Collar x Malice Review

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RELEASE DATE: 2016
PUBLISHER: Idea Factory & Aksys Games
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: PS Vita (Japanese & English)
GAME LINK: Collar x Malice – PS Vita [Physical]
Collar x Malice – PS Vita [Digital Code]

Collar x Malice is the otome game localisation that I have been anticipating for the entire year. I initially heard about the game from the great reviews it received from the Japanese release, and I was very interested in Collar x Malice as it had beautiful artwork by Hanamura Mai (same artist for the Amnesia series). Not only that, but it is a mystery/detective Visual Novel which is the genre that I adore the most.

I am a huge fan of the Danganronpa series, so I was very excited to see how an otome game would incorporate the themes into the storyline. So when I heard it was one of the selected four otome titles that Aksys Games decided to pick up for localisation, I was nothing less than stoked. This is a review written in collaboration with Aksys Games, as I did receive a review copy of Collar x Malice to play and write about my thoughts on it. Needless to say, it is definitely worth the hype and I recommend it to all otome fans.

Storyline ★★★★

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-The Story-

“Who put this collar on me?”

The protagonist is a policewoman who works in Shinjuku, which had become a dangerous city after a series of brutal incidents popularly referred to as the “X-Day Incident”.

She had been busy working in her assigned area everyday in order to keep it safe. But one night, an unknown assailant attacked her and placed a collar built in with poison around her neck.

Amidst the chaos and right before the protagonist’s eyes were men with suspicious backgrounds. They’re all part of an organisation composed of former police officers and have taken it upon themselves to investigate the brutal cases.

Without knowing whether she should trust these men or not, she suddenly became the person who held the key to this massive case.

In order to remove the collar that places her at the edge of death and to liberate Shinjuku from the malice that binds it, she cooperates; beginning to investigate the incidents with the men.

Who holds her life in their hands?
Will Shinjuku ever return to its former glory?
(Summary from VNDB

Collar x Malice has a very interesting premise that immediately captures your interest at first glance. All the routes act as important puzzle pieces for the overarching storyline, and reveals the piece by piece information needed to solve X-Day as a whole. As such, to fully enjoy the game you are required to play it in its entirety rather than only a few standalone routes. It is quite different from the traditional otome game, and although it does incorporate a lot of notable otome elements; it has a significantly heavier focus on the storyline.

The romance really takes a backseat in Collar x Malice, and it has a lengthy common route that is prevalent in all the routes. It’s a necessity as you’re introduced to the X-Day case assigned to each character, and you have to familiarise yourself with the nuances and clues pertaining to that specific investigation. As a result, it’s especially difficult initially to become immersed in the storyline and game universe because of how slow the pacing is at the beginning.

There’s a lot of information to digest and the X-Day Investigation is quite confusing to follow on your first play through. It becomes progressively easier and more interesting the further you delve into the game, as the pieces begin to fit together in solving the mystery. However, if you’re not a fan of heavy storyline content and writing then Collar x Malice probably isn’t the game for you.

In my opinion, then I thought it was a great pick up from Aksys Games as it’s something very different, unique and enjoyable to a wider audience. It delves into complex moral issues such as police corruption, the blurred lines between good and evil, and what one deems as ‘true justice’.

It poses difficult questions on the moral compass of humanity, and how sometimes there is no truly right answer or ‘the right thing to do’. When faced with the burdens of so many victims whom the protagonist achingly emphasises with, can she truly view their revenge as unjust? Her world is completely turned upside down as she comes to struggle with her own sense of justice, in a high stakes game where her own days are numbered with the X-Day countdown.

How often have we read news in the media and felt completely shocked at how little the criminal pays for their crimes, whilst the victim must shoulder it for the rest of their lives? And when these criminals are rightfully punished, the person responsible for it is praised for their heroic deeds; even if it is for the sake of ‘revenge’. If so, then can it truly be labelled as ‘morally wrong’?

If this victim was someone whom you loved and cherished, would you be able to sit by idly whilst their killer roamed a free man? Or would you too, become disillusioned by the justice system? These existentialist concepts really hit close to home and reflect current societal issues. It’s what makes the storyline and premise of Collar x Malice so compelling, and it’s very well thought out.

Another aspect I really liked was how the relationships between the characters were conveyed, as well as how pivotal friendship and family ties were in times of crisis. It was nice to see how they weaved in everyday life moments, to balance out with the investigation in order for you to truly appreciate them. Without it, the heroine would not have had such strong convictions for justice. It is her desire to protect those she holds dear even at the cost of her own life, that continues to push her forward to uncovering the truth behind X-Day.

I particularly liked her unexpected friendships with Mukai and Sakuragawa within the Police Force. I always enjoy Visual Novels where you can interact and form relationships with characters outside the main cast. You just become so much more immersed in the universe, and feel a much deeper connection to the characters.

My only criticisms for the storyline would be as I mentioned earlier, the pacing is very slow in all the routes at the beginning and difficult for most players to become fully immersed into plot. The storyline is very fragmented due to the nature of the X-Day cases, and confusing to understand initially until you play more than one route.

Although the character personalities themselves were very enjoyable to read, the routes were notably inconsistent in terms of level of quality. The game length is on the lengthier side, and encompasses 30+ endings. It would take on average 40-50 hrs worth of game time to fully clear the game.

Character Development ★★★★

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!

For the route order in Collar x Malice, I highly recommend playing them in the following sequence: Mineo → Takeru → Kei → Kageyuki → Aiji. They are each assigned to a particular X-Day case, and the storyline flows best if you solve them in chronological order.

Mineo is first as he is in charge of April/May, and Shiraishi is fourth with the case in August/September. Aiji naturally must be played last as he only unlocks upon the completion of the four other routes, and he is working to solve X-Day as a whole. Shiraishi can be accessed from the second play through onwards, but I do not recommend it as his route has a lot of spoilers on the overarching storyline.

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HOSHINO ICHIKA: Although I have read very mixed reviews on Ichika as a character, I personally really enjoyed seeing her growth over the course of the storyline. She is a rookie cop with unwavering views of justice, and determined to free Shinjuku from the malice that binds it in all the routes. Unremarkable in the police force outside of her skills in marksmanship, it does little to deter her from putting her best efforts into the investigation in order to protect what she holds dear.

Up until the story is set into motion, Ichika is essentially a regular girl living a normal life. Yet suddenly, she is thrust into a life or death situation where she is forced to obey the whims of an unknown assailant. She has no choice but to entrust her livelihood to a group of strangers, all with questionable backgrounds in regards to the law and unable to speak to anyone about her predicament.

Any regular person would have instantly collapsed from the insurmountable pressure, and become paralysed by the fear of death. Ichika on the other hand, rather than being concerned for her own wellbeing; continues to place the needs of others before her own. It only fuels her desire to work harder than ever before, and that to me is a strong show of character.

That being said, Ichika is by no means a perfect protagonist. She is extremely naive at the beginning of the routes, and views the world in shades of black and white. As she delves deeper into the X-Day cases and learns the dark secrets of Shinjuku, her once unshakeable beliefs on the meaning of true justice are put to the test. She is horrified by the prospect that after the suffering she has seen and endured; she can undeniably empathise with Adonis’ ideals.

It is from her experiences over the course of the storyline that she is able to come to terms with their goals. However, rather than accepting their vision for the world at face value; she forms her own resolute sense of justice. It is Ichika’s flaws and weaknesses that enable her to develop as a character throughout the game. Even though her sense of empathy and kindness towards potential criminals is criticised by the other characters, it does not deter Ichika from doing what she believes is right.

It is this aspect that the others lack, which enables Ichika to ultimately solve the cases. Although her personality is inconsistent in some of the routes, I felt that was more so in response to the bachelor’s own character. Naturally whomever Ichika is closest to in each route will have a profound influence on her own personality, and character development.

Another facet I enjoyed about Ichika was the emphasis on the importance of family, and how it is addressed and resolved in all the routes in different ways. It serves as one of the major personal conflicts in the game, that serves as a pivotal point of development which Ichika must overcome. When forced to choose between what one holds dear, and one’s line of duty; would she be able to make such a decision? Would she abandon her own beliefs?

Or would she succumb to being a victim, and come to fully understand the pain and suffering of those who had been forsaken by the justice system? A system that was built to protect the innocent? I felt how Ichika chose to balance both aspects without giving up the other was addressed really well.

One thing I found odd about Ichika that the writers decided to incorporate was her complete lack of knowledge with modern technology. I felt it was a rather unnecessary and negative attribute to have. You would expect in this time era and with her field of occupation, she would at least have basic understanding of mobile games, and video calling.

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ENOMOTO MINEO: Mineo is cheerful, comical, kind-hearted and considered the bane of Takeru’s existence. He is often used as the butt of his jokes, and as an errand boy to both Aiji and Takeru. Despite his seemingly lack of resourcefulness to the Agency in solving the X-Day cases, he was previously assigned to Field Operations in Shinjuku before his retirement. This is considered quite the feat due to his young age, and he is a far better detective than his actions would lead on.

Mineo was the character I was the least interested in, and his story contains the least amount of information on the X-Day cases as a whole. His route doesn’t contribute much to the overarching storyline, and it is the most stale out of all the characters. The pacing of his story is very slow for the majority of the route, and it takes a long time for Mineo to finally come to terms with his past and begin the investigation.

Ichika’s role in the storyline really takes a backseat to Mineo’s own personal conflict on the constitution of true justice. As a result, I felt Ichika didn’t really develop as much as a character. Her main role was supporting Mineo and enabling him to finally trust in another person again. What I liked about his route was that Mineo undoubtedly played a direct role in mending the rift between Kazuki and Ichika, due to his X-Day case involving Isshiki.

The interactions between Mineo and Ichika are much more light-hearted, and she is less reserved around him initially due to their similarity in age. They are very alike in personality in the sense that they’re tenacious, resolute in their beliefs and compensate for their weaknesses through sheer will and determination.

Ichika projects this onto Mineo, and takes the lead in stride. It is this that allows her to break down Mineo’s barriers and eventually become accepted as his partner. I still really enjoyed Mineo’s story and character, despite him being the least appealing out of the bachelor cast.

Although his route is much weaker in terms of storyline, there are still plenty of heartwarming moments between the two. Due to how shy, innocent and withdrawn Mineo becomes around women, it makes for some very adorable fluff and hilarious antics in his attempts to conceal his embarrassment.

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SASAZUKA TAKERU: Takeru is the extreme tsundere of the group, and strongly dislikes expressing his true feelings. He conceals his affection beneath a myriad of insults and teasing, but despite his prickly nature; he has a huge soft spot for donuts and sweets. Due to his childhood upbringing in America, he is not fond of Japanese flavoured food like Matcha and refuses to communicate with people whom he considers below his intellectual standards.

As a result, he shares a hilarious relationship with Mineo; who he clearly cares for and resents at the same time. In spite of his youthful appearance, he is considered a hacking genius and one of the most talented members that Cyber Division has ever recruited.

