Bad Apple Wars review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Aksys
Developer: Otomate
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Players: 1
Online: No

While my experience with otome games is limited to those that have come out in the West on the PS Vita, it seems like they tend to follow pretty similar beats: girl falls in with a group of fairly generic male archetypes for some reason or other, and she spends the rest of the game figuring out which of them she has feelings for. I?m sure if you?re into the genre there are all kinds of reasons why, say, Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds is totally different from Period Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~, but honestly, all I can remember is that one of them featured a girl romancing a bunch of interchangeable samurai, and the other featured a girl romancing a bunch of interchangeable MMO characters. They weren?t bad, but they also weren?t very interesting.

Bad Apple Wars, by contrast, broadcasts its willingness to be different within the first thirty seconds or so, by introducing the main character and then immediately killing her.

Okay, technically the game doesn?t kill her off, so much as it has her black out on her way to school, wake up at NEVAEH Academy, and then, after a brief interlude with a teacher wearing a mouldering bunny mask, being welcomed by a faction of rule-breaking students that call themselves the Bad Apples.

In other words, it?s not your typical otome game. In large part — even larger than the set-up, in fact — this is because Bad Apple Wars has surprisingly decent characters. Sure, there are the jerky bad boys that the visual novel genre wouldn?t be able to live without, but, in general, you don?t come across utterly loathsome people that often seem to be a staple of the genre. The characters you have to choose between, on the whole, they seem to have understandable motivations.

On top of that, the story is pretty compelling. You?re not just trying to decide between Person A and Person B, you?re also trying to find a way out of NEVAEH Academy and back into your real life. It?s hardly a groundbreaking, but it?s told well enough that you can?t help but want to see where it?s all going.

Oh, and there are touching minigames.

It?s not as bad as it sounds, though, I swear. To some extent, this is because you?re touching relatively grown-up guys, rather than prepubescent-looking girls. On top of that, the game ties it into the story and the character development, rather than just having you touch them for the sake of it: build up enough intimacy and trust with a guy, and he starts telling you more of his story — meaning, surprisingly, the minigames have an actual narrative purpose, even if they feel a little silly at times.

Besides, the minigames are easy enough to overlook when the rest of Bad Apple Wars is so compelling. I don?t often find myself interested in seeing where these games are going, but I?ll admit that this one got me hooked. Give it a chance (provided, obviously, you already have an interest in visual novels), and you?ll probably find yourself hooked too.

Aksys provided us with a Bad Apple Wars PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: A