The Import Report – Collar x Malice and some talk about otome games in general

If you’ve taken a look at my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I made a lot of posts about a game called Collar x Malice. Yeah, I was really hyped about it. Part of why I created this blog in the first place was because I needed somewhere I could put up my translations for it.

Anyway, the game came out well over a month ago, I got it, I’ve completed it, I’m going to talk about it now. But first, I’d like to tell you a story about how the hell I got so obsessed with otome games in the first place.

Once upon a time, that is almost a year ago, during that magical time right before Christmas, there was a Steam sale. Although I rarely buy games during Steam sales nowadays (because I already own most of the games I wanted and also I’m console trash), one game caught my attention.

Amnesia: Memories. I saw mentions of it on the internet, I liked the art style…

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Even though they all do kind of look like reject Final Fantasy characters

…and most importantly – it was 90% off.

So I figured “let’s laugh at them otome game tropes” and got it. I mean, it was like 2.50€, what the hell. (in hindsight, it was probably a bad idea, considering I was ass-deep in writing my graduation thesis at the time) Keep in mind that at that time I wasn’t into otome games at all. I didn’t pay attention to the genre in the slightest. The only “otome game” I had played at that time was Hatoful Boyfriend and I didn’t even finish that.

 

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But then I already knew green-haired boys were my weakness since Pokemon Black and White.

I was originally intending to only do Kent’s route. But by the end of Kent’s route I was like: “hey, that was fun and that Ikki guy seemed funny, let’s do his route next.” Then I found out I needed to get good ends on all the other routes to unlock Ukyo’s—the “true” route, and by then I was getting really interested in the green-haired (and slightly unhinged) fellow.

Something weird was happening. I’d intended to get the game for just a few cheap laughs, but I started to get… emotionally invested? I ended up spending almost a week basically glued to the game. (I finished writing my thesis safely, so don’t worry about that!) It was as if someone had cast a spell on me. I didn’t know what happened.

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And the weirdest thing is—I feel that Amnesia is, to tell the truth, not that good of a game. (still one of the best on the English side of things, though) For whatever reason, I still enjoyed myself more than I had with any game in ages.

That’s when it hit me – I actually really, really love romance in games. I mean romance where the player has some influence over it. Social links in Persona. Supports in (recent) Fire Emblem. Give ’em to me.

(I mean, at the end of the day, I still prefer more story-based games than just straight-up romance, but yeah.)

Anyway, that worked out well for me, because guess what I need to do to get better at Japanese – read a whole friggin’ lot, and I’m an advocate of a “carrot and stick” approach when it comes to learning:

Step one – Discard the stick, since you won’t be needing it. (I know that self-flagellation might seem appealing at times, but beating yourself up and self-hatred won’t really get you anywhere)

Step two – Find your carrot. Get a whole lot of carrots. Consume all of them.

As for me, my “carrot” turned out to be anime guys otome games.

In the end, I don’t know what it is about games that revolve around dating 2D men that really gets me glued to the screen like no other game or book I’ve come across, but hey, if it’s getting me to read lots of Japanese, I’m not going to question it.


Still with me? Good. I’m now going to talk about the main topic, that is Collar x Malice. (In case you want a refresher on what that thing is about, click here)

I actually don’t have that much to say, at least not if I want to keep this post spoiler-free. I don’t really do reviews, so this isn’t going to be one. So I’ll keep this relatively short. (…As opposed to my preamble)

As hyped as I was for this game, I was going to wait for reviews before I ordered it, because what if it suuuucks? …But in the end I caved and ordered it the day it came out. As it turns out, it wasn’t a terrible decision.

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Some more goodies courtesy of CD Japan. I still gotta listen to that drama CD.

First of all, did I enjoy it? Hell yes. Did I think it could still be improved in some respects? Sure. But it’s a damn solid game and I’m really glad that Aksys said they were going to localize it. I can’t wait for the day when you guys can suffer enjoy it like I did.

I also find it somewhat hilarious how I just knew Shiraishi would turn out to be my favorite of the bunch and yep, I was right. I was so right.

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It’s as if they’d designed the perfect otome chara for me, Idea Factory, I salute you.

Unfortunately I can’t talk about what exactly it was that I loved about this cat nerd without spoiling his route.

What I can talk about, however, is just how pretty this game is. The character art, the backgrounds, the CGs…

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The Squad. (Note how Kei is breaking in through the window. Also note that this is the fifth floor.)

Some people might be miffed that the character sprites are static, though.

The quality of the CGs might vary a bit, and there’s one Kei sprite that seems to suffer from a slight case of yaoi hands (or “hand”, rather), but in general this game is just plain nice to look at. But, of course, the real strength of a visual novel lies in its story. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m a person who values the plot in an otome game just as much if not more than the romance.

Of course, I can’t say much without spoilers, but… was it good? Well… I did say that I liked it. It’s always hard for me to make a judgement on whether a story was “objectively” good or not, since I think whether someone enjoys a story relies heavily on one’s personal preferences. I can’t really judge the quality of writing too much either, since I’m not on that level of Japanese, yet. So I’ll just say this: while I wish there were some things they would’ve explored a little bit further (maybe in a fandisk?) it definitely nailed the “suspense” part of the game’s description. I came out of it feeling satisfied.

Shiraishi’s route alone would’ve justified the purchase to me, though lol

If I had to compare it to something in terms of its theme, I’d pick Death Note as the closest comparison.

I’m learning Japanese, should I import this? If you are a fan of otome games (or just visual novels in general) go for it. But, and this is a big but – this isn’t a game for Japanese beginners. Visual novels in general aren’t, due to the fact they’re 99% text and no gameplay, but Collar x Malice likes to throw relatively complex grammar at you as well as police terms that are basically long strings of kanji and walls of text. It’s not to the level of complexity of something like Steins;Gate, but it’s definitely not on the easy side.

If you think you can handle it, and if you think you’d enjoy a detective story with some romance, you can’t really go wrong with this one.

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