Although I know Takeru is one of the fan favourites from the game, his character didn’t actually appeal to me as much as the others. I felt his relationship with Ichika was very disjointed from start to finish, because of how tsundere Takeru was. The dynamic would constantly switch from hot to cold, and then suddenly back to hot with a randomly thrown in ‘sweet moment’ between the two.

It was almost unfair that Takeru had so many adorable moments with Ichika, as well as some of the best CGs in the game. I felt they only incorporated so many to compensate for his clear lack of chemistry with Ichika. Every time Takeru would seemingly improve, he would immediately regress in his treatment of Ichika and his feelings towards her. Despite his condescending attitude and haughty demeanour, his level of maturity at times was second to only Mineo’s.

Ichika herself, was also by far the weakest in terms of personality and character development in Takeru’s story in comparison to all the other routes. She is very reserved, shy, withdrawn and easily embarrassed in this route. Ichika really lacked that same fire, tenacity and conviction that she demonstrated in the others to solve the cases.

Ichika contributed very little to the investigation itself, and although she does do some sleuthing in order to pass Takeru’s ‘tests’ so to speak; it’s uncovering information that the group have already figured out themselves. The whole case is essentially solved by Takeru himself, and Ichika is just there running errands or providing ‘moral support’ in the background.

Every time she attempts to assist him, he immediately shuts her down saying that ‘he just needs her to be there for him’ and she puts in very little effort in dissuading his requests. Whilst I still really enjoyed his route with all the fan service and lovely artwork, it wasn’t very good in terms of both character and relationship development.

In comparison to Mineo’s route, it was much better in terms of moving forward with the storyline. But, it left much to be desired from both Takeru and Ichika’s development as characters. I felt Takeru stayed more or less the same from the beginning of his route, and only becomes slightly softer in his approach towards Ichika.

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OKAZAKI KEI: A SP officer assigned to monitoring Yanagi’s detective agency, Kei is a whimsical character who fleetingly appears throughout all the routes. In stark contrast to the nature of his position in the police force, Kei is an air-head, persistent, extremely oblivious to the emotions of others, kind, gentle and treated as a complete nuisance by the agency.

He has interesting quirks such as entering buildings from story high windows, enjoys questionably flavoured snacks, and often falls asleep in dark alleyways. Despite his seemingly aloof and relaxed nature, he is exceptionally sharp and extremely dedicated to his orders as expected of a SP Officer.

I was very excited to play Kei’s route, as he was the character I was most interested in at first glance alongside Aiji. Collar x Malice has a lot of promotional art of them together, as Kei is meant to play the foil to Aiji as his polar opposite in terms of both personality and ideals. Very little is known about him prior to his story and I was interested to see how significant his route would be to the overarching plot.

In comparison to the others, he is the only character not apart of the detective agency and is actively working in the police force. Because of this, the angle of his storyline would naturally be very different from the others. Nothing would have prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster that was Okazaki Kei’s route.

I felt all sorts of emotions whilst playing his story such as happiness, warmth, a lot of frustration, constant laughter and sadness. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so emotionally invested in a route. He is undoubtedly one of my favourite characters and routes in the game.

I felt his past wasn’t so extreme as to warrant a drastic reaction such as his tragic life wish. However, what I really liked in his route was how Ichika handled it. I was really impressed by her character in this story, because the writers finally addressed her shortcomings that were lacking in the previous two routes. She approaches everything with conviction, is strong-willed, decisive and straight forward in what she wants.

It was essentially everything that I had wanted to see from her as an MC. Whilst Kei is extremely stubborn by nature, it does not deter Ichika whatsoever. She stands up to him, isn’t afraid to mince words and doesn’t hesitate to set him straight when he is acting out of line. When push comes to shove, she does not back down to any challenges and is unwavering in her beliefs of what is right and wrong.

It was also nice to see how she approached the X-Day case on her own in this route, without the help of the bachelors at the agency. When she is paired up with the other detectives, Ichika noticeably loses a lot of confidence due to the experience gap and becomes much more reliant on them to solve the cases.

Admittedly, playing through majority of Kei’s route is extremely frustrating due to how oblivious and selfish he is towards Ichika’s feelings and those around him. However, I also felt it was worthwhile build up for even greater character development later on in the story. It made the ending and confession of their feelings towards one another just so much more satisfying to read.

I actually laughed out loud when Ichika did exactly what I wanted her to do, which was quite literally slap some sense into Kei’s warped thinking process. It was refreshing to see how assertive she was in their relationship, and how much she fought to change Kei’s mindset. Even though it took quite some time before they were finally able to come to an understanding of one another’s feelings and desires, it was realistic.

It takes a lot to change someone’s view on life, and Ichika liberated Kei from the meaningless existence he had led the past few years and breathed purpose into him. It’s why he becomes so attached to her, as she gives him a new reason for living; to continue creating new and happy memories, and experiencing so many emotions that he would have never imagined possible.

I just loved their interactions with one another throughout the entire route and it was just the little things that endeared Kei to me like his text messages, the constant worrying and the small gestures that showed how much he truly cared.

Once they finally established what they both wanted and how they felt for one another, their moments together were just so much sweeter and satisfying to read. It felt like all the trials and efforts Ichika had gone through finally reached him. His bad ending is by far the best in the game, and just so utterly despair inducing.

Yūki Kaji did an amazing job as Kei’s voice throughout the route and just perfectly emulated all aspects of his character. The amount of expression and emotion he showed in Kei’s bad ending truly etched into your mind the sheer despair and anguish of the moment. His good ending is also one of my favourites, with Ichika whispering her words of love to him as the sun was rising.

It was just such a great scene, that really showed how much they loved one another. The passion and feelings they had for one another in this route was so palpable, and you could see how quintessential they were to one another’s reason for living.

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SHIRAISHI KAGEYUKI: Shiraishi is the Director of the Forensics Department, and an exceptionally skilled profiler. It is because of his undeniable ability and talents that everyone in the force begrudgingly respects him, despite his notorious reputation for being very strange and difficult to work with. He is cold and distant to others to the point of not remembering any names he deems ‘unimportant’, and habitually adorns cat accessories to work.

Due to his years and experience, he has solved countless cases through his extremely accurate profiling and is able to often read people at a glance. He quickly becomes very interested in the heroine, due to his inability to understand the connection between the collar, her pure and innocent personality and her role in X-Day.

I actually had a lot of problems with his route, and it was one of those stories where you’re left wanting so much more. I was really disappointed because of how much wasted potential and angles they had in executing his storyline, and it was all left open-ended even at the conclusion of his route.

As a character, Shiraishi was great. There’s a lot of excitement and curiosity leading into his story, because of how mysterious his personality is. It heavily implies from all the other routes that he clearly has a hidden agenda of some kind. I honestly didn’t expect to like his character as much as I did, due to how abrasive he is at the beginning. He is just so sweet, adorable and innocent in the way that he genuinely doesn’t understand Ichika.

With his ever-growing intrigue, you can just see the amount of effort he goes through in order to win her affections and decipher what makes her happy. For example: when he spends forever lamenting on what gift she would like and finally decides on animal crackers, or when he attempts to cook for her even though he has no idea how. Even his fascination with cats was endearing, because you could see how he related to them.

Their simple dates of just enjoying one another’s company and chasing cats was just so heartwarming. It was the little things that eventually led to them falling in love. It was also great to see Ichika’s friendships with Mukai and Sakuragawa blossom in this route, through their mutual feelings on the Shiraishi Bashing Coalition (at least initially). There were just so many hilarious moments between the trio and you could see how much they genuinely cared for Ichika.

His route pacing and story development on the other hand? Very disappointing. It was really inconsistent how his personality would constantly switch back and forth between opening up to Ichika, before coldly pushing her away again. It just wasn’t properly explained as to why he was acting that way at all. It served as one of the major ‘conflicts’ in his route between the two, and yet it was resolved all too easily considering how long it lasted for. 

Another problem I had with his route was how little the game writers dedicated to fully fleshing out his past. Every bachelor in Collar x Malice had a segment or chapter devoted to recounting their past, what led them to where they are now, their objectives, goals, feelings and the truth about themselves. This was barely addressed in Shiraishi’s route, and you only receive bits and pieces of it here and there from the dialogue of other characters or from short flashbacks.

Although you can more or less make out what happened from these fragmented glimpses of his past, it just didn’t leave a lasting impact. Shiraishi as a character, never properly explained in his own words how he became this way or expressed his feelings on the suffering that he endured. As a result, it’s difficult to fully empathise with his character or develop a strong emotional connection to the pain he experienced.

You would think that for a character with a past that was so integral to forming their current self, the writers would have devoted a lot more effort and resources into it. No one had a past as dark nor as emotional as Shiraishi, and it was the key to truly understanding him. I remember reading up until the very end of his story, holding onto the slim hope that they would address it at some point but it was all for naught.

I also had very mixed feelings on the ending of his route. It left so much more to be desired and the whole situation itself was rather strange. It honestly felt more like a bad ending than a good ending and raised a lot of questions. Why did she have to be confined for so long, and left alone with Shiraishi? How did everyone just naturally accept this as the most reasonable course of action, considering the amount of crimes he has committed?

Normally for amnesiac patients you would assume that interacting with the environment and people they’re familiar with would be more helpful in regaining their memory, rather than being cooped up in an unfamiliar place for so long. Then suddenly, she just magically remembers everything out of nowhere again for the final scene? It was just far too convenient and unrealistic, all for the sake of having a forced ‘happy ending’.

Overall, there was just too little information and writing in developing Shiraishi’s character and fully exploring his past as well as the extent of his trauma. It was really disappointing, since I felt it didn’t give true justice to how lovable and endearing his character really is.

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YANAGI AIJI: Aiji is considered the ‘mother hen’ of the group, and the reason as to why all the characters agreed to joining the Detective Agency. A former highly-ranked detective from Investigations Sector 1, he left to pursue the X-Day cases on his own due to investigation limitations within the Police Force.

Aiji is a natural leader, level-headed, thoughtful, reliable and often the voice of reason that breaks up the conflict between the characters in all the routes. He is deeply respected by the others and assists Ichika with many of her problems and personal conflicts throughout the storyline.

Aiji is similar to to Lupin from Code: Realize, and as such he suffers from the same flaws as him. Because they’re both the ‘poster boy’ of their respective games, they’re also the canon route and bachelor that the heroine is truly meant to be with. It’s emphasised in all the routes at least once that Aiji is the best person and safest choice to be Ichika’s partner for the X-Day cases.

He even suggests in many of the routes for you to assist him on his investigation, if it doesn’t work out with the other characters. In contrast to Lupin however, he lacked a lot of chemistry with Ichika due to how much more plot was invested into his route. This made sense as Collar x Malice as a title focuses significantly more on storyline and the romance is a secondary factor.

However, it’s even more lacklustre in his route because rather than only focusing on one case, you’re solving all of them and putting it together to solve X-Day as a whole. It’s the reason as to why his route has seven chapters, in comparison to the standard six. Aiji’s route chapters are much longer in order to explain everything regarding the mystery and overarching storyline. Because of this, the romance starts a lot later in his route in comparison to the others and the first few chapters are purely investigation and main storyline content.

