Everything about Bad Apple Wars is bizarre and intriguing. While the ‘you’re all dead and are trapped in limbo’ set-up is far from new these days, Bad Apple Wars’ odd developments and unique flavour add to it, and make it a satisfying enough stage for what is ultimately a bittersweet love story.
Rinka is a new student at NEVAEH Academy – a school purgatory filled with the souls of the deceased. Upon her arrival, she learns of a feud between the Prefects (who enforce adherence to the school rules so you can become a “Good Apple” and graduate), and the “Bad Apples” (a rebellious group who go about breaking the school’s numerous rules in the hopes of getting themselves expelled as they believe it will give them another chance at life).
Everything about Bad Apple Wars is bizarre and intriguing.
Very early in the game, you’re given the choice to join the Bad Apples or become a Prefect. This is a nice way to divide the love interests you can pursue, with 3 options available as a Bad Apple and 2 as a Prefect. Unfortunately, this decision doesn’t really amount to much other than whose routes are available, as there’s not a huge difference in the story or even general character relationships whichever you choose. This remains true for the different character routes as well.
As a Bad Apple, you’ll grow close to the other Bad Apples, and spend your time bugging the Prefects while trying to break the seven “unbreakable rules”. As a Prefect, you’ll spend your time following around the Bad Apples and growing close to them while acknowledging that you ought not to be doing so.
This isn’t out of keeping with the story or Rinka’s character, but it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Given Rinka is largely defined by an emptiness, as she frequently mentions, I’d thought this big “uphold the rules or break them” choice would see her be a rather different protagonist on each side, but it’s really not like that.
Just because the Bad Apples are the plot (understandably, from the title) doesn’t mean the Good Apple side is totally left in the dust, however. White Mask’s route is one of the most important in the game, and contends with Alma’s for what would be “true route” were Bad Apple Wars to openly have one. Sadly, all the routes are pretty short though. With the exception of the initial Good Apple/Bad Apple divide, a large chunk of the scenes are repeated too, so there’s not a lot of variation, and the overall events of each route are ultimately the same.
The story plainly alternates between common route and character specific scenes, so half the stuff you’ll be forwarding through after the first route (with the exception of doing the other side for a first time). On top of getting a little tiresome in its repetition, it’s a shame that Bad Apple Wars never truly taps into its full potential.
It’s a shame that Bad Apple Wars never truly taps into its full potential.
Bad Apple Wars takes a rather unique approach to the standard visual novel format. With the exception of the Good Apple/Bad Apple divide at the beginning, choices take the form of selecting a location on the map. This will influence who you run into and whose route you end up on by essentially following them around.
Every location on the map is colour-coded for your convenience, so it’s obvious who you’re pursuing. It only takes a couple of location choices to set you on your merry way with the guy of your choice, and most of the middle chapters won’t give you the option of going anywhere but where he is anyway.
The Soul Touch scenes are also interactive, but have no effect on whether you get a character’s good or bad ending until they ramp it up a notch from Chapter 6 onwards. Whereas the early Soul Touch scenes simply see you pressing around on the screen to continue the dialogue over the CG, the later ones will take away dialogue and have you touch the guy to hear his innermost thoughts.
While you do this, you have to avoid the “bad spot”, and repeatedly touching it will net you a character’s bad end if you do it for two Soul Touch scenes in a row. It’s easy to avoid this spot though, as it’s marked by blue electricity. It actually tends to be harder to find it. For a while, it felt like Bad Apple Wars didn’t want me to get bad ends – I’m not used to visual novels being so nice!
Though it’s not overly important, it’s a little disappointing that none of the audio in the later Soul Touch scenes is translated. These are close moments Rinka has with her love interest meant to provide an insight into what her partner is thinking and feeling, so it’s a shame not to know what’s being said. All Soul Touch scenes but the first per route result in you having a brief first-person section from your guy of choice’s past, where you’ll get to learn more about him and how he died. These are really interesting sections, though they’re often tantalisingly brief, and it’s fun to see a character’s story build up over the course of the route.
Visually, Bad Apple Wars is a treat, with striking character designs and lovely art, though the Soul Touch, as fun as it is, limits the scope for CGs a little. The soundtrack is really nice, with some good emotional pieces, and there’s some incredible voice acting. From nano’s catchy opening song to the emotional ending track, Bad Apple Wars looks, sounds, and feels nice to play.
Bad Apple Wars looks, sounds, and feels nice to play.
Bad Apple Wars is a bit of a see-saw of emotional impact. While there were times I found myself a little let down by it – particularly in the epilogues of all places – it still managed to make me care about the characters and strike some strong emotional chords. Despite his frequently standoffish behaviour, I found Satoru’s route particularly hard-hitting as it wrapped up.
A short but sweet game that’s worth checking out if you want an otome fix.
It’s by no means a bad game, but, like its protagonist, Bad Apple Wars often lacks a certain something needed to truly bring it into its own. Still, it’s a short but sweet game that’s worth checking out if you want an otome fix and is enjoyable while you go, even if it may not stick with you that much after.
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