Bustafellows Review – A Thrilling and Relatable Crime Story

    Title: Bustafellows
    Developer: Nippon Cultural Broadcasting Extend Inc
    Release Date: July 30, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: PQube
    Genre: Visual Novel

Bustafellows is an otome game developed by Nippon Cultural Broadcasting Extend Inc, also known for Side Kicks!. This game is focused on a morally ambiguous group of beautiful boys, it tells a thrilling story about injustice and one’s own will.

Bustafellows introduces us to a young journalist named Teuta Bridges. She works for the New Sieg Today newspaper with a column about things from a local’s perspective. Subjects include New Sieg’s crimes, entertainment, and even important people, but this general populace perspective is what ties them all together.

Her current living conditions aren’t ideal, so she is currently looking for a new place to live, which leads her to a famous lawyer named Limbo who might be of help. However, he’s known to be crooked, but the prospect of fame could lead to a good scoop if she can interview him. Unfortunately, contacting him ends up with her witnessing his assassination in broad daylight.

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Teuta isn’t just your average person. You see, she has a mysterious ability to travel through time. However, some limitations reduce its efficacy. For example, she can only go back a few minutes or hours. Another catch is that she’ll end up in the body of someone else at random.

This power is a valuable tool at Teuta’s disposal, being part of the multiple chapters that follow. However, the story also uses its limitations to create tension, and her actions may sometimes have undesired consequences. It’s not a gimmick that could magically solve every issue that emerges.

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Once she goes back and speaks to Limbo, she learns about his association with a shady group of men. Besides being terrible at his job, Limbo is associated with a bounty hunter, a coroner, a plastic surgeon, and a hacker. All of them have their dark pasts, and, right now, they’ll need to cooperate and do anything they can to catch the big baddies the law wouldn’t touch otherwise.

This sense of justice motivates Teuta to become part of the team. When she was still a minor, her older brother, Zora Bridges, was murdered. The crime was never solved, with only pieces of his corpse showing up. However, rumors mentioned it might have been due to gang wars as he used to work as a police officer.

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Bustafellows begins with a few common route chapters, which work as multiple criminal cases. Not only do the main boys get to show off a little, but they also get to see Teuta in action while they introduce some of the supporting cast. Specific choices affect which route will open up down the line, made easier with highlighted colors that give the player a hint to obtain a character route. These colors are associated with their hair highlights, making them easy to identify.

Limbo’s associated with black. Voiced by KENN, he’s a famous lawyer who tries to act like a big hero though his methods can be crude. He comes from the wealthy Fitzgerald family and sometimes has to flee from his older sister. Shu’s color is blue, and his voice actor is Yoshimasa Hosoya. He’s a hitman who’s always ready and smokes way too often despite not liking it. He acts as a bounty hunter for specific members of a list he has, also doing other services when he needs money.

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Helvetica’s voiced by Hiroyuki Yoshino, and his color is pink. He’s a plastic surgeon who believes in the importance of people’s appearance as a form of showing yourself to the world. Self-centered, he’s used to being with women and grading them. Mozu has yellow highlights, and his voice actor is Jun Fukuyama. Not one to show emotion easily, he works as a coroner doing autopsies every day. He’s known for talking to the bodies he comes across.

The last one of the group is the hacker Scarecrow. Also called Crow, he’s a skilled hacker, but he’s also mostly the butt of the jokes. Responsible for the group activities as he controls everyone’s rewards, he stays home most of the time and has a personal AI called Anima able to do complicated jobs.

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Each of their Side A routes has the boys’ pasts coming to the surface once again. Along with Teuta and the rest of the gang, they have to face some unique circumstances. Their relationship with Teuta also develops through those events, but the shorter Side B epilogues contain the more romantic bits of the plot.

Once the player clears all Side A and Side B content, it’s possible to access the last two parts of the narrative. These solve the main mysteries of the story set up in the common route. But, again, it’s heavy on the shocking twists and meaningful story bits that had me emotionally invested. There are also 12 extra unlockable stories, an archive of story tidbits, and a memorabilia system of “achievements.”

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Bustafellows is a story about how legality and morality may sometimes differ. When living in a society that knowingly turns a blind eye to injustice, the legal system isn’t enough to deal with its unfair situations. As a result, marginalized people will be oppressed and have no way to fight back.

In this sort of situation, individuals may find themselves fighting for their concept of justice. And this is a story in which everyone has their sins and failures. Nothing is just black or white, even for the protagonist or the good boys of the narrative. Everyone’s a flawed human gritting their teeth and doing what they can.

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Visually the game offers some eye candy with atmospheric backgrounds and characters who move their mouths and wink. Sumeragi Kohaku (Musicus!) is responsible for the character designs, and even the secondary characters appear distinct. CGs also feel naturally integrated into the rest of the game.

The English text flows naturally, but there’s a weird choice of sometimes having dialogue without text boxes. Unfortunately, with only Japanese voices and no subtitles, this leaves English readers in the dark. However, it’s possible to check those texts out on the game’ log afterward. Unfortunately, the game’s ending sequence also has the same issue, and this trick is unavailable.

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Bustafellows is a great representative of the fascinating stories visual novels can tell. The narrative features a strong lead and a cast of handsome boys with dark pasts that create this endearing tale. Still, it’s a story on society’s shortcomings, which makes it relatable in many ways as we ask ourselves what would cause us to take matters into our own hands. While some design choices seem odd in this release, this otome is an easy recommendation from me.

Score:
9/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.