Bustafellows Review

Modern Setting Otome with Crime Solving Elements

General Info

Release Date(s):
NA: July 30, 2021
Japan: December 19, 2019
Rating: M 17+
Developer: NIPPON CULTURAL BROADCASTING EXTEND
Publisher: PQube
Platform I Played On: Switch
Platform(s) Available On: Switch, PC
Genre(s): Otome

Synopsis

Taken from the PQube official site
BUSTAFELLOWS | Otome | Visual Novel | Out Now On Switch and Steam (pqube.co.uk)

A Top-Tier Otome Visual Novel game with a wholesome crime story… finally brought to the West!

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!

Why You Should Play: the Shortened Version

>> Many small scale stories allowing for different scenarios

>> Memorable characters: heroine, love interests, and side characters!

>> Solid backdrop and location for the story (love the aesthetics of New Sieg)

>> A fun and memorable otome experience

First Impressions

Beware there may be minor spoilers below depending on one’s qualification of a spoiler. Read at your own risk. However, in my opinion, this review should not spoil any new player’s experience with the game~

Disclaimer: This is my HOBBY blog with my own opinions, please take that into consideration~

Prologue

Bustafellows “prologue” consists of five chapters (including an actual prologue) before the routes diverge. Each chapter has a different story with some of the overarching plot present.

Within these chapters there are dialogue choice options and these dictate which route you are aligned with. At first I thought the system was rudimentary because I managed to get four of the five routes with relative ease. Though it took some time to figure out why I couldn’t get Limbo’s route (apparently I instinctively do not want to wait for a timer to run out and that was my curse 😂).

There is one dialogue sequence that gives you ten rapid fire questions and I’m still under the impression that that’s an important factor on who’s route you get locked into. Also, I really got a chuckle that other than subtle dialogue choices another way we know which route we got locked into was via a different article of clothing Teuta wears at the end of chapter four.

The overall setup is pretty much that of the synopsis. Teuta is a journalist, lives in New Sieg, and has this unusual ability to go back in time for a brief moment. In the actual prologue we get to see her usual day to day life and her overall passion and integrity of being a journalist.

The whole set-up is that she sees Limbo die and does go back in time to save him. This is quite the introduction and gives a feel of how much work and effort went into the creation of this game. I will say at first, I was a bit put off at first with the overall introduction of things because we weren’t introduced to our heroine immediately which was an interesting decision.

The remaining four chapters contain some smaller self-contained stories and a few overarching ones that appear to be strung throughout the game. We get to see/meet Teuta, all the love interests, and a variety of side characters in all four of these chapters. I do appreciate the game took the time and effort to add a few side characters that were not confined to just one setting. All of these interactions gave the impression that Teuta had a life before we stepped into the otome and her life changed as we actively met new people and places throughout the “prologue” chapters.

This prologue being longer reminded me of Code Realize: ~Guardian of Rebirth~ in that I was curious when the actual route branches would occur. That being said I did enjoy all the side stories and they didn’t feel overwhelming or super chaotic. It worked well with the detective/noir backdrop of Bustafellows and I actually enjoyed playing the prologue because the pacing was good and it did make me curious as to how the routes would take hold.

Lastly the “prologue” gives of an insight into the gorgeous world of New Sieg. The stage is set with the various backdrops and places we are introduced to. We definitely get a good foundation of the world and how Teuta is integrated in said world. One final observation is that we definitely know the developer of this otome because in every single chapter we see the NIPPON CULTURAL BROADCASTING EXTEND as part of the introduction. I simply found this addition amusing 😃 the developers gotta get their name out there, right? Overall, the “prologue” set the tone of the story and was an enjoyable read but also brought anticipation as to what would come next!

The Routes

They are listed in the order I played them however below are my personal ranking of the routes.

Mozu > Shu > Helvetica > Limbo >> Scarecrow

A Brief Thought: All routes have essentially two chapters (not super short) labeled as Side A and Side B. At first I was a bit taken aback the lack of chapters for each route. Side A is where the bulk of the story is and Side B is essentially a follow-up to Side. I thought some routes pacing was decent with the short chapter time while others did feel a bit rushed.

