Collar x Malice Review

Collar = Death ☠️ Collar ≠ Death

General Info

Release Date(s):
Switch Version NA: June 25, 2020
NA: July 28, 2017
Japan: August 18, 2016
Rating: M 17+
Developer: Otomate and Design Factory Co.
Publisher: NA: Aksys // JP: Idea Factory
Platform I Played On: Switch
Platform(s) Available On: Switch, PS Vita
Genre(s): Otome

Synopsis

Taken from the Aksys official site

Collar X Malice :: Official Site | Just another Aksys Games Network site

A dangerous shadow organization launches a campaign of fear and violence in the city of Shinjuku, pushing society to the brink of chaos. As a young police officer tasked with restoring order, you become the target of an attack, and have a poisonous collar attached to your neck. With the situation spiraling out of control and time running out, five mysterious strangers appear to aid you in your quest for the truth.

Who can you trust?

Will you be able to save yourself and the soul of Shinjuku from the clutches of oblivion?

In a city bound by malice, you are the only hope for salvation!

Why You Should Play: The Shortened Version

>> Time to Solve a Mystery!

>> Has great supporting side characters

Before Reading

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

Sets the Tone // Gets the Job Done // Establishes Ichika’s Personality

The “prologue” contains the events before you are locked into a route. The first chapter titled “prologue” contains the events leading towards Ichika having the deadly collar and her meeting the guys of the detective agency. The remainder of the prologue stories revolve around Ichika coping with her newfound situation and making choices that determine which route you will play.

The prologue is fairly short and sets the tone of the game. We immediately get a sense that every citizen is on edge and that Shinjuku is not the ideal place to be. I think the prologue is short and to the point while establishing the kind of character Ichika will be throughout the story and her strong convictions and purpose of being a police officer. The prologue simply did its job and was succinct and moved the story along.

The Routes

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

Okazaki > Yanagi > Shiraishi >> Enomoto >>>>>>>> Sasazuka

Brief Thought: Overall most routes in my opinion are not super strong romantic plots or sometimes feel a bit too innocent considering this is an M rated game. I do applaud the game for not making Ichika a love-struck gal who is incapable of grasping reality, in fact the amount of romance seems appropriate in tandem with the urgency of the situation.

Brief Thought 2: I don’t actually care for the bulk of the routes of the game. Even my favorite route has some plot choices and characterizations I wasn’t really liking. I felt like all of the characters were borderline classic otome tropes and relied on those opposed to actual personality. I didn’t like how a few of them treated Ichika and it felt like she was truly hapless and stupid 😑 I can honestly say I don’t have the energy or desire to touch any of the routes again when I think there are considerably stronger otome games with plots and characters I like more.

Brief Thought 3: I honestly don’t think any of the routes do a great job of wrapping up the story and the villain and the evil organization’s motive are somewhat dubious and not well executed. I found myself thinking in all the routes, that’s it? There has to be a better explanation. Even in the “canon” route I found myself thinking the motives and overall ending were a bit anticlimactic and were a bit chaotic in execution. This game was fairly grounded in reality for the most part so when the story began to become a bit farfetched when it tried to connect all the love interests and backstories to the evil organization. I think it just made the motives and culprit quite hazy and the story became somewhat confusing. I guess I wanted a bit more coherence throughout all the routes.

Kei Okazaki

Favorite Route // Sleep Trope // Somewhat Domineering

So this was the route I got naturally in my first playthrough. Okazaki is an SP officer who is essentially is a body guard for VIPs. Out of all the routes this one is my favorite because I think it is less convoluted than some of the other routes. I think the story does take some really weird turns that were really strange and felt somewhat random ngl. Okazaki has a few tropes that I think were a bit overplayed in the game. An example would be the “can sleep anywhere” and he really does fall asleep anywhere which then creates either the endearing, or in most cases awkward moments.

Okazaki is a rather domineering person. I really don’t mean this in a bad way but sometimes he is more on the pushy side and Ichika seems to not be able to hold her ground. Now given Ichika’s situation and the general tension throughout the game I think some of Okazaki’s points and arguments make complete sense. However, I think there is a bit of micromanaging that I’m not really sure I feel about. It’s not mean spirited and Ichika doesn’t seem to mind and respects Okazaki so maybe I’m projecting too much modern and western sensibilities 🥴 The actual romantic progression isn’t bad but it’s not my favorite. I do appreciate that Ichika and Okazaki end up having a high level of understanding towards one another. Despite my criticisms this is my favorite route because the progression and story are considerably more cohesive than other routes in the game.

Kageyuki Shiraishi

Cats // Strange // Mind Games

Shiraishi is our police profiler who is a guy that beats to his own drum and likes cats. I have to say due to his aloof nature I was curious how his overall route was going to go. His route is somewhat peculiar in that you don’t know his true intentions behind his words or actions. He has the “cat” trope and I don’t really know how I feel about this. I feel like they overemphasized his love of cats by having him wear cat paraphernalia in his outfit. I think this made him kitschy and I couldn’t take him as serious.