Whilst I did really enjoy reading the unveiling of the plot and the overall storyline became much more interesting; Aiji’s route as a romance-able character definitely suffered as a result.

To make matters worse, Aiji spends the early bulk of his route avoiding and distancing himself from Ichika due to his reservations on their past history with one another and their age difference. I wasn’t really shocked at the revelation of their past, and I honestly thought it was something much darker and unsettling that had unhinged Aiji. I thought he held a much deeper and more significant connection to Ichika, and I was a little underwhelmed by it.

Because of how the beginning of his route was written, I felt the romance didn’t flow as seamlessly as it did in comparison to the other characters. For the most part, it was more like an older brother-younger sibling type of relationship and the overall tone was very platonic. Aiji’s character in itself is almost too perfect to a fault. He is kind, caring, patient, mature, a skilled detective, adept at understanding others, a great listener, supportive and a master of the domestic arts — there’s essentially nothing he can’t do.

However, because there’s nothing to dislike about him; there’s also nothing that stands out about him either. As an audience, you’re meant to like him the most because he is the most ‘ideal’ in terms of character and his route is the most wholesome in terms of storyline. It is the only one that solves X-Day and he is truly able to save Shinjuku alongside Ichika. As such, he has a natural edge over all the other bachelors because of the amount of time invested into his storyline, and he plays such an integral role in all the routes.

That being said, I still really enjoyed his route and he is one of my favourites from the game in terms of overall plot and relationship dynamic with Ichika later on in the story. However, as a standalone character he is just so much less interesting than the rest of the cast.

Naturally as the poster boy of the game, he did have some of the best CGs with the heroine and some very sweet moments in the end. After he’s finally able to overcome his fears and boundaries he placed on their relationship, he is surprisingly very passionate and affectionate.

Design ★★★★★

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I quite liked the drawing style for Collar x Malice, as it really suited the tone and themes of the game. Hanamura Mai is the same artist for the Amnesia series, although the artistic style is notably different between the two games. The game incorporated a lot of CGs for every character, and for the most part they were illustrated beautifully. However, I did notice some inconsistencies here and there in particular CGs in comparison to the character sprites, especially in terms of their facial expressions.

There was also a trend of overdrawn hands, where it did seem disproportionate to the rest of their body. Ichika’s hair in some images looked gorgeous, whereas in others her iconic mullet looked awkwardly cut in comparison to the rest of her hair. Fortunately, the flaws are minor and it didn’t retract from the enjoyment of the game itself. I particularly liked the realistic tone of the backgrounds, as they’re clearly meant to be akin to the real world Shinjuku within Japan. If you have visited Shinjuku before, you can instantly see the likeness to many iconic places.

Another notable aspect that was the highlight of the game design was the number of character sprites depicted. It’s rare to see a title have that many sprite illustrations for even the side characters as well as CGs, and it really helped in fleshing out the game universe. You just become so much more invested in the overall picture of the storyline, and attached to the characters themselves. This is central to the story writing, as without images of the characters they become a lot less relatable as ‘victims’ and difficult to empathise with in the overarching plot.

Other than that, the artwork was very crisp and showed up vividly on the PSVita screen. It is without a doubt one of the selling points of the game, and Hanamura Mai’s artwork progressively improves with every new release.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★★

I really enjoyed the soundtrack in Collar x Malice, and it reminded me a lot of Amnesia. This should come as no surprise as they’re both by the same composer, Manyo. Manyo is one of my all-time favourite Visual Novel composers, and has also composed the tracks for other titles such as the RE:Birthday Song series and the Kara no Shoujo series.

The tracks suited the theme of the game quite well, with a variety of songs that ranged from suspenseful, ominous, emotional, and mysterious for the detective/investigation scenes. I also enjoyed the instrumental pieces used for the heartwarming moments in Collar x Malice. Normally I’m not a fan of Visual Kei, but the tracks by Plastic Tree for the opening and ending really grew on me throughout the game.

That being said, I really liked the opening video for Collar x Malice. I loved all the transitions, themes and motifs. The song suited it perfectly, and it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a while that just really grabs the audience’s attention and interest.

Although I really liked the soundtrack, and it was an overall solid arrangement; there really weren’t any tracks that particularly stood out to me or were notably outstanding. They were standard songs that I expected out of a detective game, and it lacked that little bit extra that would have turned it from a great to amazing soundtrack.

In terms of voice acting, then Collar x Malice incorporated a famous and prolific line up for both the main and side characters. They all emulated the character personalities perfectly, and it definitely enhanced the game experience by a significant margin. In particular, I really enjoyed Yūki Kaji’s performance as Okazaki Kei. I wasn’t surprised by this at all, as he is one of my favourite voice actors that has appeared in a lot of very popular animes and Visual Novels.

He really was able to capture Kei’s oblivious nature, his mischievous innocence, anguish and full spectrum of emotions. His voice is just so soft, lovely yet expressive; it really was a joy to listen to and he truly brought Kei’s character to life. It left a strong impression on me throughout the game, and it really endeared Kei to me by the end of his route.

  • Okazaki Kei | VA: Yūki Kaji | 梶 裕貴 |
    Black Wolves Saga series as Rath Vogart, Diabolik Lovers series as Sakamaki Kanato, Code: Realize series as Finis, Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds as Souma Kazue, Norn 9 series as Yuiga Kakeru, Accel World as Haruyuki Arita, Attack on Titan as Eren Yeager, Final Fantasy series as Hope and Ao Haru Ride as Kou Mabuchi
  • Yanagi Aiji | VA: Morita Masakazu |森田 成一 |
    Yo-Jin-Bo The Bodyguards as Shiranui Yozaburou, Bleach as Ichigo Kurosaki, Rewrite as Kotaro Tennoji and Final Fantasy series as Tidus
  • Mikuni Rei | VA: Toriumi Kousuke | 鳥海 浩輔|
    Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ as Poyo-poyo/Shiki Hanamiya, Danganronpa series as Ishimaru Kiyotaka, Diabolik Lovers series as Sakamaki Shuu, Nightshade as Momochi Choujirou, Naruto series as Inuzuka Kiba and Hakuoki series as Saito Hajime
  • Sanjou Keisuke | VA: Maeno Tomoaki | 前野 智昭 |
    Code: Realize series as Arséne Lupin, Taisho x Alice series as Akazukin, Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ as Radius and Kenka Banchou Otome as Onaigashima Houou
  • Sera Akito | VA: Hanae Natsuki | 花江 夏樹 |
    Taisho x Alice series as Ookami, Your Lie in April as Kosei Arima, Tokyo Ghoul series as Ken Kaneki, Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ as Libera and Aldnoah Zero as Inaho Kaizuka

System ★★★★

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The system in Collar x Malice had an amazing design and layout. I really loved all the themes and motifs that were prevalent throughout the UI, and it really helped set the mood for the game. It incorporated all the basic Visual Novel features such as save, load, CG Gallery, scene replay, skip etc. For a game of this length and having over 30+ endings, they really should have had a ‘skip to next decision’ option. This would have definitely made the game a lot less time consuming to fully clear, and nowhere near as difficult.

As it is a newer Visual Novel, I was surprised that they decided not to incorporate any sprite animations. Whilst I still enjoyed Collar x Malice without it, I generally do prefer games to include them as it just helps set the overall feel of the game.

The game had very smooth transitions for chapter/character introduction animations, sprite overlays, special effects and scene changes. Kei’s epic stand off scene is one that comes to mind, and I liked how the character portraits appeared in the corners when they were speaking. Aspects such as the map movement, dictionary, materials menu and trigger mode all helped build upon the ‘detective/mystery’ genre of the game.

Although trigger mode was very simple in terms of game mechanics, it definitely helped build a sense of urgency and excitement for the climax scenes of the routes. It also logically followed the flow of the storyline, as missing the shot would lead to consequences and a bad ending.

A feature I wished they had improved upon or added more of was definitely the ‘investigation scenes’. In each route, you would only be able to investigate maps once or twice at most and the navigation for it was extremely simple. Essentially, you had to click on everything once or twice to clear the stage. Although I understand Collar x Malice is a Visual Novel first and foremost, it definitely felt a little lacklustre as the investigation itself is the most important aspect of a detective/mystery game.

Although you could collect evidence throughout the game that would then appear in your materials list, it didn’t really serve much of a purpose. It would have been nice if they included a trial or confrontation of sorts where you needed to refer to the evidence you collected, in order to prove that the suspect is guilty.

On a positive note, I really liked the text messaging aspect of the game as well as how is ties into decision points. It just felt very interactive with the characters, and had some pretty comical moments throughout the routes. The affection increase indicators also helped a lot in terms of replayability and uncovering all the endings due to the amount of decision points.

There is also a lot of fan service/extra content that becomes accessible upon the completion of the game routes. It was nice to have some more light-hearted moments with the characters, although I wish they incorporated the bonus CG into the short stories themselves.

Conclusion

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In conclusion, Collar x Malice is a great title that I really enjoyed playing. It is definitely one of the better english localisation releases of 2017, and I do recommend checking it out if you haven’t already. It is all-around solid, and there weren’t any notable aspects of criticisms that really detracted from the feel of the game. The storyline, characters and artwork were the highlight of Collar x Malice and a title that is enjoyable for a wider audience.

Although the storyline can be tedious and slow initially to get into and understand, you learn to appreciate the important moral concepts and questions that Collar x Malice attempts to highlight and address. However, if you’re not a fan of darker stories and a heavier focus on the plot; then Collar x Malice probably isn’t the game for you. The romance is a secondary aspect to the gameplay, and solving the mystery comes first and foremost.

Unfortunately, the translation quality this time around wasn’t the best from Aksys Games and was filled with notable errors throughout the game such as typos or spelling mistakes. There were also a lot of issues with grammatical phrasings of certain sentences, and all these errors were correctable with more thorough proofreading.

However, it is not consistent throughout the game overall and still enjoyable to play and read. It will not diminish your understanding of the storyline, or what the characters were trying to convey. It is definitely an aspect that should be notably improved for future english localisations, as players do care when seeing this many errors in a final release copy.

On a positive note, it’s rare for me to like all the characters in a game and I felt the cast of Collar x Malice were very interesting in different aspects. It created a great dynamic as a group, as well as a web of relationships with the side characters in the game. You grow to love all the characters, even the ones outside the main cast and that is a show of good writing.

As the game is lacking in the romance department, I would really love to see the fan disc localised in future. Idea Factory & Otomate have already announced that the fan disc is set to be released in Japan during 2018 under the title ‘Collar x Malice —Unlimited—‘. By continuing to show your support by purchasing the games, it increases the likelihood of the fan disc and future otome titles being released in english.

Thank you to Aksys Games for the review copy, and I look forward to playing their next otome game localisation Bad Apple Wars which is set to be released on October 13th, 2017!

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Written By Cherry

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Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Review

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RELEASE DATE
: 2016
PUBLISHER: Idea Factory & Aksys Games
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: PS Vita (Japanese & English)
GAME LINK: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]

I was very excited to play Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ as it is my first collaboration title with Aksys Games. I was provided with a copy of the game to review in light of its April 28th, 2017 release. I had been anticipating Period: Cube since Aksys Games’ announcement last year of licensing four otome titles in 2017, which I covered in my ‘Most Anticipated English Visual Novels of 2017‘ post. To my delight, the next out of the four to be released is Collar x Malice which was the one I had been looking forward to the most. You can pre-order the game from Amazon here, for the official release date of July 28, 2017!