Scarecrow “Crow”

The Comedic One 😑 // Felt Rushed // Young Love Trope

Crow was the route I got based on my choices in the “prologue”. Tbh Crow was the route I was least interested in, so it makes me wonder things about myself that I got this route “naturally” 😂 The reasons I was not enamored with Crow are as follows: 1) I stand by my usual preference of not liking that “comedic” character. 2) Really didn’t like the immaturity levels coming from him. 3) I am a shallow person and really didn’t like his overall design 😶, I am sorry for Crow fans out there… I begrudgingly took my lot and decided to give Crow a fair shake. However, that didn’t do much for me in that this is my least favorite route.

So, Crows plot in general felt really rushed to me in comparison to the other routes. There was a lot to unpack here and I felt like we were not given enough time for that. I was even more taken aback when something was so easily resolved because I thought we were going to get a whole sequence resolving that… but nope… a complex situation resolved in a matter of sentences on the screen… In tandem with the overall plot we also have the romantic progression (??) between Teuta and Crow. Needless to say I was taken aback at how fast things moved I was not ready for feelings to be confessed 😱 Honestly this route felt very much like the “young love” trope and I was not here for it. I really just didn’t vibe with this route, and that is fine, I’m sure Crow has fans out there, let them enjoy the route~

Mozu Shepherd

Science Boy // Felt More Balanced // WAS NOT PREPARED 😱

This was the second route I got “naturally”, and I have to say that it was an improvement from Crow’s route. Mozu is our Mr. Science Brain with little or no emotion, basically the trope of a scientist, stuck in his lab all day with little need for social interaction. My main gripe with this route is that I find it just a tad unbelievable that he’s Head Coroner at such a young age. I’m thinking how did he get through medical school and attain this position?? I know that many otome are designed to suspend disbelief but man this one was just a tad hard to get past. The other main concern I had is that this romance would turn into a brother/sisterly relationship and THANK GOODNESS that was just red herring because I was definitely nervous about it heading that direction and was not on board.

This route plot wise was something I was not prepared for and was definitely shocked at where the story took me… just oh boy don’t read this one at night before going to bed 😱 I definitely was intrigued and was curious how everything would tie together. Romantic progression wise  this one seemed a bit more balanced with the romance being paced with the actual story. It didn’t feel super rushed and there was more subtlety from both Mozu and Teuta as their feelings towards one another blossomed. Overall, I found this route to be a good balance of story and romantic progression. Just beware this route is probably the saddest in terms of cumulative scenes, and don’t read this right before bed if you are a big chicken like me 🤣 🤣

Helvetica Orsted

The Flirt // Plastic Surgery // Was not Expecting the Plot we Got

This route I was very curious about how they would execute the more flirtatious character of the guys. Helvetica is a flirt and a bit of a tease. Luckily Teuta sees through this almost immediately, so Helvetica’s flirtatious nature isn’t an issue for her. He is an established plastic surgeon, which similarily to Mozu, the question being aren’t you a bit young to be at the level you’re at? Don’t you need years of practice to get at a certain level of respect?? I digress, but the amount of people of “high level of importance” in this game comes off a bit unbalanced.

The actual route contained a plot that was quite interesting. It took us down a route that dealt with some very serious topics and really made Helvetica’s overall character way more interesting than what we were first introduced to. I really like how this route also dealt with some philosophical questions about beauty and the whole notion of plastic surgery. I think the romantic progression has a decent pacing and matches the overall story of his route. We don’t get a lot of romantic moments exactly, but you can see where the mutual understanding and appreciation comes from. Also, this is the first route I got a bad ending for and tbh I wasn’t upset by the bad ending 😂 I thought the bad ending also posed some great questions about life in general which it was bittersweet but really just reminded me of the sentiment “life goes on”.

Shu Lynn O’Keefe

Skeptical at First // The Smoker // Most Reasonable Plot?

Shu’s route I was a bit skeptical about for a few reasons. Firstly, I am not a fan of the “smoker” character, not my scene and I hate the smell of cigarettes. Secondly, he comes off as a little rude and curt in the “prologue” so I wasn’t sure what to expect from him character wise and how he would be treating Teuta. Turns out my fears were proven false and I enjoyed reading through his route. He is the kind of stand-offish stoic guy who doesn’t let a lot of people get close to him. However, he doesn’t embody every stereotype of the stoic trope and is pretty laid back in many respects.

