some choices are common sense to avoid, while others may not be as obvious. Thankfully, for those of you looking to collect every ending, there are many save slots available, which can make exploring the different endings much easier. And since the game can be saved at any point, it’s easy to save your game right before a choice has to be made. There is also a quick save option, however if you close the game, anything saved to your quicksave will be deleted, so keep that in mind.
Among otome fans, there is something known as a recommended route order, meaning the order that you select love interests in order to best have the main plot unfold. This is mainly done so that players don’t accidentally go through one route that holds all of the answer to the plot. In the case of Collar X Malice, the recommended route order is Enomoto or Sasazuka (either can be played first and second), then Okazaki, Shiraishi, and Yanagi. Of course, since Yanagi and Shiraishi’s routes are closed off at the very beginning, this does make following the route order easier. But at the end of the day, you don’t have to follow this route order if you really don’t want to.
The art is absolutely beautiful, thanks to artist Hanamura Mai, whose other works include other otome games like Amnesia and Desert Kingdom. All characters are displayed in bust up shots, with some CG pieces sprinkled throughout the different routes and endings (both good and bad). Each character has multiple expressions that match up to the tone of the scene.
The music is also great, ranging from soft piano to funky guitar pieces. All of the pieces play very well together, encompassing the tone of each scene perfectly. There are some pieces that are technically different in that the arrangement has been tweaked, but will sound the same if you’re not paying close attention. The opening song, Silent Noise by Plastic Tree, for the game is also great.
Another treat with the game is the voice acting. With the exception of Ichika herself and the narrated portions, all of the character parts are voiced in Japanese. For those familiar with other otome and visual novel series, several of the main voice actors will be familiar. And the acting itself is superb, each voice fitting each character perfectly (although I am still surprised by how deep Sasazuka’s voice is). If I did have one complaint, it was with the fact that some of the voice audio felt a bit quiet, even after fiddling with the audio controls and having my Switch audio up louder than usual.
While Collar X Malice is not my first foray into otome games, it was the first that I’ve dedicated so much time to. This game is immense, and if you pursue all of the routes for completion’s sake, you will find yourself sinking a lot of time into this game. The main story is very intriguing, trying to figure out the mystery that is Adonis while also worrying about Ichika and her love interest’s end game. The little moments of camaraderie and romance brought a smile to my face. And while each of the characters have their own quirks that are grating at times, I found myself warming up to them as I progressed through their route.
The attention to detail with this title makes this an enjoyable treat when it comes to otome games on the Switch. The artwork, the music, and the voice acting all come together seamlessly to leave a satisfying experience that I looked forward to every time I booted up the game to play. For those looking to jump into the otome genre of visual novels and dating sims, or those who are already familiar with the genre and have not taken the plunge on Collar X Malice, do yourself a favor and check this game out.