What initially attracted me to Period: Cube was the incorporation of RPG elements, and an MMORPG as the basis for the universe setting. As I have played many MMORPGs since childhood, this brought about a wave of nostalgia for me. I was interested to see how they decided to approach the RPG gameplay and how much of it would be balanced with the visual novel aspect of the game.

Storyline ★★★

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-The Story- 

Searching for clues about your missing brother, you and your childhood friend Hiroya begin playing an online RPG called “Arcadia.”

You’re suddenly enveloped in a flash of light, and awaken to find yourself in a mysterious fantasy world. You discover you’ve been sent inside of the game, and learn that the only way out is to complete it. In a deadly world on the verge of collapse, you become the “Almighty,” the key to clearing Arcadia, and the secret weapon everyone is after.

You and your companions undertake a perilous journey, where love grows as the world falls apart. (Official Website

The website summary actually encompasses the story outline very well, so I won’t delve into it further here. Period: Cube has a very interesting premise that is reminiscent of the highly popular light novel and anime adaptation, Sword Art Online. It immediately appeals to fans of the MMORPG genre and the creators definitely showed their attentiveness to the finer details throughout the story. I loved all the little nuances and references, and they were extremely nostalgic as I’ve played RPGs since childhood.

If you’ve never played RPGs before, then the encyclopaedia entries are very detailed and explain everything concisely. The universe of Period: Cube demonstrated elaborate world-building and were highly reminiscent of aspects you’d find directly from a cohesive RPG title. The immersive overarching storyline really captures your interest and encourages playing all the routes in order to reveal the ‘complete truth’.

However, the plot had many integral issues in terms of storyline explanations and the development of character routes. There were many times throughout the game where I had to re-read many revelations in order to fully understand exactly what had happened, how the events occurred and why. This is a sign of flawed writing and pacing, as the crucial foundations of the storyline were not very concrete or coherent.

It had an interesting premise and collection of unique ideas that weren’t executed to the fullest potential. Many of the strange phenomenons in the game that transitioned into the real world were never properly fleshed out and left me in a state of confusion. I just had so many questions remaining, despite completing all the routes.

How were the players consistently pulled back into the game, despite not being logged in physically? How did this occur regardless of their location? How were the character’s data and minds inputted into the system to begin with? All they did was create a character, and for some reason in a flash of bright light they were sucked into the game. The whole concept of the ‘Period: Cube’ was poorly explained and evident in all the routes, since some characters converted into data could magically return after dying whilst others could not.

Period: Cube was also very difficult to play without a walkthrough and they really should not have used the combat selections as integral choices for the character routes. Although they seemingly didn’t appear to have any significance, they actually did. I was shocked when after thoughtlessly choosing several options, I ended up on a character route after an extremely short prologue and first chapter.

I was also on the completely wrong route and had to replay it several times through trial and error. If you’re expecting Period: Cube to incorporate substantial RPG elements, or have gameplay akin to the Fire Emblem series; then this game really isn’t for you. It is still a visual novel through and through, and only utilises the concepts of an RPG to further the storyline. The ‘combat system’ is extremely basic, and coded as decisions in the game; rather than having any substantial value.

That being said, I still really enjoyed reading the overall storyline of Period: Cube. It was unique, interesting and would appeal more to people who are familiar with RPGs. You can see just how many references are placed throughout the game, and relate to them as an RPG player. The translation was also quite good, with only very marginal typos from all the routes. Some phrasing of words could’ve been better, and there were some sentence cut offs from the original meaning in Japanese. However, they were negligible for the most part.

I would have preferred the prologue and common route to be longer, as you’re not even introduced to all the characters before being locked into their route prior to meeting them. You’re thrust into the game universe all too quickly, without proper build up and introductions. Each route took around 3-4hrs to complete depending on your read speed, which totals to around 30hrs of gameplay.

Character Development ★★★

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!

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KAZUHA: As a protagonist, Kazuha elicited very mixed feelings within me. It felt as though every single bachelor fell in love with her at first sight, and their only reason for loving her was because of how ‘cute’, ‘innocent’ and ‘kind’ she was. Not to mention she looks exceptionally young in comparison to the rest of the cast, and age sixteen at most. Although she does develop as a character, it did not feel very satisfying nor was it a substantial change. She is able to stand by her convictions and beliefs by the end of the game for the sake of all the remaining players; and return to the real world.

Kazuha is determined and unwavering in her views of justice and the integral goodness that every person possesses, no matter how many terrible experiences are inflicted upon her throughout the course of the story. It is from finally coming to terms with her own strength, that she is able to call upon the powers of the Almighty. However, this blind trust is also her greatest flaw; she is constantly manipulated by others seeking personal gain and dragged around by all the bachelors fighting for her affection throughout the game.

I felt there was just so much more that could’ve been done with her character, considering all the RPG elements they incorporated into Period: Cube. As the game storyline revolves around an RPG universe, I would have really liked to see the heroine have some progression stat wise. At best, she would be level 5 by the end of the game. It honestly felt pathetic that she barely advanced any levels, when all the other characters were at least five times higher.

Realistically in any MMORPG, she should have never made it past a day in Arcadia without speed levelling and increasing her stats. Not only that, but her combat consists of mainly ‘buffing’ or ‘de-buffing’ allies and enemies from the backline. All the characters then proceed to praise her as if she was a godsend and no one else could’ve done the exact same thing. It felt like such a cop out that her level was pretty much negligible, and just because she’s the protagonist and ‘coincidentally’ the Almighty; she had the ability to one hit kill extremely powerful mobs.

It is because of her almighty status, that she receives constant protection and saved by the bachelors time and time again throughout the game. You would think that in a life or death situation, she would be more proactive to ensure her own survival. Thousands of people have died in the game, and yet Kazuha avoids hundreds of warranted deaths because she is the protagonist. Ironically, the only times when Kazuha is truly assertive in what she wants and wishes to do is in the bad endings of the game.

It was really disappointing to see how much great potential she had to develop as a character with the overarching storyline and universe, and none of these concepts were utilised at all.

I recommend playing the character routes in the following order: Radius → Astrum→ Demento → Zain → Libera → Hiroya→ Poyo-poyo due to storyline spoilers and flow of events. Poyo-poyo can only be unlocked upon the completion of Astrum, Libera and Hiroya’s routes. I have the completed walkthroughs for the game here.

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RADIUS: Renowned as a solo player who never forms parties with others, he is the strongest player of the demon faction. Radius is a powerful fencer, who owns the ‘Infernal Shadow’s Edge’ which is part of the Trinity of Swords required to clear the Ark; the final dungeon within Arcadia. Radius saves Kazuha when she separates from Hiroya and is attacked by enemies. He trades her his most prized Shadow’s Edge to regenerate her health, and Kazuha narrowly avoids death upon completion of the mission.

They temporarily return to the real world, and the two coincidentally meet one another at the hospital. He is cold, blunt and aloof and wishes to have nothing to do with the heroine. He sharply rejects her attempts at friendship and camaraderie, asserting that he works alone. The heroine is confused by the disconnect between his cold words and kind actions, as in spite of his uncaring demeanour; he had saved her life countless of times. She soon comes to discover the reasons behind his distrust towards others, and the suffering he has endured in the past.

Radius is extremely similar to Kirito from Sword Art Online, and jaded by the exact same experiences. He suffers from survivor’s guilt, after his entire party and close friends are killed on a quest expedition for the Shadow’s Edge. Radius is burdened by their final words, and believes himself to be a coward for abandoning his comrades. He views himself undeserving of the life given to him, and yet lacks the courage to face death. This confliction forms the crux of his character, and the inner dilemma that causes him to distance himself from others.

As a result, he finds Kazuha’s complete acceptance of her precarious situation bewildering; and becomes angered on her behalf. Radius views it to be extremely unfair, how she was unknowingly thrust into a life or death situation because of her honourable intentions to save her brother. Now she is being hunted by all of Arcadia, due to her status as a powerful ‘tool’ and disregarded completely as a human being.

Radius admires her inner strength and perseverance; qualities which he sorely lacks in spite of his physical prowess. As Radius spends more time with Kazuha, he comes to fall in love with these aspects of her personality and confides in her his dark past and inner torment. It is through his experiences with her that he is able to come to terms with his anguish, and relinquish the burdens he has carried for so long.

Radius’ route was initially quite irritating to play, due to his constant refusals of the heroine and his cold assertions for her to stay away from him. At every opportunity, he would assume she was stalking him and disrespecting his wishes of wanting to be left alone. He is very fickle in his emotions, and continually switches between resenting the heroine completely; to saving her every time she is in trouble.

However, as a character he develops significantly over the course of the storyline and has some great romantic moments with the protagonist. He becomes very soft towards the heroine when he falls in love with her, and priorities her wellbeing above all else. He is no longer afraid to die or face the future, if it is for her sake. Radius even bows his head to the guild Forte, and uncharacteristically begs them to party with him to save Kazuha.

He had the best CGs and romantic scenes with the protagonist in the game, and was unexpectedly passionate when in love. He also spent the most time with her in the real world in comparison to the other characters, which was reflective in his CGs. Radius’ route was overall the most well-rounded in Period: Cube, as it properly developed his character and relationship with Kazuha over the course of the story.

There was slow, notable progression and I could understand his reasons for falling in love with Kazuha. She had always looked at him as the person he truly was, rather than exterior appearances, fame or fortune. She is able to accept him within his darkest moments, no matter how many times he pushed her away and did not allow his cold rejections to faze her. Her own perseverance and selflessness for others inspires Radius to overcome his own personal demons and accept that it was not too late to atone for his past mistakes.

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ASTRUM: The famous guild leader for the dungeon speed-runners Clarius, and representative of the Angel Faction. Unlike the demon faction, the angels are organised and possess guild roles; enacting proper chain of commands and efficiently battle dungeons together. Although highly respected and revered for his immense strength and tactical game knowledge, Astrum is also well known as an avid role-player within Arcadia. Despite it being a game, Astrum’s mannerisms and flowery dialogue are extremely exaggerated and reflective of his in-game character role.

He is the owner of the ‘Divine Blade of Light’ which is the other piece of the Trinity of Swords required to clear the Ark. Astrum falls in love with Kazuha at first sight due to her beauty and status as the ‘Almighty Amadeus’ and lovingly refers to her by that title throughout the game. He rescues her and Hiroya in the woods, and welcomes them to the Celestial Palace.

However, his actions incur the wrath and jealousy of the other angels; as they view him treating Kazuha favourably despite being unable to use the powers of the Almighty. Hiroya’s presence as a demon is also unheard of, and the atmosphere becomes tense as they continually put off expeditions to the Ark; despite the impending Jaws of Death threatening to consume Arcadia.