The story itself was kind of trippy and I’m not totally sure I understood everything that went down. I even had to replay portions to get the good end and I’m still not 100% certain about the motivations and backstory that were presented in his route. This route probably is meant for a certain people and I am certainly not one of those people. Let’s simply say that his story is filled with mystery, aloofness, and convoluted plot devices.

Mineo Enomoto

The Brunt of a Joke // The Stupid yet Naïve One // Meh

This is another route that judging by our first introduction to the guys I wasn’t particularly looking forward to… He is the “comedic one” in the game and is consistently being put down by those around him. He also is terrified (I mean extremely shy) in front of women so there were more than a few awkward moments. I can assure you Enomoto, Ichika is not the plague reincarnate 🤣 I wish they would have toned down both comedic and severely awkward around women trope Enomoto had going on. I would have maybe actively liked playing this route a bit more. As it currently stands it was okay, meh…

The main plot with Enomoto actually had some really interesting moments involving his former job at the police station and how the current events in Shinjuku affected Enomoto and his personal convictions. I think his route kind of makes sense plot wise and does provide more insight to Enomoto’s character. The romantic progression is okay… As I said before he is very shy and awkward around Ichika. I honestly think due to Ichika’s naïve nature and Enomoto’s awkwardness this romance isn’t bad and there is mutual respect and support. I really cannot emphasize enough that I really wasn’t loving the strong level of character tropes portrayed in Enomoto’s route and really think the route would have been considerably better if the trope dial had been turned down a notch or two. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m sure there are others who will enjoy this route especially if you like the “comedic” lover interest.

Takeru Sasazuka

Mean // Being Called Stupid // Ugh 😑

Sasazuka is our resident hacker and irritable sweet tooth with a big time tsundere personality. So… this is my least favorite route of the game~ I vehemently dislike Ichika being called stupid ALL THE TIME! This route can really sum up why I don’t like the tsundere routes in otome and simply in general. The consistent level of degradation towards Ichika’s character really gets annoying and while she kind of stands up to it she still allows herself to be called really demeaning “nick names”. Idk I just cannot believe that even if someone loved you, to be called stupid all the time must wear you down (if not consciously but definitely subconsciously), I just really don’t like it when our heroine is really treated like she’s dumb when she really isn’t 😤. I really cannot stand this trope and don’t think it’s healthy if its overused, which in this route it definitely is.

So now that my major criticisms and opinions of Sasazuka are out in the open, the actual mystery plot does have its intriguing points. I think mystery wise this route does hold water a bit more than some of the other routes. This route’s plot mainly focusses on computer and internet crimes and sadly shows to us that Ichika really is a dunce when it comes to technology… Like I get that not all girls play video games but for Ichika to really know absolutely nothing about video games or technology in general just makes me cringe a bit… Sasazuka’s route is definitely not for everybody and certainly was not for me since I avoided it as long as I could.

Aiji Yanagi

Calm // Detective // Has a Past

Yanagi’s route is locked until you complete all the other four routes and is definitely the “canon route” of the game (as if his picture on the game cover wasn’t enough to convince us haha). Yanagi is the founder of his detective agency and is the calmer mature figure but with a past. This route contains bits and pieces of information learned throughout the past routes including aspects of the other love interest’s routes which I enjoyed the sense of “everything comes together”. His route is the most traditional detective route where there are many instances of breaking down information and determining the most reasonable outcome.

Now this may be a somewhat controversial opinion but in my opinion a dude’s attractiveness drops significantly when you are a cigarette smoker. He is definitely a consistent smoker (his poor lungs 😱) and let’s just say that definitely puts a damper on the route for me personally. The actual romantic progression is not bad and I like that he actually lets Ichika be a part of the investigative work and does respect and value her insight nearly from the get-go of his story.  Being the canon route we actually get to actually see who is the real mastermind behind everything so that was exciting!

Our Heroine: Ichika Hoshino

Considerate // Aim to Please // Hopes & Dreams

Ichika is a sweet girl who aims to please and does her work diligently. Given the overall plot and situation in the game she’s mentally strong and has a strong sense of duty and obligation. Throughout all the routes she showcases her skills to approach people and be a calming agent in a stressful situation.

She also has a classic otome skill which is being a great cook. I do like how in the routes she talks about why she likes cooking, so it felt more like a hobby than just a simple trope. She does have an empathetic nature which is a great credit to her and really does lend itself to the overall story.

Now whilst I never dock points for having the typical otome skill such as cooking and cleaning (because goodness knows most people should know these at a minimal degree) she exhibits certain traits and characteristics that just simply do not feel appropriate given her career and overall life experiences. Sometimes I forget she is a police officer (granted a grunt worker) but I thought there maybe would be a bit more knowledge from her academy days utilized in the story and often times she simply came off as naïve and that bugged me. I just wish she had more expertise other than just being empathetic and a great listener and never bringing in external sources that helped her judgement.

Also her knowledge about things in general comes off a bit sparse as well. She ultimately really doesn’t fit in with most of the guys at the detective agency because she’s inexperienced and doesn’t really have many practical skill sets to assist in investigations other than being a low level cop. If they would have given her some skill sets it would have felt more balanced and appropriate.