This story actually felt the most reasonable in tandem with Shu’s established character in the prologue. It didn’t come randomly out of the blue like other routes and the pacing was fairly decent. That being said, there were some things that definitely made me have some questions of the overall schematics and repercussions of the guys’ overall execution of their plan, but I guess we are just to assume everything logistically wise has been taken care of. The romantic progression is okay, there is the element of the age gap (8 years) and that does spark a few conversations. I would say if you are into the stoic love interest with some drama Shu’s route should be a home run.

Limbo Fitzgerald

Silver Tongued Lawyer // Average? // I Expected Something Different

So, my first thought was to immediately question the poor guy’s name… I was instantly brought back to reading Dante’s Inferno and remembering the whole concept of limbo, anyone else??… an interesting name choice given the setting of this otome. Ahem, now back to Limbo as a character, he is a cheerful guy who is a lawyer. He is the kind to take on unusual cases and utilize his silver tongue and knowledge of the law to help his clients in the courtroom. As I played the other routes I did like Limbo’s character more and he appeared to be more down to earth than what I believed at first. Limbo’s route was also the most difficult for me to get so that is why he is the final route I played.

His overall route story was an interesting one. I wasn’t expecting the route to have the storyline it did and definitely was expecting a bit more ngl. I was also hoping there would be more interaction with his sister and what stunts she would pull (sorry Limbo 🤣). I really wanted to like Limbo’s route more but found it to be rather average and not as compelling as some of the other routes. The main villain really didn’t make me invested in the general plot and I really would have liked to see more insight into Limbo’s life as a lawyer and his overall upbringing. The overall romantic progression is a tad more subtle than some of the other routes which I did appreciate. Simply put, I was just a tad underwhelmed by Limbo’s route ngl. I think his character just deserved a different plot premise to balance the romantic progression.

Two Additional Chapters

Did Not Know These Existed // Truth Bombs Galore~

After you complete all the routes there are two additional chapters (completely separate from the routes). The first of the two chapters goes into detail of the overarching plot presented in the “prologue” and hinted at in some of the routes. I enjoyed this chapter because it answered a lot of questions I had in the prologue and was wondering when they would be addressed. It was a good wrapping up phase for the overall story of Bustafellows.

The second of the two chapters unlocks after you complete the first. This one gives another story (and truth) of events that were also hinted at throughout all the stories. Let me just say that while reading this I felt perpetually confused and it was a very trippy experience 🙃 I will leave at that for all newcomers to the game to have some kind of experience while playing this chapter.

Our Heroine: Teuta Bridges

Voiced // Mixed Feelings // Has an Established Life and Goals

Teuta is the first heroine in an otome game I’ve played with a completely voiced character. Which was an interesting and intriguing choice on the developer’s part. Tbh, I never play otome (or any game in general) as a self-insert so I wasn’t upset by Teuta having a voice. I think the voice acting felt appropriate for Teuta as it matched her overall looks and characterization.

I have mixed feelings about Teuta as a character. On one hand I really like her and on the other hand something just doesn’t quite sit right with me. I really like her in the prologue because she has established beginnings of career, has an established social group, and overall is simply living her day-to-day life. She appears to be content with her life and appears to be a good-natured common-sense kind of gal. She has some spunk to her as well which she isn’t afraid to call things out as she sees them. I like that she’s not an entirely sheltered individual like many otome heroines and overall, she has an established life.

I think my issues with her character really depends on the route one is reading. I think all of the positive points I mentioned that occur in the “prologue” are still present in the routes but Teuta almost takes a back seat in some cases or seemingly becomes (or referred to as) more childlike than is deemed necessary. I get that she looks young and at 21 most people haven’t experienced everything life has to offer but still, a little less emphasis on the childlike qualities, she is a grown woman 😤!

I think the other part that bugged me is sometimes in certain routes she went completely out of her characterization established in the “prologue” of being able to be less emotionally invested in certain situations and all of a sudden in certain routes she becomes a bit sporadic. Granted the situation she’s experiencing may not be an ideal one, but it really seems like a 180 that feels just a tad bit off to me.

