I’ve been very vocal about my love of Otome visual novels for years. The softer approach to romance over male-focused dating sims has always been more up my alley, and even though the stories are rarely anything special they make for entertaining reads. Out of all the games in this genre that I’ve played, however, Collar X Malice has always been my favorite. Taking the traditional Otome formula (hot guys, good art, fun character dynamics) and combining it with an exciting (if not a little shallow) murder mystery story lead to a fun experience that I still recommend to people as their first Otome game. It wasn’t perfect, but it did a lot right.
When Aksys announced they were bringing both that and the sequel (or fandisk) Collar X Malice Unlimited to Nintendo Switch I was pretty stoked. The original game had been trapped on the PlayStation Vita for years, and Unlimited had never even been localized. In my review for the original game’s recent port (if you haven’t read it, you can do so here!), I was happy to discover that very little had been lost in the transition to Switch. There were issues, but the experience was not marred for me. Unfortunately, in its current state, I can’t say the same for Collar X Malice Unlimited.
But that’s getting ahead of myself. Fandisks for popular visual novels are rather common, mainly because they’re relatively cheap to make. Take many of the same assets, create some new portraits and CGs, write a new story, get the cast back together, and voilà! Sequel. This isn’t a bad process, and many fans would gladly buy a new game to see what happened to their favorite pairings after the credits rolled. On paper Collar X Malice is the perfect game to receive this treatment, with Unlimited being able to offer a great look at how Shinjuku has been recovering after X-Day in each of the routes.
The structure for how this plays out is rather interesting. You start the game with a prologue featuring an event retconned into the timeline of the game. Canon is never too much of a priority for me when I play Otome games, but that was worth mentioning anyway. Like my last review, I won’t get too much into the story to save you some of the fun surprises, but this serves as an exciting little story that unlocks the character epilogue routes based on your choices. All of this is organized very well into the New Memory menu, separating all the different chapters and letting you start any that are currently unlocked. The prologue chapters have one menu, the character epilogues have another, and the last two are dedicated to side stories and the lengthy new Adonis route. This is a what-if scenario where Ichika decides to join the group with the intent of eliminating it from within.
I was rather disappointed at first to discover that the game was lacking in the mystery department, and consisted mainly of romance and fluff. I have no issue with that, in fact, I love them, but I was hoping for a bit more of a balance like the original game. I got over this fast, however, because the cute romantic moments were just too charming. Nothing that happens feels overly complicated, and overall I found that each of the epilogues were natural conclusions to what was established in the first game. I went in expecting cute moments with my favorite characters over all else, and despite the game being rather simplistic overall I had a fun time revisiting this cast.
Each guy has his own branching route, with a variety of endings that play out depending on your choices. It’s a very replayable game, and it’s a lot of fun going back and making different choices to see new events and CGs. This is standard Otome practice and Collar X Malice Unlimited does not disappoint here.
The visuals are just as good as the original game, if not better in a few areas. The sprite art is gorgeous, the backgrounds are still very high quality, and the new CGs are amazing. For those looking for a more romance-focused Collar X Malice experience, or just REALLY found some of the romantic leads attractive, then you’re in for a treat with these CGs. They can get pretty hot and heavy, but without ever going too far. A lot of passionate making out, cute cuddling, Ichika going on dates, and even a marriage. It’s all just beyond adorable and appealed specifically to the hopeless romantic who felt that certain routes in Collar X Malice slightly lacked sufficient payoff for its relationships.
The UI also got a fun spin on it, adding some flowers to the original menus to signify budding romance from the aftermath of X-Day. Or they just thought it looked cool, either works. The text boxes also change depending on which story you are playing, with the game starting with the old text box style and transitioning to flower-themed ones in the epilogues. The music remains steller, even if there are a lot of reused tracks from the first game. The new music stood out to me, however, and the new opening, in particular, was even catchier than the first.
With all of these positives, what’s the issue then? The localization is subpar, even compared to the original game. What caught me off guard first was the inconsistent style of the dialogue, and this was noticeable immediately as I began the Takeru stories. He was always my favorite, I have a thing for the blunt genius types who start off really rude but soften up over time, so I made a beeline for his story. I was pretty surprised how extreme they took him in his prologue though, with him saying the word “f**k” rather frequently. I have no issue at all with localization adding swears in when appropriate, but I can’t recall ever seeing him say that in the original game. I could get over this, as this likely meant a new team translated this, but that was just a warning of what was to come.
Collar X Malice Unlimited desperately needed another editing pass, as the amount of typos and mistakes that heavily affect readability is inexcusable for a visual novel launching for nearly full price. There are stretches that flow rather well, but the dialogue can often feel flat. The original Collar X Malice’s localization suffered from the problem occasionally, so if this was all I’d be more or less fine with it. That is not all, however. There is an above-average amount of typos, sometimes words are missing, lines are mistranslated, and some sentences seem like they were re-written halfway through and are nearly incomprehensible. This is bound to bother some people a lot more than others, but it stuck out enough to make it an issue.
To make matters worse, the formatting for the game is frequently a mess. Short sentences will begin in a text box unfinished, then continue into the next one (usually with no capitalization) when the entire sentence could have just fit into one text box. I also noticed in-game text messages that disappear after cutting away to dialogue and then back. The localization seems very rushed, and the game should have been delayed to address these issues. I wanted to hold off on reviewing the game to see if a rumored patch came out to fix it, but as of writing this, no patches have been released.
I really wanted to like Collar X Malice Unlimited. In many ways, I actually really do. Ignoring the technical issues, it’s a very adorable follow-up to my favorite Otome game. It’s hard not to become enamored all over again with this setting and characters, and I really enjoy the small epilogue stories. The CGs in general are great, and if you’re a Collar X Malice fan this game is made just for you. But I can’t ignore the technical issues, and it negatively impacts the experience more than I’d like. I hope a patch comes out to fix this all up, preferably soon.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Aksys Games