[Review] Collar X Malice – Nintendo Switch

Written by Paige Detlefsen
  • Developer: Idea Factory/Design Factory
  • Publisher: Aksys Games
  • Release Date: 25/07/2020
  • Price: £35.99 / $39.99
  • Review code provided by Aksys Games

Introducing: Collar X Malice Switch Review

Following Code: Realize ~ Guardian of Rebirth ~, Otomate developed another otome game for the Vita, Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ . So, they’ll serve as a bit of comparison point for today’s game, Collar X Malice. Now, this is coming to the Switch at interesting time. Collar X Malice is set in a modern day Shinjuku that has been placed under quarantine and the local populace has lost faith in the police.

Let the X Days begin

Collar X Malice Nintendo Switch

The terrorist group Adonis has started a countdown towards X-Day, where each month so far an attack on alleged sinners has occurred. This soon led to Shinjuku being closed off from the rest of Japan to prevent the criminals from escaping and every citizen was handed a firearm to protect themselves. You play as Rookie Officer Hoshino who’s primary work involves listening to the concerns and complaints of citizens. When responding to a call, she finds herself attacked and wakes up with a collar on her neck.

A voice informs you that the collar contains a lethal poison, as you’re to be a test subject observed by Adonis. You’re rescued by a group of strangers, because why else would you be surrounded by pretty boys if not in a life threatening situation? Your potential lover boys in this game are a competent airhead, an excitable romantic, a sassy smartarse, the reliable one and an intriguing tease of a profiler.

Click and Shoot

Like most dating sims, you’ll be able to make dialogue selections to influence the story you take. This can sometimes result in a swift end in a dark alley. Thankfully in this game. after the prologue the common route is just one chapter. So, when you make your decision as to why you’re pursuing the X-Day cases you’ll be set on the related character’s route. Shiraishi’s route is unlocked after one playthrough and Yanagi’s after everyone else’s. I don’t know why the true route men have to be the least appealing ones. One interesting thing is when you make the correct choice you may see trust or affection go up. Partly due to the number of bad endings in this game, Shinjuku isn’t so safe after all. Because of this there doesn’t seem to be any normal endings, just many deaths and one happy ending. These pop ups are handy for people who want to play without a guide as they can save before any choice and reload quickly if it’s not the right one. You can also use the rewind feature if needed.

Asides from dialogue choices a couple of times you might have to investigate a crime scene (or your brother’s bedroom) but there’s no missing anything as you can’t continue without looking at it all. Learning about the events, you’ll collect materials you can use for reference, something I never did. Occasionally, there will be a quick time event where you’ll fire your gun, something you won’t want to screw up.

Like Code: Realize, you unlock CGs (and there seems to be more this time), the soundtrack and scenes while playing through the game. There’s an built-in dictionary for both game specific things and real word terms. An additional chapter after beating all routes appears and is a short prequel involving Adonis members. Having cleared any chapter you can go back to it and select the level of trust/friendship to get different endings easily. The bonus stories unlocked are merely a couple minutes with only the background visuals to accompany it. You do get “situation” mode where there’s a few lines of dialogue in a scene with your chosen man doing something like holding hands or saying goodbye. Similar to situation but without visuals, each lover has a voice recording on a few different topics like hobbies and dislikes. Though, without English voice, acting you’re still stuck reading it.

Bevy of Beauties

Collar X Malice Nintendo Switch

Of course, the character portraits all look beautiful with changes for emotional expression. Characters had quite some variety in design like Sasazuka’s snake eyes and fluffy hair. I saw a couple instances of very minor animation but it’s mostly a bit of camera work. There’s a decent amount of backgrounds but individual routes don’t get many unique locations.

The music suits the atmosphere of the scenes, while nothing stands out to me, but since Collar x Malice is a visual novel, it’s better that it doesn’t. Again there’s no English voice acting which is only a complaint due to it being a higher priced visual novel. The cast was very good and you can hear the emotion in their lines, it just makes things like the voice recording bonus a lot less special.

Loose Strings

In handheld, you can use the touch screen to progress but sometimes it doesn’t work when answering the in-game phone. Unfortunately, there were a handful of typos and some more serious issues. Once the next line of text was displayed in the name box, your character name would be pushed one line higher and thus was in the previous text box. Sometimes a word just seemed to be missing, and a couple times the wrong character’s name was used in descriptive text despite them not being in the scene.

Conclusion

Overall, I spent more than twenty hours going through all the stories, and if you wanted to get all the endings without referring to a guide it could take a lot longer. Collar X Malice is clearly an improvement over its predecessor. In comparison it’s a bit longer, has extra modes and a much larger cast of characters. You get to spend a lot more time developing your relationship and enjoying the budding romance amidst the horror as the common route is significantly smaller.

Even though I wasn’t interested in a couple characters, being able to see another part of the overall story kept me involved. Story-wise, my only complaints are that initially the player character comes across as weak and naïve, but the narrative does emphasize her emotional strength. Though there’s an element of mystery, it wasn’t hard to pin a major culprit early on. Still, it has the previous qualities I mentioned. Collar X Malice is a great dating sim marred by a small scattering of text errors.

Pros

  • Interwoven story and large cast of characters
  • Plenty of time for romance
  • Gorgeous guys

Cons

  • Issues with both grammar and incorrect text placements
  • No English dub

Verdict

Though reading might require a double take, love truly can bloom in the darkest of hours.

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