I will say it’s interesting she doesn’t exhibit all the usual skill sets many otome have such as cooking. I enjoy cooking, so let’s say it was really rough reading some of the sequences where she clearly has no idea about cooking 😭 there was a part of that died inside… I don’t think the lack of cooking skills by any means demeans her character at all, I just had to get that one off my chest 😂

One interesting, yet underdeveloped, ability Teuta has is to go briefly back in time. While this skill is utilized in most routes I thought it was going to delve more into the consequences of messing with time etc.. I was a bit disappointed that this aspect of Teuta was not explored further and it could have had some great philosophical and moral implications for Teuta and dealing with more consequences. I think we as the reader are supposed to understand this at the surface level and not think too much deeper into the implications of her time travelling abilities. Which time travel is a dicey subject and can louse up a good story so perhaps this is best left untouched and not deeply explored.

With my mixed feelings about Teuta I can still say I like her overall character. She was never cringeworthy or came off as extremely naïve. I did like her tenacity and conviction as a journalist and you could tell she is a highly motivated individual. For the most part I enjoyed reading the story through Teuta’s lens and to some degree found her to be a very endearing genuine character.

Honorable Mention(s):

Valerie: I love Valerie as a character, she gives me 80s businesswoman/lawyer vibes and I am here for it! She’s an attorney and is not afraid to get the job done. She’s more present in certain routes than others but I really loved her in the prologue as well. I honestly wouldn’t be upset if we played a visual novel (not necessarily otome) through her eyes. It would be an interesting game being such a confident headstrong woman.

Carmen: I also love Carmen! Carmen as a side character throws us many bones and insight to her past and overall character. She’s the bar owner where Teuta and company are patrons of. Carmen’s a character with a lot of gusto and bravado and simply has a lot of presence. Honestly, I think more games need a Carmen character because she added a different outlook to many of the topics discussed in the game (serious or casual conversation).

Luka and Adam: I really enjoyed that Teuta had childhood friends that she was still in contact with. We actually got to see her interact with them in the “prologue” and the routes which was a really nice dynamic to see. I think it was nice that Teuta had a friend group outside of the love interests because so many otome heroines feel somewhat isolated from the world. While Luka and Adam are very different personality wise it was just nice to have some active side characters that actually contributed to the story heavily and were not just passing through at random moments.

Game Ambience and Gameplay

The Backgrounds! 😍 // Neat Ambience // Lots of Effort!

Overall, the execution of the game is quite neat and stood out to me in a positive way. The backgrounds are all really detailed to the point that there are changing lights and advertisements. All of the backgrounds brought in such a high level of detail that it really helped New Sieg come to life, they never felt like an afterthought to the game.

To accompany these backgrounds often times the game adds noise that accompanies them from city sounds, intercoms, other peoples’ conversations, or situational sounds. While other otome have this to a certain degree, Bustafellows executes this is a manner that is more realistic and adds a whole layer of ambience. There is background music in the game, but it felt like it added to the ambience rather just a random music insert. The most bombastic music occurs mainly in the short videos/cutscenes we get.

Did I say cutscenes? Yes, yes, I did. In the beginning they actually put in the effort to have some parts of the plot transition put into stationary cutscenes that combined the 2D art with movement. This is kind of neat in that I’ve also never seen this in an otome before. These cutscenes were executed very well and fairly sparingly so it never felt like they were taking away from the otome experience. Just another method to bring the story to life, and this definitely worked in Bustafellows favor.

The area that I was a bit more skeptical in was the design of characters. I am actually quite picky when it comes to artistic design and there were two things that stood out to me that made me a bit hesitant as to if I would actually enjoy playing the game. Firstly, I think that some of the characters looked really young (yes, I know manga/anime typically has younger looking people, but I still like people to look their age within reason), the three that made me think this were Teuta, Scarecrow, and Mozu. The others looked more appropriate to their age but these three just were a bit off-putting to me when comparing them to the other in game characters.

The second component at my first glance hesitation was the more simplistic art style of the character design as a whole. There is not a whole lot of detail in the outfits or hairstyles in comparison to other otome. I think this is in part to me maybe not always being drawn to otome set in a modern landscape and I simply prefer ornate fancy clothing which isn’t in modern day trends 😂

The outfits are very inline to modern fashion trends particularly in Japan, so they were appropriate for the time period. As a I progressed through the game, I began to become accustomed to the outfit designs and the layering techniques and it didn’t feel as weird as when I began the game. I do actually like many of the outfit designs for the characters I really enjoyed Limbo’s fashion and some of the side characters such as Valerie.