I had very mixed feelings about Astrum’s route initially. I was intrigued by his appearance in Radius’ story as his direct counterpart and complete opposite in personality. I didn’t mind his roleplaying and found it hilarious, as it was in line with the RPG elements of the game. It added a lot more comic relief and a light-hearted tone to Astrum’s route. His character is also a reference to RPG players in real life, as many do actually enjoy roleplaying and I’m sure every RPG enthusiast has done it at least once before.

However, I found his overly affectionate feelings towards Kazuha difficult to believe and understand. He essentially falls in love with her at first sight without any proper build up or development. Astrum completely favours her over everyone else, despite the questions and anger directed at his complete disregard for his own position. As a leader, it was unfair that he showered her with special treatment without any proper justification or explanation.

Because of this, for the bulk of his route in spite of the kindness he showed to Kazuha; his feelings felt rather shallow and disingenuous. It felt as though his only reasoning as to why he had special sentiments towards her was due to her status as the Almighty, and because of how ‘cute’ and ‘kind’ she was. However, upon meeting his real life persona Asou Tohru… needless to say, I instantly fell in love with his character.

Sakurai Takahiro did such an amazing job with voicing Tohru’s persona, and perfectly captured his awkward social tendencies and mannerisms of speaking. He truly brought his character to life, and it always amazes me how he is able to play so many diverse personalities. Although I was initially confronted by his sudden rejection of the heroine upon meeting her in real life, it was explained quite well afterwards.

It revealed Tohru’s insecurities and his lack of self-esteem, as he was afraid that Kazuha had become disillusioned by how ‘uncool’ he was in the real world. A stark contrast to the confident and powerful leader of the Angels as Astrum, Tohru in real life is teased by his peers for his lack of social skills and constantly compared to Kazuha’s older brother, Shiki Hanamiya. No matter how hard he tried, his efforts remained unrecognised and forever labelled as second place.

This creates a major inferiority complex within Tohru, and he uses Arcadia as an escape from the real world. At least in the game universe, he could emulate the character that he aspired to be. I was really disappointed that they didn’t delve more into this backstory with Shiki, since it formed such a major crux to Tohru’s character and personality. It is through Kazuha’s belief in his abilities as his real life persona, that gives him the confidence to finally best Shiki.

She asserts that there are only things that Asou Tohru can do, that no one else can replicate. I found the long-running gag of Shiki completely disregarding Tohru’s presence hilarious, considering Tohru’s entire world revolved around being second place to him. Although I absolutely loved Tohru’s character, his relationship and feelings towards Kazuha at the beginning lacked a lot of foundational development and proper progression.

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DEMENTO: The notorious PK’er (Player Killer) who appears throughout all the character routes. Demento has the status of ‘Fallen’ which is branded on his chest as a symbol of killing other players throughout Arcadia. He captures Kazuha an innumerable number of times in Period: Cube and forces her to use the powers of the Almighty, at the cost of her own safety and life. He wishes to to see what would happen when a player affiliated with neither the angel or demon factions clears the Ark, and whether the whole world’s balance would be destroyed by his actions.

He was once apart of the guild Clarius and completed many dungeons in the same party as Astrum. However, he one day kills a Demon and experiences an unforgettable thrill that begins his downward spiral into corruption. Astrum overlooks the incident as Arcadia does encourage the killing of other faction players and Demento has yet to be branded. He becomes addicted to replicating the sensation and begins mindlessly killing all players of both factions. As a result, he is eventually banished from the guild.

It explained why Demento was so powerful despite his poor weaponry and levels. Players with the ‘fallen’ status are punished for their actions, reset their level upon killing and are unable to equip any items other than the basic default gear. As he regularly played with Astrum, it can be assumed he was fairly high level prior to his branding. Astrum forever lamented his decision and wondered if there was more he could’ve done to prevent Demento’s demise.

I had a lot of issues with Demento’s route and character overall. Regardless of his actions being committed in the game world, he still enacted irreversible murder without remorse. Thousands of people died from Idiopathic Coma in the real world because of his cheap thrill and he showed complete disregard for Kazuha in all the routes. He uses her for his own selfish means of entertainment, and I could not even fathom as to how Kazuha developed feelings for him at all.

This was exacerbated by the fact that his route is only three chapters long and branched directly from Astrum’s route. It then led to the question of: Astrum treated you with nothing but kindness, and yet for some reason you were compelled to fall in love with the guy who kidnapped and threatened to kill you? There was just so little time and writing developed to his character that I’m unsure as to why he was incorporated at all.

It became almost irritating and predictable at how without fail in every single story, he would appear sooner or later for no other reason than to cause unnecessary drama and create anguish by murdering other players. It was never truly justified as to why he killed players in Arcadia either, other than it giving him the sensation of truly being alive and some satisfaction in his monotonous daily life.

Why did he not feel alive to begin with? What were the reasons as to why he lacked so much purpose? If he had no reason for living, why did he pray for life every time he killed someone else? How can he wish for himself to live, when he killed others without thinking by the hundreds? His route was just so painfully ironic, it was almost laughable at how essentially nothing was explained about his character, past and reasoning.

In his good ending he suffers from amnesia and as a result, his crimes are ‘erased’ from his memory and enables him to have a bittersweet happy ending with Kazuha. To me, this was quite a cop out as countless people still died because of his actions but he is essentially cleansed of sin and responsibility. After all, even though the murder can never be trialled in the real world; the knowledge of his actions would burden him until the end of his lifetime. If not for his amnesia, he never would have been able to attain happiness.

Although he did have some cute moments with the heroine and one of the only few characters who had a proper kiss CG, I simply could not overlook his actions and poor writing for his story. His contribution to the overall storyline was minimal and regardless of whether or not he was in Period: Cube; it would not have altered the events of the plot at all.

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ZAIN: An NPC (non playable character) within the world of Arcadia, he usually resides in Adventurer Town to guide new players with tutorial information and provides quests to complete. Unlike other NPCs, he receives a reprogramming and orders to protect Kazuha. This gives birth to human-like tendencies, and a lapse in memory in regards to his original purpose and origins as an NPC. As Zain is originally not human, he experiences many difficulties in understanding human emotions and customs.

Zain is incredibly kind to Kazuha and very helpful in assisting her when she becomes separated from Hiroya. He quickly becomes extremely attached to her, as he experiences so many new things and powerful emotions with Kazuha. His feelings transcend into obsession, as he becomes consumed with unhealthy thoughts of possession and expecting Kazuha to mirror his own feelings. This angers his creator and causes immense confusion within Zain, as he become unsure of his own identity and sense of self.

Again, I had a lot of problems with Zain’s route. His overall storyline was extremely confusing for the most part and filled with many convenient plot holes that were never truly explained or fully delved upon. I could understand that Zain experienced a lot of turmoil due to his conflicting desires, the interference of his creator/the voices within his mind, and his lack of understanding with the nature of humans. However, a lot of his actions and key scenes with Kazuha were very disturbing and manipulative.

The scene where he forcefully attempts to merge himself with Kazuha, in order for them ‘to share the same feelings’ made me so uncomfortable reading. He was quite literally physically and mentally violating her, and forcing his own emotions and thoughts on her; something which he knew more than anyone else was mentally debilitating and extremely painful. His feelings towards Kazuha to me were very selfish, and entirely based on inciting guilt.

Kazuha would always feel guilty imagining how lonely Zain would be without her, and how she could never go anywhere without him because of how worried he would be waiting alone. It was just an unhealthy relationship from start to finish and due to Kazuha’s ‘kind nature’ she could never seperate from him for very long. It was also sad how the only method he could transcend from NPC to the real world with Kazuha, was through the death of Demento.

The concept of their minds merging was explained very poorly and all too coincidental for the events of the story to occur. Essentially in order to for them to be together, it required the death of someone else. Again, his route honestly didn’t really contribute to the story nor his character and I would have preferred much longer stories with the others who actually played a role in the overarching plot. It felt like he was implemented just for the sake of having another character and Zain’s route directly tied into Shiki’s story. It felt like it was two routes dedicated to Shiki, rather than a stand alone route for Zain.

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LIBERA: A nekama (person who portrays the opposite gender online) who uses his cute appearance and deceptively feminine mannerisms to attract the attention of countless males in Arcadia. He is surprisingly popular and amasses many friends with his outgoing and talkative nature. They regularly invite him on missions and gift him with rare items and gold, asserting that they’ll protect him on their quests.

Despite playing the game since beta, he is fairly low level and prefers to stay within town to socialise rather than accompanying parties on missions. He is also quite mischievous and haughty, often stealing other player’s gold and selling gifted items for his own benefit. Unlike the other characters in Period: Cube, Libera does not wish to clear the ark and desires to remain in the game world. He prioritises his own safety above all else, and fears death with every fibre of his being.

I found it pretty hilarious how throughout the game, everyone more or less doesn’t notice that Libera is a guy in real life despite how obvious it is from his voice. For the most part, I didn’t really feel the ‘romance’ aspect from Libera’s route. His initial feelings towards Kazuha and kindness are all fabricated, and he expresses vehemently that he only ever desired to use her for his own sake or to pawn off to a high-level player.

He views her as a prized asset that is beneficial for his own survival in Arcadia. Despite his cold words, when Kazuha is in trouble; he always manages to be there at the right moments to save her. Although he claims to prioritise his own life above all else, he constantly places himself at risk in order to protect Kazuha. This encourages the heroine to truly get to know Libera, and what warped his perception on the world.

His story is rather tragic, and explains Natsu’s contribution into the overarching storyline. He has been plagued by illness and a weak body since birth, rendering him to a sick bed at the hospital. As a result, he is unable to properly attend school and make friends; unknowing of which day would be his last.

His beloved elder brother Natsu is what holds their family together, and is admired and deeply respected by Libera. He is talented, handsome and intelligent; and decided to create Arcadia for Libera’s sake as the only thing he could play at the hospital were video games. The notion of transcending death and eradicating illness also enticed Natsu, as it would be the cure to his brother’s health issues.

It made sense as to why Libera preferred the social aspect of Arcadia, due to what he lacked in his life. He feared death because he knew better than anyone else what it was like to face each day, knowing it could be his last. In Arcadia, the options were limitless on what he could do in comparison to the monotonous life he lived in the real world. With Natsu’s accident, it shattered their family apart and he comes to believe that he should’ve taken his brother’s place.

Although he contributed immensely to the overarching storyline, the romance aspect of his route left much to be desired due to his age, and the rocky beginnings of their relationship. Not only that, but he created a female character which prevented him from truly expressing his feelings towards Kazuha for the bulk of the game. The romance honestly felt rather forced, and it was more befitting as a platonic route. I actually preferred a route with Natsu instead of Libera, since I felt they actually had chemistry in every story in Period: Cube.

It was really disappointing that the story was told from Libera’s perspective instead, even though it would’ve made so much more sense if Natsu was the selectable character. He had such an important impact on the creation of Arcadia and the overarching storyline, and I was genuinely surprised in how they decided to approach his backstory. The closest thing we got to a Natsu route was Libera’s good ending CG, where he essentially grows up to look exactly like Natsu (laughs).

