The other day, I just finished playing Collar x Malice on my Twitch channel (hey, check me at here: twitch.tv/lost_reveries). My first otome game that
I bought for the Switch, actually no, I bought CxM first before I even had a Switch. Yes, I know what it sounds like but buying the game was a promise to myself to buy a Switch…which I bought that very day…
Anyways, my bad spending habits aside, I have had CxM on my mind all day and while I wrote up a Twitter thread spilling some of my thoughts, it wasn’t enough! So here I am. Let’s begin.
Note: This review won’t be spoiler free. Read at your own risk. Starting with the image below.
I assume if you’re still reading, you know the story of Collar x Malice, but if not I’ll write a brief summary.
The year is 20XX. The setting is Shinjuku, a special ward of Tokyo, which is under quarantine due to a certain terrorist group called Adonis. The group has implemented a meticulous plan to cleanse the evil wrongdoers from Japan through fear and public displays of execution. Starting in April with the broadcast of captured police officers who are then killed the following month to the bombing of a middle school class, Adonis shows the execution of justice that the police are incapable of. All of this will lead to X-Day, a day where criminals all across Japan will be judged.
Our protagonist is Hoshino Ichika, a police officer, who is kidnapped and is forced to wear a collar which can administer poison at any moment. Although she is rescued by a team of ex-police officers, she is ordered to find out the truth behind the X-Day cases from a mysterious voice from the collar. Of course, along the way she finds love and companionship.
I personally felt like the story was well put together and connected in the end. Impressive given the amount of characters and ways they could’ve written it. Each route has a different case our protagonist focuses on with the exception of Yanagi’s route which encompasses all the cases. While the routes can overlap in stories and characters, I don’t remember any plot holes or contradictions but I’m not a great analyst. Also, I was playing for fun.
As for the mechanics of the game, CxM has a Trust and Affection system where you must build trust with a love interest first before you move on to affection. I played CxM blind all the way through (with the exception of the very itty bitty end of Yanagi’s route as I got the bad X-Day ending and didn’t know where I went wrong).
For a blind run, the game is very forgiving actually. At least, more so than games like Piofiore where it’s so easy to mess up that death will be your friend by the end of it. As you can see above, that was my actual status for trust and affection…somehow…does that mean I’m most compatible with Okazaki???
Anyways, CxM is also special in the fact that it has a little shooting mini game which I believe is called Trigger Mode. In each route, Ichika (you), will be forced to shoot your gun at least once. If you miss, it usually leads to a bad ending.
Now, my one complaint of the game is that it gives no instructions on how to shoot, so if you’re not observant, you can’t even tell if you’re successfully shot the target or not. On top of that, it only let’s you practice shooting 3 times in a row during the common route of the story. As far as I can tell, the only other time you can practice without reloading that common route save in Yanagi’s route, a route you can only do last.
The trick is to shoot the outer circle and look for a red circular flash to rebound back at you to tell if you got the shot right (if you’re at the shooting range, Ichika will also affirm the success or she’ll say, “No, again!” if you missed).
Trigger Mode will either be a fun mini-game or the bane of your CxM existence.
Another ~fun~ little gameplay mechanic is let’s you play detective. Throughout the game, your detective skills will be put to the test by being asked a set of questions to either break down the cases or figure out what to do next. Yes, answering these right or wrong will effect how the route progresses so remember to choose wisely.
Be aware though! I found out belated that there is one very important question at the end of Yanagi’s route that has a translation error in one of the answers that does change the meaning heavily. Unfortunately, that answer is the correct one even if it sounds wrong (because it was mistranslated). I’ll put it below if you want to know. It is the blue highlighted answer.
I would say the translation errors and ambiguous meanings of some of the choices is my biggest complaint towards CxM that is more on the localization/translation team. Like, the number of typos I saw in Sasazuka’s route was hilarious. I know it’s a tough job, so I’m not upset but I just want you all to be aware of this and not beat yourselves up too much over a wrong choice (I’m the type to do that sadly).
And lastly, there is a text message function. Occasionally, Ichika will traded texts with others in the game and you’ll have to choose an answer from a set of choices. Yes, this also counts towards route progression and in some cases trust/affection is effected.
And finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the love interests.
Oddly enough, Okazaki was my first route. At this point, I was still a sweet naive summerchild who didn’t know a thing about how CxM worked. Yes, when I say I was blind, I was blind.
But I loved this spacey sleepy SP boy. I love my sleepy boys and Okazaki certainly served. I don’t know, man, there’s something about the way he would pop up like a ghost and climb through 5th floor windows and act like it was just any other Tuesday, captured my heart.
On a serious note, his backstory and his trauma was definitely an emotional one to read through and I related to his lack of will to live and questioning his existence while feeling like others should live on in his place. When I streamed the part where Okazaki really opens up about his past and the reason he feels like his life is for naught, a couple of my viewers had an issue with Ichika’s response. I wrote up a post about it as I thought some may or may not agree but I thought it was a good topic of discussion.
But God, in the end, I just wanted to protect this boy after all was said and done.
Ahhh, my love Mineo~ I’ve already wrote up an appreciation post on this lovely man a while back if you want to read a more in depth essay on why he’s also best boy. If not, I’ll just summarize a little bit here.
I do kind of hate to admit it especially cause it is embarassing but as I said before I do love my sleepy boys AND drunk boys (within reason!) and Enomoto gave me both during his route. Also, I love how earnest he was in love despite getting some things wrong or blowing things out of proportion. It just added to his charm.
His own backstory over not trusting people after being betrayed by a trusted friend was another engaging and slightly emotional one. I will say though that his route is on the more light-hearted side so I did see a lot of guides recommend his route first. And I can’t refute that.
Guys, I really thought this little sharp-tongued donut-loving tsundere would tear me apart during his route and I would face my first low trust and affection ending (whatever that may be), but surprisingly I got through his route!
Honestly, by the time I got to Sasazuka’s route, I was used to his verbal abuse so I wasn’t phased by it. On the contrary, I just found it funny and endearing. Even if he calls us a dumb dog or stupid cat. He’s lovely.
In the end, being the tsundere he is, Sasazuka is awfully caring in his own way even if you don’t see that at first. Heck, even though he does kind of scare you with the way he lunges at Ichika in the beginning showing his impatience over her hesitation in joining them could be said to come from a sliver of worry on his part.
Well, I really like him even if he can be a meanie sometimes. To be honest, him insulting people is also kind of cathartic on my own part. If only I had the comebacks he had and the confidence, I’d be a better woman.
Boy, oh boy. Shiraishi. Shiraishi. This man’s route was truly an adventure! I also thought Shiraishi was going to be a toughie to get through and I would struggle to get his trust and affection high enough but thankfully that still wasn’t the case.
On the other hand, his route certainly overturned my initial impressions on him. I went into his route liking him as a character but not as a love interest (I was neutral). I wasn’t too attracted to him like that. But Jesus, this man truly turned out to be more cute in ways I didn’t think was possible. And to say he actually is surprisingly innocent in ways? Oh my…
It makes sense once you learn his background. At the same time, when you learn about his background, you just wanna coddle him a bit because he is quite the broken individual that has been less human and more like a doll his entire life. It doesn’t help that he was raised more or less like a tool, so it’s no wonder he turned out the way he did. I’m just glad he was able to heal throughout his route and grow to be more of his own person.
Also, this man literally killed for his woman. He killed a friend who he had been working with for years for Ichika, a woman he’d only known for less than a month. like, wow. Get a man that’ll literally kill for you ladies.
First of all, a bit belated but Happy Birthday to this man! Yanagi’s birthday was just yesterday, September 5th, and I had a whole 9 hour stream clearing the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of his route in celebration.
But where to start with Yanagi? I loved this man a whole bunch, too. I know he is the poster boy of the series so he may unfortunately get some hate or side-eyes due to that especially with the new movie announcement that makes it obvious he is the main man of this production. Yet, I will stand by my love for this man.
His route is arguably the most important one as it wraps up the story through exploring the cases and finding the one who collared Ichika, Zero aka the leader of Adonis. We also learn after getting through a very closed off Yanagi, that he and Ichika had met before, 12 years before the events of the game.
