Building on Aksys’ ever-growing visual novel backlog, Bad Apple Wars is the latest otome game to hit Vita. When Rinka is hit by a car on the first day of school, she awakes to find that she’s passed away. Rather than what one might expect from the afterlife though, she wakes up to find herself in a world where the sky is always red, and she’s enrolled into the strange NEVAEH Academy.
NEVAEH has a lot of rules – over a hundred, in fact, and not everybody is pleased about them. The teachers of NEVAEH want students to follow the rules and graduate, but what this actually means is that the student loses all sense of individuality. The “bad apples” rebel and are fighting for a way to escape back to their previous lives, and so fights often break out between the two groups. As Rinka, you’re forced to pick a side and then, of course, you’ll have to pick which boy you want to pursue.
I’ve enjoyed a good number of otome games and visual novels on Vita, and Bad Apple Wars failed to grip me in the same way that many of the others did. The story isn’t compelling, Rinka isn’t particularly likeable and I didn’t find myself wanting to pursue anyone. Bad Apple Wars has a lot of personality in its visuals, but its narrative falls flat and is jam-packed with cliches. Waking up in another world? Check. A boy who looks like a girl? Check. An unsettling school? Check. Bad Apple Wars doesn’t attempt to do anything new and, whilst this isn’t an issue itself, it fails to feel fresh. Mr. Rabbit is a walking, talking anime trope if there ever was one. Naraka is awesome, though.
When you’re locked into a route, you’ll be presented with scenes where you have to touch your chosen boy in order to relive some of his memories. It’s slightly awkward, and I can only imagine Rinka touching a lifeless/sleeping boy without permission. It’s a weird mini-game and one that could’ve been implemented better, and it only proves how Rinka is easy to dislike.
She spends most of the game complaining that she can’t do anything, but she’s all good to fondle the opposite sex and delve into their memories when they’ve opted not to talk much about their pasts — it’s made worse because, for story reasons, the boys only seem to be aware of being touched outside of these scenes despite being awake most of the time. It’s an element that stands out as unnatural, and it hampers character development when it’s one-sided as only Rinka is aware of this personal invasion for so long.
As with most visual novels, there’s very little to complain about where the visuals are concerned. I’m not a big fan of the game’s atmosphere and environments though, although I like a fair few of the character designs. The school is, intentionally, a little trippy, and there’s a lot of red as that’s clearly the game’s aesthetic, but it feels somewhat overwhelming.
Whilst I couldn’t in good conscience say that Bad Apple Wars is an ugly game by any means, it is one that doesn’t manage to click with me. The comic-book style speech bubbles are another part of the game’s aesthetic, but the slim, narrow text makes for uncomfortable reading. Bad Apple Wars does feature brilliant Japanese voice-acting though, but its soundtrack is forgettable.
Bad Apple Wars attempts to tell a serious story although it struggles to captivate. When I get into a visual novel, I can sit for hours mulling over text and gazing upon the artwork, yet I felt no desire to do any of that with this game. I’ve experienced far better stories, and Bad Apple Wars is one of Aksys’ weakest otome games to date. If you’re looking for a good otome game to lose yourself in, I recommend checking out the outstanding Collar x Malice. Vita has no lack of excellent otome games, but Bad Apple Wars asks for too much of your time for very little in return.