Now I can sympathize with Ichika because the situation she finds herself in isn’t great. She does have a quality of perseverance and fearlessness that should be applauded because she is highly motivated and doesn’t let most things get her down. I respect her for that because many people would be a rightful mess given the high level of stress she has in her day to day life.

I do like how in the various routes you get to see her relationship with her younger brother or her two gal pals at the station. I like how she has actual contact with other people so it gives a sense that she have fully rounded life and not just connected to her love interest.

Honorable Mention (s):

Mochida: Ichika’s superior was a great side character I’m glad she at least had a great superior in the game. I really enjoyed the interactions between Mochida and Ichika every time they came up. I think this was the best part during Ichika’s moments at the police station because he was a character that was solely connected to her and totally ignorant of the whole situation. He gave an element or normalcy in every single route.

Game Ambience and Gameplay

Variety of Backdrops // A Bit Interactive // Translation Oddities

The voice acting and artistic styles made the game an overall enjoyable experience. I can honestly say that the artistic style matched the tone of the game, I really liked that the game shows both a residential scene and the busier sides of Shinjuku and we were not totally left to our imaginations. The characters all had different design choices that helped enhance their overall personality. I will fully admit I am not a fan of the cat look Shinraishi has going, it just feels borderline cringeworthy… While the art style is not my absolute favorite and I may give minor criticisms of the outfits, ultimately, I have no gripes and believe the artistic style matches the overall ambience of the game.

I think one of the cool things about Collar x Malice is that it does give a few more interactive elements than most traditional otome. There are options of picking which floor to go on a map and the end depends on your reflex skills (don’t worry, not hard at all, just there to give an interactive element). This was kind of neat because it was something I hadn’t experienced in an otome before.

The translation in this game did not have too many clunky English sentences but the ones that occurred were noticeable, the errors were mainly issues with plural forms of nouns and some weird word choices. Yanagi’s route had the majority of errors that I noticed. These errors were not enough to break the overall experience but were nonetheless noticeable.

This game does have the typical controls of many otome games. There is a quick save and load slot alongside the normal load and save options. The menu is easy to navigate and all categories are well organized. I did actually max out my save slots in this game but I used 95 slots haha so unless you need more than 95 save slots you should be good!

Would I Recommend?

All of the Collar x Malice fans out there please don’t kill me 😱😱 At long last the truth is revealed, an otome game I thought I’d like and other people have given it high praises but unfortunately I found myself in the position not really enjoying this game as much as others. I had the bulk of this review ready to go and it has been in storage because of the considerable criticisms and complaints in comparison to the other otomes I have reviewed thus far.

Overall, I found Collar x Malice to be a fairly average but there were many criticisms entangled with the enjoyable moments in the game. I do take issue with more than a few parts of the game that were not limited simply one category. I have seen many other reviews of this game give it high praises and as I progressed with the game I felt as if I was not on the same boat as them.

While I enjoyed certain portions of Collar X Malice, I did take some issues with some of the routes concerning the general plot and characterizations. Some of the routes felt like Ichika had one or two character tropes and that’s the only things the love interests seemed to notice… Another aspect that bothered me is that many love interests also only had a few tropes or issues and then were miraculously cured due to Ichika’s influence. If this trope had been the case with one route I wouldn’t have minded but more than one got a bit old ngl.

Ichika is a heroine that I progressively really didn’t care for. She has some strong points such as her general bravery, selflessness, and work ethic. I also liked that she is a crack shot and has some skill sets that are unique to her. HOWEVER, I found it really hard to believe that she had attended the police academy and in the story she was a police officer. I think she could’ve been a bit more knowledgeable of an individual but often came off as naïve or highly unsure of herself. I don’t think her character really matched the backdrop of the story…

The overall plot from the get-go is a bit farfetched and honestly the explanation given by the villain in the end and how an entire organization got as powerful as it came off a bit flat for me. I wanted a better explanation and more evidence shown to me but instead we got minimal evidence and it left me a bit confused and befuddled.

I wouldn’t recommend this game for people that want a cohesive story, want a reasonable heroine, or want a few routes that are worth rereading. There are many issues that I take with this game and the core plot is one of them. The whole premise is rather farfetched and most of the routes don’t give a well-rounded explanation. I am not a fan of how naïve Ichika is and how majority of the love interests treat her as if she’s a kid or just plain stupid. I think the hazy plot combined with my criticisms of both the heroine and love interests is enough to make one wary of starting this game.

I really would recommend this one if you have run out of otome to read or it has a decent sale price.  This game is for people who may want to have an otome revolves around a detective story or simply want to add another otome to one’s collection. There are some interesting and enjoyable parts in this game, but I don’t feel as connected to any of the characters in comparison to other otome. I do not regret my purchase and feel like I did get some hours of enjoyment and curiosity. I would say that if you are a diehard otome fan and can accept many classic tropes you will probably enjoy this game.

For all the Collar x Malice fans out there, I am glad you enjoyed the game. You have the right to your opinions as I do mine 🙃~