Sadly, it was under unfortunate circumstances as a 9-year-old Ichika was kidnapped and brought to a church to be ransomed away until a 16-year-old Yanagi came to try and save her. Although, he ends up kind of traumatizing her in the process and it ends up as just a bad nightmare she occasionally has.
I’m not going to lie, I really liked the backstory of how they met despite the tragedy and darkness behind it all. Plus, we got to see Yanagi in his delinquency days and I wish for those piercings to make a comeback, even one is fine.
As I think about it, I really do like this man from his struggle to get over his role in traumatizing and harming Ichika to his gentle and protective nature. He is also best
house waifu who can cook, clean, and look after the house all while being a single father of two squabbling kittens and a stray who somehow keeps sneaking into the place through the window and doesn’t know when to quit.
My only complaint on Yanagi is that he smokes! However, at least dear Ichika is gently pushing him to quit.
Also, can I add that for some reason, his CGs were the ones to really leave my heart warm and dizzy?
So I wasn’t sure where to put all of what I’m about to say , but I decided to put it at the end as I really want to discuss Zero and Adonis.
After playing Yanagi’s route, I really got more curious about how things would’ve been different if Zero had got what he wanted and Ichika had joined him on his conquest to cleanse Japan.
One thing about Adonis was that they weren’t presented as just this evil organization hellbent on ruling through fearmongering over their declaration of removing criminals from Japan. At first, it is easy to condemn what they’re doing as they have no qualms killing those they deem criminals or wrongdoers.
Then you encounter the executors of X-Day and realize how morally grey this all is. Heck, you might even completely sympathize with them and see nothing too wrong with what they did.
Then you meet Zero, and learn more in-depth his thought process, his ideals, and why he leads Adonis the way he does. Of course, we also learn why he collared Ichika as well.
Since I know there is an Adonis route in Collar x Malice: Unlimited, the fan disk, I gotta wonder what Ichika is like as a part of Adonis. I’m just speculating here. I have no idea if Ichika is even in the Adonis route and maybe it’s told from a third person perspective (although I kinda doubt it). If so, I really would like to see how the relationship between Ichika and Zero progresses.
I have thought about the two of them throughout my day to the point that I wonder about my mental health. I felt real bad for poor Ichika when she found out who Zero was and I continuously felt bad for her throughout the rest of Yanagi’s route when she had to confront someone she had trusted and thought of as a close friend. Was any of it real? How much was their relationship lies? How much of it was the truth? And in the end, she had to shoot at him several times.
One of the things he says to her after he is arrested is that she’ll continue to suffer. Reason that stands out to me is how sad he looks like he genuinely believes that the only thing awaiting Ichika is the suffering and unfairness this world bestows on us weak helpless beings.
Even though he betrayed her trust, collared her, poisoned her, and threatened to kill her loved ones, I can’t hate the guy. He is as much a victim of the twisted wiles of this world as any of us and I feel like in a different environment, in a different world, he’d probably be quite similar to Ichika. I mean, he wanted her for a reason, right? Despite the threat of poisoning her (and actually doing it at one point in Yanagi’s route), he never seemed to have any intention to really kill her. Instead, he wanted her to kill him.
What a enigmatic guy. I truly hope that he’s character is expanded upon in the fan disk. I also hope to see if Ichika and Zero’s relationship is touched upon to a degree as well. I plan to go into Unlimited blind and I have no clue what I’m gonna encounter but if it’s anything like CxM, I can only expect good things. Maybe even better things.
Regardless, I highly recommend this game to any and all who enjoy otome games. It’s a good one for beginners especially. I also believe that while I’m not loyal, you’ll at least find one man you’ll fall for. Heck, I’ve seen a lot of CxM fans thirsting over Zero who has no route and oh, how they wish one would materialize for him.
I truly hope if you get this game, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did and if not, there are plenty of otome games to go around! As a beginner to the otome fandom, I’ll do my best to also deliver quality otome content, so please continue to go on this messy journey of loving 2D men (and women!) together with me!