One of my main criticisms of this game is that there aren’t any subtitles for a beginning or ending portion of many sequences. There is often audio (conversation, radio, tv, or people talking) that fades in and then the real dialogue occurs. With my rusty and limited Japanese, I could pick out words and even understand complete sentences 😮 but I really wished they at least had these portions in parentheses because I felt like I was missing out~

In the last chapter there is a whole dialogue portion that didn’t contain subtitles and while I understood maybe half of it?… maybe less 😂 I felt like this could have been something that should have been subtitled from the get-go. It’s bad guys, when I was more engaged in the background song (English) than the actual monologue occurring right in front of me.

A feature I enjoyed in Bustafellows was there was some level of interaction that wasn’t limited to just dialogue. In a few scenes we actively had to remember things and actually had consequences if we were wrong (or right). This kind of interactive component isn’t in too many otome games so we should appreciate it when it’s there. I enjoyed it even if I wasn’t too great at remembering things apparently 🤣

There were not many apparent translation errors or reading clunky but there are a few moments where there are articles missing for certain sentences that really did need them. Unfortunately, one of the most noticeable ones is actually voiced in English when each episode is being previewed. While this isn’t game breaking when you hear it at the end of every chapter it does become a bit noticeable. Other than that, there were no clunky reading spots or anything that made me pause and reflect on my grammar skills 😂

The overall organization of the game was fairly standard to most otome. I think the more unusual thing for me was that in order to continue a routes story you have to go to the New Game menu, and you simply just click the Side B portion of the route you want to read. This just took some getting used to since I am not used to this format. The other thing that took some getting used to is the fact you cannot save on a dialogue choice. So, beware if you like to save on the dialogue choices you’ll have to rewind the story and save before the choice occurs. This was not game breaking by any means but like the afore mentioned issue it simply took some getting used to. The interfacing as a whole is very slick and is quite polished, no problems or complaints~

Would I Recommend?

Overall, I did enjoy my experience playing Bustafellows. I think the world we are immersed in through Teuta’s lens is very dynamic and vibrant. We get to experience various areas and people of the city through the variety of smaller scale stories sewn into the core narrative. Teuta, while not my favorite heroine, fit the vibe of Bustafellows nicely and overall was a proactive heroine. I also that all the potential love interests all had an interesting story and appreciated and respected Teuta’s company. The wide array of side characters in this otome really were quite stellar as they actually added depth and character to the story.

For me the overall plot is enjoyable and I really enjoyed the first five chapters in the game. I liked that we got the opportunity to get to know not only the love interests but also the side characters and Teuta herself. The smaller scale stories in each of the chapters were executed well and I liked the concept of knowing all the characters but through a variety of scenarios.

The entirety of the game has a main plot and then many side stories that may (or may not) loosely fit into the larger plot. Some things that were off putting were many instances where there were things left unexplained or were simply never addressed (or addressed at the very end). I think having this big grand mystery introduced was a good idea on paper but I wish there was actually more investigative work done by Teuta and team. Instead, they chose to have everything simply explained to the reader opposed to having an interactive element which to me was a bit of a disappointment.

I liked the routes’ stories and thought most of them were compelling. However, these routes all felt rather short with essentially one long chapter to have a story and the love interest and Teuta fall in love. I would have liked to have a bit more substance on the routes’ stories to match the overall tone of the “prologue”. I think I probably would have enjoyed the routes a bit more if there was more substance and a bit more reasonable pacing.

I would not recommend this game if you like a lengthy story, wanted a silent heroine, or simply don’t like the art style. The game does have its shortcomings and if you are picky in how the story is told this game might not be meant for you. I think the heroine, or simply the voiced portion, might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you don’t like her voice you are stuck with it for the entirety of the story. If you don’t like some of Teuta’s character traits, then you also might not enjoy the game to its fullest. I will fully admit that the art style, particularly the character design, is not my favorite but I grew accustomed to it while reading the story.

I would recommend this game if you wanted a modern city backdrop (think NYC), smaller scale yet quick stories, and a detective-ish genre. I think this otome feels ambitious and wanted to make a great game for fans to enjoy. There is so much effort in establishing the city, characters, and the overall storytelling. While I have some criticisms of the game, I still respect it greatly for the product they served. If you are even remotely into the detective/investigative genre I’d say this is a good otome to experience because the stories do make for a good read and positive otome experience!

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