Collar x Malice is a Otome visual novel game created by Idea Factory and brought to the West by Aksys Games. The game was released in Japan during August 2016 and we (luckily) were able to get it about a year later. I was so excited to get started playing this game as when I was in Japan I saw so much Collar x Malice merchandise! It was everywhere! I was a bit hesitant to buy anything, especially as I didn’t know what characters I would like. Now, I’m kind of kicking myself, I should have gotten more merch!! I ended up getting a mystery bag which was about $7 , and at Otomate they gave me a free bookmark.
In Collar x Malice you play as a rookie police officer who works in Shinjuku. In the last year, Shinjuku has been in the terrifying grip of a terrorist organisation called ‘Adonis’. Adonis seeks to create a world without hatred, and through ‘X Day Incidents’ they target people that they consider ‘undesirable’. You’ve somehow caught the attention of this organisation, and they’ve placed a collar on you as an experiment. You must find out the truth behind Adonis before the final X Day, otherwise the poison within your collar will be activated. In your time of need you come across a special detective agency, with five handsome and brilliant men who promise to help you. But how sure are you that you can leave your life in their hands?
From the moment I started Collar x Malice I was completely entranced by the story. It has the same fantastic tension and depth as games like ‘Zero Escape’. However, because the story is so detailed, there is A LOT more reading in this game than a regular visual novel. Not only do you have to get all the info about your top babe, but you pretty much get information dump after information dump of police cases and background information on Shinjuku. At times it can get a bit tedious, but with all the extra knowledge one can really immerse themselves in the game. As a player, you begin to think of your own theories about who is behind Adonis and unravel the cases around you.
One of my biggest issues when I was playing ‘Period Cube’ was that I liked the side, non-romanceable, characters more than the main ones! But with CxM, I have to say, I pretty much love all the characters equally. The five main guys are absolutely wonderful, with really striking personalities, but nothing too off putting (besides Takeru’s occasional snarly comment). It’s even kind of hard to classify each guy as a type, sure you can say that Enomoto is the jokester and Takeru is a bit of tsundere, but there’s so much more to them. Even if you’re not on their route you can gain insight into their characters through the hilarious banter between them, and even the serious talks. These characters are so multidimensional and wonderful, it would be disservice to try to categorise them!
Side characters also really add to the story, with really fleshed out personalities. Their designs were also really incredible, I found myself often taking screenshots of them to see if I could draw them later. There were at least two side characters which I really wanted to date ~
For my first play through I was on Okazaki’s route! Apparently his route is not meant to be done till later in the game, and needs to be unlocked, so I’m not sure how I got on his route >_>. Overall I really did love Okazaki, at first he’s a bit of klutz and really adorable. But through playing the game you learn about a darker side to his personality. Without spoiling anything, I will say there were some issues in Okazaki’s route that I found were a bit odd. For example there was something in his backstory which explained everything, and then a few chapters later it was completely contradicted and just made me so confused! But, I found Okazaki cute enough to forgive this~
Besides the typical visual novel choice selection CxM has two unique features – texting and ‘shooting’. However I found both of these features to be very underused in the game. For texting, there were very few options you could choose to respond to the people , often it was just like reading a stream of text. My other issue with the texting was that all the text bubbles were the same. This was really annoying in group chats as I often thought I was just chatting with Okazaki, then scrolled up and realised everyone was in the convo! It would have been nice if everyone had their own colour text box to help with this confusion.
The shooting would have been a really cool feature in CxM if we could actually shoot anyone! In Okazaki’s route you only shoot twice and one of them is during the prologue. The shooting mechanism is also not very well explained, at firs I wasn’t sure when to hit the shoot button. It would have been cool if we could do a first person shooter scenario, even just once, to spice the game up a bit more!
Overall I really enjoyed my first play through of Collar x Malice. Before playing it, I heard that there were a lot of translation and grammar issues, so I was a little nervous. However, I didn’t encounter many, and the ones that I did see didn’t impede my enjoyment of the game. During my playing, I became really attached to all the characters, and absolutely adored the MC who spoke her mind and stood up for what she believed in. The story was really engaging, and I love otome with a bit of a darker story so this was perfect. I can’t wait to finish romancing the other four detectives!