Collar X Malice -Unlimited- (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 30.03.2021

Review for Collar X Malice -Unlimited-  on Nintendo Switch

A division of Idea Factory, the Otomate brand has long been the yardstick for women's visual novel games, unbelievably huge in Japan with mountains of merchandise for sale in stores next-door to dedicated themed cafes. A multitude of stories spanning a range of themes, settings and periods, and for fans Otomate often rerelease its most popular titles in ultimate editions; adding on new paths, new stories, new endings. That's what's here. Aksys Games is localizing this updated version of Collar X Malice, which was originally released in 2016 for the Vita. This new port for the Switch brings with it new side stories, new epilogues, and a new mode called Adonis that gives a very different conclusion to the tale.

The story follows a young police officer named Hoshino Ichika. She is tasked with investigating the quarantined area of Shinjuku, where a terrorist group known as Adonis has been so active the land has turned into something of a wild west. Whilst heading home one night following a shift, she's suddenly attacked, and when she awakens she is fitted with the eponymous collar. A collar reminiscent of cult classic Battle Royale. There's no explosive here, but instead a vial of poison that will end her life, unless she follows commands. Those commands broadly consist of working with a team of ex-police detectives in investigating the X-Day cases, a series of mysterious murders spreading through the lawless land.

There's a deep story here to delve into. The perpetrators of these crimes is an organization known as Adonis, whose members see themselves as heroes; as vigilantes who are fighting against the corruption of society, and at some points, it's easy to sympathize with them - watching as the seemingly innocent are revealed to be monsters. The story is utterly engaging, and while Otomate games have often aimed at the female audience thanks to the heavy romance elements, here the romance is just part of the story, not the focus. Resulting in something more akin to games like Danganronpa, a detective thriller putting the player in the position of solving these crimes, something that works very well thanks to each separate play-through or pathway adding a little bit more to the overall narrative.

Screenshot for Collar X Malice -Unlimited-  on Nintendo Switch

For those who have never played an Otomate title before, it's a visual novel with the dialogue choices resulting in different branching paths through the story, intermixed with mini-games like aiming a shot of Ichika's revolver in a key moment, or investigating a point-and-click scene. Typical of Otomate, each romance-able character gets its own "route" and story, with each telling a different part of the same narrative, and only when collecting all the pieces of this puzzle can the true ending be revealed.

The first play-through is with a character named Mineo Enomoto. He is a solid introduction to the plot; a nice enough if generic character, a history fanatic that goes far enough as to wear an eye patch constantly in honor of his hero Data Masamune. Mineo's is voiced by Soma Saito, who some will recognize as protagonist Tatsumi from Akame Ga Kill and Doppio from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure Golden Wind. His story gives a nice mix of sweet moments and comic relief, whilst also setting the groundwork to the story without giving too much away, setting the hooks for wanting to play through it all again.

After this first completion, which takes about eight to ten hours or so, the others can be played through in any order, by selecting which case to investigate. There's the classic tsundere character Takeru Sasazuka, the hacker of the group with a bad attitude and a sweet tooth. His tsundere nature is going to put many off, constantly talking down to Ichika and belittling her. It's a common character trope in these games, and in Japanese storytelling in general, but rarely done well. Takeru is played by Daisuke Namikawa, a huge name in Japanese voice acting, with a wealth of characters under his belt, including Hisoka in Hunter X Hunter, Jelal in Fairy Tail, Kidd in One Piece, and Ulquiorra in Bleach, amongst many more.

Screenshot for Collar X Malice -Unlimited-  on Nintendo Switch

For those that don't enjoy tsundere, perhaps the next character will be of more interest, one Kei Okazaki. Kei is an SP; a Special Police officer tasked with assisting the team. He comes off quirky and a bit odd, but reveals an explosive undercurrent as the story develops, and he gets to show off his real strength. His story is fantastic, escalating over and over, and best of all developing a great romance with Ichika. If Takeru's voice actor was impressive, this one knocks it out of the park. Kei is played by Yuki Kaji, a voice that will be familiar to many anime fans. He played Eren in Attack on Titan, Shoto Todoroki in My Hero Academia, and Speed of Sound Sonic in One Punch Man.

Then there is Kageyuki Shiraishi. An enigmatic genius profiler that delivers one of the darkest stories in the game, delving into just how dangerous and extreme Adonis can be. Played by Ryohei Kimura, a prolific voice actor, part of many, many games and anime, though with few starring roles. He did, however, land the part of Akira in East of Eden. Finally, there is Aiji Yanaga, this character story can only be played through once the happy endings of all other four are achieved. Aiji is the man that formed this little team to investigate the X-Day incidents. Calm, respected, a true leader and his story wraps up all the others, finally revealing the truth of this tale. Aiji is played by Masakazu Morita, and there's only one role that needs to be mentioned for this guy. He played Ichigo Kurosaki. That'd be enough for anyone, but he also played Seiya in Saint Seiya, Tidus in Final Fantasy X, and so many more.

Screenshot for Collar X Malice -Unlimited-  on Nintendo Switch

This Unlimited version brings some extra content. First off, each character gets an "After Story", an epilogue to their story following the conclusion to the main game. These cannot even be touched on here as they all give massive spoilers for the main game. There are also three side stories, giving a chance to view some brand new stories while in the shoes of completely different characters including Kazuki Hoshino, the little brother of the main character. Then there's the Adonis mode, an alternative version of the story where Ichika actually joins Adonis. Last but not least, there is a set of epilogue tales for each route giving a glimpse of what character does follow the conclusion of the main game.

The art in Collar X Malice is amongst the very best made by Otomate, the art and character designs coming from Hanamura Mai, an artist well known for her work on the Amnesia series. The characters jump off the screen, and the rich, brilliant backgrounds look gorgeous. This Unlimited version has also brought in Natsume Uta, a famous artist renowned for her kawaii chibi art for some brand new CG scenes. Anyone that has bought chibi-fied merch of the best Otomate games will recognize her style well. It's not just the art that's impressive either, the soundtrack is slamming, including an opening theme from alt J-rock boys Plastic Tree.

Screenshot for Collar X Malice -Unlimited-  on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Collar X Malice delivers a dark and twisted thriller, filled with some of the signature elements that have made Otomate the best in what it does. The presentation and writing are absolutely some of the company's very best. While the heavy romance elements of its other games could be inhibiting to those outside its core demographic, this feels like the most inclusive of all of their titles, and one any visual novel fans could truly enjoy. This version brings the quintessential experience too. The extra side stories, and the alternative story are solid enough additions, but it's in the epilogues that this really shines. It's always wonderful to see a "What happened next" in games; addendums to the tales that deliver satisfying conclusions for each character, and that's exactly what's on hand here.

Developer

Idea Factory

Publisher

Aksys Games

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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