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HIROYA: Kazuha and Shiki’s beloved childhood friend, and neighbour since they were little children. He has long admired Shiki due to his intelligence, strength and fortitude when it came to Kazuha, and aspired to be more like him for her sake. Hiroya is traumatised by Kazuha’s accident that left her prone to fainting and she experiences many lapses in memory as a result. He views it to be entirely his fault, due to his thoughtless actions as a child that inadvertently led to the accident.

He vows to become stronger and wholeheartedly dedicates himself to becoming a better man capable of protecting Kazuha. He reluctantly allows Kazuha to join him in Arcadia due to her heartfelt request to find her brother, which leads to the events of the storyline. The story branches when Kazuha either chooses to separate from him in Minta Woods upon an ambush, or decides to remain by his side.

I honestly felt really bad for Hiroya in all of the routes, because he essentially plays second fiddle to every single bachelor despite him being there for Kazuha from the very beginning. He accepts her choice no matter the circumstances in the end and supports her completely in her decisions. Hiroya only desires her happiness and everything he does is for her sake.

Although he makes a lot of Kazuha’s decisions on her behalf, he always tries to keep her best interests at heart. This is also an issue with his route, as he does not allow for Kazuha to decide for herself what she wishes to do and develop the confidence to voice her own beliefs. In Radius’ route, he completely dispels her concerns and tunnel visions on prioritising her own safety at the cost of her own wishes.

His route is very cute, fluffy and had a predictable romance because the feelings were always there to begin with. It is obvious no matter which route how much he cares for Kazuha and his feelings are as blatant as ever. Because of this predictability however, I didn’t feel as much attachment to him as a character. As the poster-boy of the game I did expect a greater focus on the romance with the heroine, and his contribution to the overall storyline.

There were really no surprises in his route, and follows the standard events and typical interactions reminiscent of the childhood friend trope. I did like his unhindered dedication and determination to improve himself in regards to the heroine, as it demonstrated out of all the bachelors that he truly was in love with Kazuha and it was understandable as to why.

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SHIKI: Normally I wouldn’t reveal the identity of this character (which I haven’t in my walkthroughs) but Aksys Games already spoiled it on their official game website. I do spoiler tag my character development section, as I personally find I cannot delve into my complete thoughts on a character, without revealing major events of their story. If you haven’t played the game in it’s entirety yet, I highly suggest not reading this character section.

Shiki is the elder brother of Kazuha, and the reason as to why all the events in the story occur. He created Arcadia in the pursuit of an eternal utopia, where humans transcend the possibility of death and illness. This is due to Kazuha’s accident from childhood, that instills fear within him that human lives are not indestructible and can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Young Kazuha asks Shiki to promise and fulfil her wish of living in a world without pain, and a world where they could be together forever.

This drives Shiki to grant her desire and he is able to access the Akashic Records; which is the embodiment of all knowledge within the universe, from the beginning of time. It provides him with the answers to create the world that Kazuha is seeking. However, due to her lapses in memory she soon forgets many of the moments they shared together and their promise.

Only Shiki alone remembers their promise, and this is why Kazuha found his actions so unfathomable throughout the entire story. It is due to this unworldly knowledge that enables Shiki to create technology far beyond the realms of human capabilities, and essentially achieve the level of a God.

It also explained as to why no matter how much Tohru tried, he could not surpass Shiki’s intellect and why he topped the university despite never studying. Due to his obsession with the notion of granting Kazuha’s wish, he disregards all other factors and obstacles impeding his success. He becomes warped by his fear of Kazuha eventually forgetting him or dying, and willingly sacrifices dozens of lives to ensure her wish comes true.

His feelings for Kazuha are on a completely different magnitude, and despite him knowing his actions were morally wrong; he was too far gone to stop. He is filled with regrets, self-loathing and ironically watches every other bachelor end up with Kazuha in all the other routes. I honestly found it difficult to believe that he was not Kazuha’s genuine sibling, due to their interactions and similarity in appearance throughout the game. Despite the constant assertions that they were not related, I found myself highly skeptical of it.

As a romantic interest, he was exceptionally creepy in his nighttime expenditures whilst Kazuha was sleeping and I inwardly cringed at many of their moments together. However, I felt his story definitely answered the many questions that were left open-ended in the other routes. It offered a plausible and holistic conclusion that tied up all the loose ends of the storyline, and was a satisfying read considering all the other routes never addressed Shiki’s conflict and reasoning for his actions.

He is left as an amnesiac and confined to the hospital in all the other stories, which really built the drama and anticipation for his route. His good ending made a lot of sense, as realistically he could never experience happiness otherwise. His stained hands and lonely years devoted in solitude to Kazuha’s selfish wish was irreversible and had completely twisted his personality. Turning back time was very befitting of the theme of the game, and enabled Kazuha the newfound confidence to relive her life without the impairments of her physique from the accident.

It returned the lively childhood and close relationship she had lost with both Shiki and Hiroya. It also provided Kazuha with the decisiveness to affirm her own feelings and stance when it came to her brother. In the new timeline, Shiki does not impose his emotions and desires on Kazuha, and is respectful of her decisions. She chooses of her own accord to be with him, and is finally able to truly fall in love with Shiki this time round.

What I liked about his route and all the other stories was that Kazuha never deludes herself into thinking she loves him, and genuinely reveres their relationship as platonic. It is only in the new timeline does she fall in love with his true personality. Although Shiki is cold-hearted and borderline insane in all the routes, I could sympathise with his character and reasoning. The bad ending itself was quite interesting, as it demonstrated rather literally how repetitive a utopia without death would be.

The characters relive the same day over and over, and although there is no pain or suffering; there is also no ‘true happiness’. It rectified the recurring motif and theme of the game, that life is a gift to be cherished in both the good and bad times despite the short life span of humans.

Design ★★★★

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This was one of the aspects that captured my interest from first impressions, and was definitely one of the highlights of the game. I loved how many MMORPG elements they incorporated into the design and artwork. For example: the outfits reflecting the class/race for each of the bachelors and even the side characters had very memorable and distinct costumes.

One of the notable elements of Period: Cube was that the main bachelors each had a different sprite for their real life appearances, and how they looked in game. As a player it was exciting to anticipate when you would eventually meet them in the real world and how they differed from their in-game personas.

The unique weaponry was also a very nice touch, as well as the additional ‘glow’ effects on special ability activations. The backgrounds were so incredibly gorgeous, and they really brought the game to life. It was reminiscent of the maps and dungeons typical to an RPG, and Kuroyuki’s art style definitely suited the theme of the game.

I felt that Period: Cube really brought out the full potential of the OLED PS Vita screen, and definitely showcased the impressive and crisp graphics. There were plenty of CGs for every bachelor, although I found that Kuroyuki (the artist for the Black Wolves Saga series) had a noticeable trend of drawing awkward half-kiss expressions on the characters in Period: Cube. As I have played her previous works before and quite liked her unique artwork, this was rather surprising to see.

It was disappointing as it felt like some characters definitely had better kiss scenes than others, and was a downgrade to previously released titles with art by Kuroyuki. In terms of consistency between the CGs and character sprites, then the game did fairly well. I really loved how many unique monster designs they incorporated into Period: Cube, and the definitive attentiveness to the RPG aspects were great to see.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★★★

For me personally, this was without a doubt the standout aspect and highlight of the game. I was amazed at how phenomenal the OST was, and loved all the tracks immensely. I was really impressed with the battle BGMs, especially “Battle Finale” since it honestly felt like something that would come out of a high-quality RPG game. Rarely do I ever hear a game OST and instantly feel the need to listen to the soundtrack on repeat.

The piano tracks were so lovely, and really inspired the pianist in me to actually try and learn them myself. The voice acting was fantastic as well, encompassing a highly prolific and famous cast line up. Even the side characters had very memorable voices, such as Jocus being voiced by Morikubo Shōtarō. They did such a great job at emulating the character personalities, and really built a strong level of attachment to all of them by the end of the game.

I personally felt Sakurai Takahiro (Astrum) especially, as well as Okamoto Nobuhiko (Hiroya) and Maeno Tomoaki (Radius) had notable performances in Period: Cube. As I already mentioned earlier, Sakurai truly captured how endearing Astrum’s character and personal conflictions were. I found myself laughing out loud, and feeling all sorts of emotions when reading and listening to his character’s dialogue. It’s amazing to see how well he can personify so many different character personalities, and my last game I played was him voicing Mejojo von Garibaldi from Black Wolves Saga — Bloody Nightmare —.

This actually gave me a lot of mixed feelings, because if you’ve played the BWS series you’ll understand exactly what kind of character Mejojo was. It’s just a testament to his skill as a voice actor, to be able to reproduce and play any type of character trope. It was also nice seeing Maeno again from Code: Realize as Lupin, and he perfectly expressed Radius’ transition from cold to loving towards Kazuha.

  • Astrum | VA: Sakurai Takahiro | 櫻井 孝宏 |
    Danganronpa series as Kuwata Leon, Black wolves Saga series as Mejojo von Garibaldi, Grisaia series as Kazama Yuuji, Naruto Shipuuden as Sasori, Final Fantasy series as Cloud Strife, Anohana as Atsumu Matsuyuki, and Psycho-pass as Shogo Makushima.
  • Hiroya | VA: Okamoto Nobuhiko |岡本 信彦 |
    Black Wolves Saga series as Pearl, Maid Sama! as Takumi Usui, Haikyu!! as Yuu Nishinoya, and Gekkan-Shojo Nozaki-kun as Mikoto ‘Mikorin’ Mikoshiba
  • Libera | VA: Hanae Natsuki | 花江 夏樹 |
    Taisho x Alice series as Ookami, Your Lie in April as Kosei Arima, Tokyo Ghoul series as Ken Kaneki, and Aldnoah Zero as Inaho Kaizuka
  • Shiki | VA: Toriumi Kousuke | 鳥海 浩輔 |
    Hakuoki series as Saito Hajime, Naruto series as Inuzuka Kiba, Danganronpa series as Kiyotaka Ishimaru and Nightshade as Momochi Chojiro
  • Radius | VA: Maeno Tomoaki | 前野 智昭 |
    Code: Realize series as Arséne Lupin, Taisho x Alice series as Akazukin, and Kenka Banchou Otome as Onaigashima Houou
  • Zain | VA: Hirakawa Daisuke | 平川 大輔 |
    Code: Realize series as Count Saint-Germain, School Days series as Itou Makoto, Hiiro no Kakera as Oomi Suguru, Taisho x Alice as Cinderella and Diabolik Lovers series as Sakamaki Raito

System ★★★★★

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The system was another fantastic aspect of Period: Cube and definitely matched up to the music and voice acting. I loved the system user interface (UI) and design, and it felt very crisp and smooth to navigate. The attentiveness to the detail reflective of an RPG were consistent throughout the game and followed the thematic motifs of Period: Cube. It really left a strong and lasting impression, especially if you’ve previously played RPGs and can relate to the references much better.

It provided statistic pages for all the characters, displaying their items/gear, class information and love affection towards the heroine. Depending on the events of the story, the HP Gauge of the character actually does change and I found myself checking on it periodically throughout the game.

