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Review: Bad Apple Wars (PS Vita)By Gabriel PVJ Jones At 12.10.2017 10:19

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Trapped in purgatory, the students of NEVAEH Academy are caught in a constant struggle. In this realm, there are students that follow the rules, never question their superiors, and eventually lose their individuality. They are the Good Apples. A Bad Apple is anyone who breaks the rules, fights against overwhelming odds, and is inevitably crushed by despair. The leader of this band of delinquents is Alma, who believes that there is a way out of this school. His belief is challenged by the prefects. Led by the mysterious White Mask, these enforcers resort to severe disciplinary measures in order to maintain order. What side will Rinka take in the Bad Apple Wars?

As would be expected from an Otome visual novel, the decisions that the protagonist makes will bring her closer to somebody special. Choosing to become a Good Apple allows Rinka a chance to learn more about the enigmatic White Mask. Alternatively, she could focus her attention on Satoru, an exceptionally studious individual who can't be easily pried from his textbook. If Rinka decides to become a Bad Apple, she's guaranteed a chance encounter with other likeminded individuals, such as Alma. She will also meet a number of other interesting and sometimes quirky characters. Naraka is a… sweetheart who loves baking, frilly gothic dresses, and anything cute. Enishi is enrolled in the kendo club, and has embraced the romantic ideals of the Samurai.

The route is determined by destinations selected on a map screen. They are colour-coded, so viewers can easily identify what man they would like to pursue. If they are interested in meeting with Higa, for example, a hot-blooded individual whose shirt is perpetually unbuttoned, they should choose any location that's marked with the colour blue. Altogether, there are actually very few decisions to make in Bad Apple Wars. Unlike a number of similar games, there aren't any "trust" or "love" gauges to fill, which is a little disappointing. It's an obvious gameplay mechanic, but it also helps to keep the player involved.

Since the residents of NEVEAH Academy left their bodies behind, touching has become something of a taboo subject. When all that remains of a person is their soul, physical contact can recall lost memories, forgotten experiences, or pasts that many have tried to bury. It's a strange feeling, learning so much about somebody just from a simple touch. Nevertheless, these incidents play an important role in the storyline, and help to deepen the relationships that Rinka has with the certain students.

Over the course of a play-through, there will be times where the viewer can touch the soul of their romantic interest. Naturally, this phenomenon is made possible via the Vita's touchscreen. In most cases, it's just a matter of tapping the screen on CG images. Later on, there are more intimate events that introduce a penalty of failure. Basically, touching the wrong spot will cause the man to react negatively. If this occurs too often, then the viewer will be treated to a bad end. It sounds harsh, but usually it's fine to tap all over the screen until the sweet spot is found.

The story itself takes a little while to find its footing. After the initial shock that is Rinka's death, a fair amount of time is spent establishing everything about the Academy, which makes for a slow and not all that thrilling read. The imagery and a number of characters are off-kilter, but it never quite delves into the surreal. Its positive outlook and messaging, in spite of all of the sadness and tragedy, lends the storyline a strong emotional centre. This core really benefits the latter half of the game, the point where the protagonist gets more involved with whomever she chose to pursue.

Seeing as how this is an Otomate product, a lot of care went into the interface. Navigating the menus takes no effort at all, and a handy flowchart tracks all of the chapters in each route. Viewers can easily revisit past conversations or scenes, as well as cater the experience to their liking with various audio and text options. As always, this developer understands the importance of polish, and the localisation isn't bad, either. The translation occasionally takes liberties, and some will trip over a misspelling or two, but otherwise it's perfectly fine.

The presentation is solid, although a tad uneven, especially in the wake of standout titles such as Collar x Malice. Under most circumstances, the artwork is serviceable, and helps convey the most impactful moments in the story. The problem is that a number of side characters aren't drawn at all. They are voiced and have names, but those in control are stuck using scant descriptions in order to form mental images. While their impact on the plot is negligible, it's still odd to have a conversation with someone who doesn't have a portrait. Another minor issue is that the sound balance isn't quite right. The music tends to drown out the voices, so it's a good idea to set the music volume to low in the option menu.

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Final Score
Philosophical and bittersweet, yet also uplifting and wonderful, [i]Bad Apple Wars[/i] is another fine addition to any Otome fan's library. This title's greatest quality is its storyline. While it is a slow burn, it's also well constructed and thought provoking. The protagonist does a great job of figuring out her place in this strange world, and doing whatever she can to help her friends out. The supporting cast is sometimes quirky, sometimes a bit dangerous, but they are all interesting. Aside from a few nit-picks, the aesthetics are pleasing to both the eyes and ears. All in all, it's a solid effort.



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