Collar X Malice Unlimited Review – The Fandisc of Our Dreams

    Title: Collar X Malice Unlimited
    Developer: Idea Factory
    Release Date: August 13, 2020
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Aksys Games
    Genre: Visual Novel

Sequels for romance visual novels are a tough sale because you don’t want to throw out your previously existing cast of fleshed-out characters. The continuation of the story would need instead focus on the ending for one specific love interest or create its own canon route that didn’t occur in the original game.

However, the joy of fandiscs is that you don’t have to do any of that, and instead, writers get to put in whatever the hell they want. This approach also allows the reuse of all those assets from the base game without feeling obliged to make a whole new set of portraits. Enter, Collar X Malice Unlimited, the otomate-developed fandisc for Collar X Malice which has finally made its way to the west thanks to Aksys Games. Given that the original title was so good, why wouldn’t I want to venture out on some more cute and romantic shenanigans with these good boys?

Let’s begin with the obvious, Collar X Malice Unlimited spoils the everloving hell out of the base game so you should probably play the original first so you can appreciate the fantastic ensemble of characters it provides.

Collar X Malice stars a fledgling police officer, well fledgling at the time, the young woman Ichika Hoshino who is caught up in a terror plot led by the organization Adonis. They’ve been out committing some horrific murders with the goal of setting up what they call “X-Day,” the day that will lead to the rebirth of Japan. In the base game, a special collar was put on Ichika by Adonis to analyze her movements because their leader thought she would be a sympathizer. However, with the help of a ragtag group of allies who all happen to be attractive guys, they’re able to best the dastardly organization, and Ichika can romantically pursue one of them to boot.

Now, in Collar X Malice Unlimited you aren’t immediately presented with a choice of everything you can do. Instead, you’re limited to playing through an interlude that features a new character named Chisato who is looking for his missing friend, suspecting Adonis’ involvement. This interlude has an entire ending for each lead and once you acquire an ending, you unlock access to that character’s respective epilogue. Each additional chapter is decently long and filled with a cacophony of wholesome, cute, romantic, and adorable moments between Ichika and your chosen hero. There are a few cheesy bits in almost everyone’s routes but it’s entitled to a bit of cute sappy stuff every now and then, right? After all, why else are you playing this?

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Once the epilogues are completed, you’re then able to access side stories. Two of them are stories akin to shorter character routes featuring Ichika and two minor characters from the base game, and the other route focuses on Ichika’s younger brother and his dreams in the music industry.

And lastly, once you complete those, you’ll unlock the final story arc, Adonis. Taking place after an alternate ending where everything goes horribly wrong. Here, Ichika has taken it upon herself to infiltrate Adonis and destroy it from the inside. However, their leader Zero has noticed that Ichika hasn’t been interacting with them, and believes they have a traitor in their midst. So who better to assign to find out who the traitor is than the member who needs to interact with others and may also be the traitor.

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This sets up the main events of the route which simply involve you picking out which member you’d like to hang out with. Ultimately, there’s no pacing involved, as you can pick and choose as you like with some additional insight into the characters who you didn’t really get to know personally.

There’s not a whole lot of tension in these stories, as they’re largely fluff so if you were going into this wanting some of the more octane stuff from the original game you may end up disappointed as even what looks like the villain route doesn’t get very heavy at all. However, if you wanted more soft character art, pretty boys confessing their love to you, and just a general expansion on the cast than this’ll be right up your alley. The CGs are precious and keep that marvelous aesthetic the Otomate otome games have going on. Do be warned that an especially high action route has a few puzzles in it, so make sure to bring a pen and paper and not to overthink it. The solutions were obvious but I overthought them and got stuck for god knows how long.

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Collar X Malice Unlimited is a fancy and fun expansion of the base story that gives players a chance to spend just a little more time with the cast of characters. The additional scenarios only build on the established relationships as they don’t overshadow the overarching plot. There’s a lack of tension in some areas, but if you’ve played the original this acts as a natural progression of the series and is just as brilliant in its own way.

Score:
7/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jacob Kavanagh

Staff Writer - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so he can buy more murder mysteries. @JacobPFZE on twitter