The system incorporated great battle animations such as character sprite transitions upon using abilities, monster kills, spells, glowing weapons, affection increase etc. It definitely brought the RPG game elements to life, and I really liked the map movement of the game which reflected the time of day.

This is also shown on the game’s loading screen, which had three different landscapes based on morning, afternoon or night. Period: Cube had all the basic functions of a visual novel such as CG Gallery, scene recollection, music list, and save/load slots. I liked the extra unlocked character profiles of the bachelor’s real life personas upon completion of their route, and the bonus ‘his perspective’ segment that had a bit of fan-service dialogue.

However, I do wish these were a little longer in length and came with a CG as it’s technically the ‘after-epilogue’ endings of the routes. The skip speed was very fast and the jump button was a life saver considering how vague the options of this game were at times. This definitely helped so much when writing my walkthrough and manoeuvring through the game routes.

As Period: Cube is still purely a Visual Novel, the combat system was extremely basic; however, it was nice that the creators tried to incorporate it into the game. I personally didn’t think that they should’ve used the combat select options as important route deciders, as it made the game unnecessarily more difficult than it should have been.

The encyclopaedia is very useful and a helpful feature for players who have never played an RPG before and ensures that the game is enjoyable for a wider audience. However, for players accustomed to the RPG elements then the definitions were very basic and common knowledge. I also really liked the blinking, mouth and hair movements of the game, since it showed up really nicely with the PS Vita graphics.

Conclusion

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In conclusion, Period: Cube is a good game. With the stellar game design, system, voice acting and music; it definitely made it a worthwhile title to try and support english game localisations. It had gorgeous visuals on the PS Vita screen, and far better music and voice acting than I would have ever anticipated. It had an awesome opening and is sung by Joelle, who has contributed the vocals to other games such as Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Bravely Default.

It incorporated a notable amount of gameplay, CG art and many character routes to choose from. Although the storyline left much to be desired in its execution, it still had an interesting premise and captivating elements in all the routes. It really needed more cohesive explanations to some of the glaring plot holes in several of the character stories. The incorporation of the protagonist Kazuha with the combat system was also quite poor, and I was really disappointed by how minimally it impacted the storyline.

I honestly preferred less dateable characters overall, and more writing time devoted into fleshing out the bachelors that had significant contribution to the overarching plot. Personalities such as Zain, Demento and Libera were nice to have, but not necessary to the overall storyline. With or without their involvement, it didn’t significantly alter the key events in Period: Cube nor would I have sorely missed their presence.

I preferred more writing focus and character development on Radius, Astrum, Hiroya, and Shiki as well as replacing Libera with Natsu. To me, that would have offered a more memorable connection and attachment to the characters; as well as better explanations on the overarching plot. Rather than dedicating screen time to new character stories that were half-done anyways, they could have addressed the many prevalent plot-holes.

Although they incorporated a lot of cute character and relationship moments with all the bachelors, it wasn’t really enough to overlook the subpar plot explanations. I honestly felt stronger attachments to the side characters of the game, which is an indicator to how two-dimensional some of the bachelors really were. The highlight of Period: Cube was definitely the impressive world-building, music, voice acting, and UI design; and to me that was what really swung the game from a 3.5/5 to a 4/5 rating.

I do recommend giving the game a try, as I did enjoy the storyline and immersive graphics on the PS Vita. I particularly enjoyed Radius’ route and Tohru’s character, who were definitely the standouts from the game. Thank you again to Aksys Games for the collaboration, and I’m definitely looking forward to their next otome slated release of Collar x Malice on July 28th, 2017!

Overall Rating: 4/5

Written By Cherry

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Poyo-poyo Walkthrough

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Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

* Poyo-poyo can only be unlocked after completing Astrum, Libera and Hiroya’s routes. *

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Use knife
  • Both of you, just calm down.

Character Route

Good Ending

  • Use knife
  • All right, I trust you!
  • If you say so, Poyo-poyo.
  • Then, I guess half is all right.
  • My brother could have come home.
  • I’m the one that’s sorry.
  • I’m sorry for worrying you.
  • … Tell me your favourite food.
  • Don’t say that, please.
  • Run
  • Apologize to Ira.
  • I don’t want a world like that
  • I won’t lie.

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Poyo-poyo Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 4
  • Poyo-poyo’s Affection 0
  • I want to be with everyone
  • I love you.
  • I hope tomorrow will be a good day (repeat day)
  • But, something feels strange… (end day)

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Hiroya Walkthrough

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Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Use knife
  • Hey, don’t attack Hiroya.

Character Route

Good Ending

  • We don’t have to rush.
  • Step back
  • You’re already helping me a lot.
  • I want us to work together, Hiroya.
  • Use knife
  • I need to ask Radius, too.
  • If it’s not a big deal, then tell me.
  • I think we can be honest.
  • You’re making me blush…
  • I really want to go with you guys.
  • Observe
  • Hiroya didn’t do anything wrong!
  • I think you should do it, Hiroya.
  • I don’t want to be separated from you either.

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Hiroya Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 5
  • Hiroya’s Affection 0
  • How about Radius?
  • Don’t lose to my brother.

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Zain Walkthrough

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Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Run
  • Run

Character Route

Good Ending

  • Scream
  • Yes. I trust you.
  • Thank you very much.
  • Then, you should find something.
  • You’re Zain, that’s who.
  • Please be here when I come back.
  • Use knife
  • I’m just glad you’re safe.
  • You’re special, Zain.
  • Poyo-poyo looks hurt.
  • Please don’t do anything cruel.
  • Do you promise?
  • Play harp
  • I wanted to talk with you.

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Zain Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 6
  • Zain’s Affection 0
  • I was worried about you.

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Libera Walkthrough

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Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Use knife
  • I think this person’s right…

Character Route

Good Ending

  • I think I’d like to rest.
  • I was just surprised.
  • You should come too, Libera.
  • Play harp
  • I want us to fight together, Libera.
  • You’re Libera, aren’t you?
  • I was just surprised.
  • Wait. I still want to talk to you.
  • I could at least go to the entrance…
  • I’m not going back.
  • That’s really sad.
  • Play harp
  • I’m sure you can do it, Riku.
  • Increase ally strength

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Libera Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 4
  • Libera’s Affection 0
  • Have confidence!
  • Slow enemy movement

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Demento Walkthrough

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Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Play harp
  • I said don’t talk about him like that.

Character Route

Good Ending

  • I can do it myself.
  • My heart is pounding.
  • I feel kind of bad.
  • Use bow
  • Thank you for worrying about me.
  • I’m alright, please continue.
  • Use bow
  • Yeah, that was a handle.
  • You’ve already finished it.
  • Increase ally strength
  • Demento, stop it!
  • I’m genuinely interested.
  • Use bow
  • Stop it already!
  • I’m not planning on dying…

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Demento Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 6
  • Demento’s Affection 0
  • I’m sorry…

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Astrum Walkthrough

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Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Play harp
  • It wasn’t him. It was my fault.

Character Route

Good Ending

  • I’m just a little embarrassed.
  • It’ll actually make me more nervous.
  • I’ll do everything I can.
  • Use bow
  • I was thinking the same thing.
  • Please, let me stay here.
  • Use bow
  • I’m sorry, Toru.
  • I can’t help you.
  • Increase ally strength
  • Astrum, stop!
  • You’re not at fault
  • Yes, I do.
  • Don’t push yourself
  • I’ll fight with you.

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Astrum Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 5
  • Astrum’s Affection 0
  • Do we really have to fight?

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Radius Walkthrough

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Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Run
  • Play harp

Character Route

Good Ending

  • Where did we meet before?
  • No, I won’t run away.
  • I’m sorry for asking.
  • Play harp
  • My friend is hospitalized here.
  • Thank you so much
  • Grab onto Demento
  • He’s my friend…
  • Mochi with grape filling
  • Both versions of you are cool
  • I don’t want to go home, though.
  • I wish I had been by your side
  • I’m glad you’re safe

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Radius Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 5
  • Radius’ Affection 0
  • I missed you

Most Anticipated English Visual Novel Releases of 2017

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Ever wonder what other english releases are going to be released in the year of 2017? Do you want to know what games you should save up for? Are you looking for more games to add to your playlist and backlog? Here is my personal list of games that I am anticipating for 2017, and cannot wait for their release! They’re in no particular order and hopefully they won’t be pushed back to 2018, as they are all planned for 2017 but no official date has been announced (for some of them at least). 2017 is probably the best year so far that I’ve seen in terms of the amount of new titles picked up to be released in english.

1. Collar x Malice

-The Story-

“Who put this collar on me?”

The protagonist is a policewoman who works in Shinjuku, which had become a dangerous city after a series of brutal incidents popularly referred to as the “X-Day Incident”.

She had been busy working in her assigned area everyday in order to keep it safe. But one night, an unknown assailant attacked her and placed a collar built in with poison around her neck.

Amidst the chaos and right before the protagonist’s eyes were men with suspicious backgrounds. They’re all part of an organisation composed of former police officers and have taken it upon themselves to investigate the brutal cases.

Without knowing whether she should trust these men or not, she suddenly became the person who held the key to this massive case.

In order to remove the collar that places her at the edge of death and to liberate Shinjuku from the malice that binds it, she cooperates; beginning to investigate the incidents with the men.

Who holds her life in their hands?
Will Shinjuku ever return to its former glory?

(English translation from official website)

I love the premise, storyline, art, OST, and just everything about Collar x Malice! I am an absolute sucker for mystery x detective themed games. Not to mention the artist is Hanamura Mai (same artist for the Amnesia series) and Manyo as the composer (big fan of his soundtracks and work; composed for Amnesia and Kara no Shoujo series). I just knew the art was familiar when I first saw screenshots of the game. I am extremely excited about the game, and dearly hoping it will be a 2017 release.

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase it here: Collar X Malice – PlayStation Vita

UPDATE 2: Read my ‘Collar x Malice’ Review here.

2. Period Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~

-The Story-

With the help of your childhood friend, Hiroya, you decide to play the online RPG game “Arcadia” in order to look for clues as to the whereabouts of your missing older brother.

You are suddenly engulfed by a blinding light and lose conscious. When you wake up, you find that the scenery has changed into that of a video game fantasy world.

As you are overwhelmed by the sudden twist of events, you learn a terrible truth: to escape this deadly world, you must clear the game.

In this cruel world, you were selected to become the key to clearing the game – the holy sword. With this, you are the target of everyone!

(English translation from official website

The first out of the four otome titles localised by Aksys Games in 2017, the storyline gives me Sword Art Online vibes. With beautiful art by the artist of Black Wolves Saga, this is quite an interesting fantasy otome with RPG elements. Period Cube actually comes out very soon, with an announced release date on the 28th of April next month!

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase the game here: Period Cube – PlayStation Vita

UPDATE 2: Read my ‘Period Cube: ~Shackles of Amadeus~’ Review here.

3. Bad Apple Wars

-The Story-

Congratulations on your DEATH admission!
Welcome to NEVAEH Academy!!

The heroine, who was caught in an accident on the first day that she was to enter high school, suddenly found herself on the premises of an unknown school.

This was NEVAEH Academy, a school for those whose souls were left behind after death.

In this school if you were a good student who followed the rules then, upon GRADUATION, you would be able to return and RESUME YOUR LIFE.

The heroine, having been informed about her death from a suspicious man wearing a RABBIT HEAD and thinking that this was all a dream, followed him to the school entrance ceremony.

Suddenly, a piercing explosion echoed from over there.

What started at the sign of that noise was the school war between those who defy the school’s rules, the DELINQUENT TEAM BAD APPLES, and members of the DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE.

In the middle of that battle, the heroine meets a RED-HAIRED young man.

That young man faced her directly and asked a question.

“– Do you want to live?” (English translation from official website)

The premise reminds me so much of one of my favourite animes, Angel Beats. The art deviates from Idea Factory’s usual style, taking on a more comic-book themed approach (to match the concept that it is a different world, I suppose). Although it was a little strange to look at initially, I do find the art grew on me the more I looked at it. The release date is still to be announced, but I do hope it stays with its 2017 expected date.

UPDATE: The release date is set for October 13th, 2017. You can pre-order the game here: Bad Apple Wars – PlayStation Vita.

4. Code Realize ~Future Blessings~

The fandisc for Code: Realize, featuring after stories for the main cast and new routes for Herlock Sholmes and Finis.

If you haven’t read my review for Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ you should check it out! If you have, then you’ll know I absolutely loved the game and it is one of my all-time favourites. I am looking forward to the new routes with Herlock Sholmes and Finis, as I felt their stories weren’t quite fully delved upon in the original game. The art in the opening looks gorgeous, and of course who doesn’t want to have more stories to read with their favourite bachelor? The release date is still to be announced.

5. Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome 

-The Story-

Ema Tachibana is a tall, gloomy and unsociable girl with a bad case of resting bitch-face. With all that working against her, she’s never really had any friends. That didn’t really change when she started at a new school. Everyone kept their distance because they were scared of her.

But Ema herself was quite content with that state of affairs. She was all set to spend the rest of her time until graduation invisible as ever.

That is until two men turned her life upside down…

“I’ve finally found you. You are my… my one and only muse!”

Miki Hiraizumi—recently returned to Japan from abroad, he’s loved making clothes ever since he was a little kid. He has a strong desire to help make charming, unusual women shine. (Also a bit of a masochist.)

“Listen, you may be nothing but a little shrew right now, but even you have some potential to shine. I’ll just have to polish you up.”

And Saito Shinjou—he frequently finds himself bored because things have always come easy to him. He wants to find a way to do something so big, it’ll change the world. (He’s also a bit of a sadist.)

These two ambitious and attractive fellows decide to give Ema Tachibana a makeover!

“No… I’m not really interested…”

But Ema has other ideas. (English Official Website)

This is quite an interesting pick up by MangaGamer, as I feel R18+ otome game localisations are very few in comparison to bishoujo games. The summary looks hilarious, and the art is quite good! The VA (Yotsuya Cider) of Shinjou Saito is the same as Kyrie from OZMAFIA!!! Hopefully if the title sells well commercially, we will see more mature-themed otome games released in future.

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase it here: Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome R18+ Version.

UPDATE 2: Read my ‘Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome [R18]‘ Review here.

6. Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds

-The Story-

A remastered retelling of the beloved otome Hakuoki series that focuses on the story set in Kyoto. 

Hakuoki was first developed and released in 2008. New players, as well as players that have grown with the franchise, can discover the beauty and richness of its story with new, innovative features all presented on the Playstation Vita system. 

Never-before-seen episodes and character routes have been added to the original version of the game, introducing more romanceable targets, new minor characters, and plenty of new paths to seek for yourself!

Take a glimpse into the world of Hakuoki, as it was originally intended!

(English Official website

Although I’ve already written a post regarding my mixed feelings on the game, it is still a great title nonetheless for players new to the franchise. It’s essentially an all-in-one release, so if you haven’t gotten around to playing the series; now is the time to play it. It’s release date was announced only a few days ago, the game is being released on May 16 (NA) and May 19 (EU) for the PSVita!

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase it here: Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds – PlayStation Vita

UPDATE 2: Read my ‘Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds [Limited Edition]’ Review here.

UPDATE 3: Read my ‘Differences between the Original Hakuoki and Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds’ here.

7. Night Shade

-The Story-

Thanks to an age of constant war, the Iga and Kouga had independently achieved an expansion of their respective forces.

Both shinobi forces, owing to that long history of warring, shared an antagonistic relationship of mutual hatred towards one another. However, during the ninth year of the Tenshou era, the Iga forces fell into ruin due to the Tenshou Iga War started by Oda Nobunaga. The few Iga members that had survived were taken in by the Kouga forces.

Seventeen years later, the Sengoku period had ended and lasting peace came to the world.

Dreaming of performing shinobi duties, Ueno Enju (the protagonist), daughter of the Kouga forces’ leader, Ueno Kandou, had been training everyday.

After finally being selected to go on her first mission, a major incident occurs. It not only derails Enju’s fate, but the fate of the village as well…

(English translation from official website)

The storyline, art and theme reminds of the Hakuoki series. I really enjoy historical Visual Novels, and the art in Night Shade is gorgeous. Originally it was actually meant to be released December 15th, 2016 on steam but it got pushed back. I’m assuming it just wasn’t ready yet, and although it is unfortunate; it’s better to wait if it’s going to be a higher quality release. It’s in the steam-release queue with other Visual Novels within March-April release dates, so fingers crossed it will be released sometime soon in 2017! What I’m looking forward to the most about the game is that Hattori Hanzo is voiced by the same VA as Chikage Kazama from Hakuoki. He is one of my all-time favourite VAs, and it’s ironic the character is named ‘Hanzo’ (after Overwatch, the name is forever ruined for me -laughs-).

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase it on steam here.

UPDATE 2: Read my ‘Night Shade/Hyakka Hyakurou’ Review here.

8. Grisaia no Rakuen/The Eden of Grisaia

-The Story-

Our story picks up immediately after the events of Grisaia no Meikyuu, with Kazami Yuuji having been detained for suspected involvement with an international terrorist organization, lead by Heath Oslo, that has managed to enter Japan’s borders with a devastating new weapon of mass destruction in hand. Meanwhile, at Mihama Academy, the remaining students find themselves with time running out – due to financial issues, the school is set to close within the month. Over the past year, though, the girls of Mihama have finally begun to find their own legs, thanks to Yuuji’s involvement – are they really just going to bury their heads in the sand and let the world change around them? And are they really willing to let the man who changed their lives slip away without so much as trying to win him back? As the end of their time at Mihama Academy approaches, Amane, Makina, Sachi, Yumiko, and Michiru find themselves arriving at a single conclusion.

The final chapter in the Grisaia series, featuring Prologue De La Grisaia, a prologue set before Yuuji’s arrival at Mihama; Blanc Aile no Tane, the overarching story’s grand conclusion; a smorgasbord of bonus eroscenes; and an after story to the events of Blanc Aile no Tane. (Excerpt from VNDB

The Grisaia series is one of my all-time favourite visual novels, and it’s great to see that the series trilogy will come to an end in 2017. The Labyrinth of Grisaia (second in the series) was released in January this year. It has a to-be-expected release date of March 2017, and the uncut version sometime during the summer. I personally am currently still finishing up the first game (The Fruits of Grisaia), and onto my last route which is Makina’s. But, I am taking my time as the series is incredibly long (my current playtime is 85hrs) and I might as well pace myself until the final game is released. No point finishing the games early then suffering the unbearable wait (laughs).

9. Nekopara Volume 3

-The Story-

What’s NEKOPARA? Why, it’s a cat paradise!

Minazuki Kashou, the son of a long line of Japanese confection makers moved out to open his own shop “La Soleil” as a patisserie.

But upon moving out, hidden amongst his things were two of the catgirls (“neko”), Chocola and Vanilla, that the family had been raising. When he tried to send them back, they begged and pleaded until he gave in and now they’ve opened La Soleil together.

With two nekos who really, REALLY love their master trying their very best and occasionally failing — a heartful comedy opens for business!

See the Sayori NEKO WORKs’ mascots Chocola and Vanilla like never before, moving, and in full voice on screen. And now with the E-mote System, the characters smoothly move on screen changing expression and poses in countless ways. (Steam Summary)

Initially, I found this game a little weird not going to lie. It is not for everyone, and I actually found out about it from internet memes (laughs). But, once you give it a try it’s actually a pretty good game and for a very cheap price! They often go on sale in bundles, which is when it’s best to grab them. The art and animation is really good and crisp, and it’s an all-around hilarious game. The cat girls really do grow on you as you play through the visual novel. This is the last in the trilogy, releasing the last two romanceable cat girls. It is set to be released on the 28th of April, 2017.

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase it on steam here.

10. New Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

-The Story- 

The third Dangan Ronpa game which has been confirmed at the TGS 2015 to be released on both the PS Vita and PS4.

Like the title “New” implies, the game has a completely different storyline, characters and environment than the first three games (the “Hope’s Peak Academy” storyline ends with an anime series), with only the series’ mascot Monokuma returning. The game features a new killing game called the New Killing School Life. The new setting is called Gifted Inmates Academy or the Prison School for the Gifted. The Academy (and hotel) is in a garden surrounded by a cage. It’s implied that the story is set in the future.

The overall theme is mentioned to be “psycho cool”, unlike the “psycho pop” and “psycho tropical” themes of the first two games. The visual style will have a “cool adult-like image” and the Class Trials will have “high-speed reasoning action”. While the storyline and the sixteen new characters are different, the gameplay is similar to the earlier games, including exploration, talking with other characters and the Class Trials. It will have notable additions and improvements, though, like the possibility to use your own lies to defeat opponents during the trials. (Excerpt from VNDB

Did I save my ultimate bias and the best for last? Perhaps. This is my number one favourite visual novel of all-time indisputably. It has an amazing mix of storyline, plot twists, character cast, humour, cuteness and mystery; just everything I love in a game. When I first played the game, I had a phase of obsession for several long weeks – months (which never happens to me over a game; usually I just have a few days of bliss upon completing a game before getting over it). I’m a little sad that the Hope’s Peak Academy arc has ended, and I am very curious as to how they decided to revamp the series with a brand new release with a completely new cast.

The Danganronpa series is a ‘whodunnit?’ mystery/detective Visual Novel, where you must discover the culprit of the killings and present your findings in a class trial. The stakes are essentially kill or be killed – and you’re faced with uncovering people whom you consider friends; as potential murderers. However, it is not what you expect at all coming into the game; with an incredibly immersive storyline and great gameplay. It’s one of those games where you just have to try it yourself to understand what it’s truly about. The descriptions will never do the game any justice.

I have heard mixed reception over the new game, but for the most part they were very positive. It has an announced release date on the 26th of September for NA and 29th of September for EU. What I am glad about is the steam port is being released at the same time as the PSVita/Playstation 4 platform. This is great considering for the predecessors, the steam release was usually a year later.

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase it here: Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony – PlayStation 4 | Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony – PlayStation Vita

I hope that you all enjoyed my list, and found some new games to look forward to for 2017!