You know, there was a time long ago when it felt like half the games I played were otome visual novels. I never knew my feminine wiles were so potent, but I seduced bishies like it was going out of style. I even managed to perfect a girlish squee. After that skill didn’t make my resume pop quite as much as I thought it would, I took a break from the genre…but I had to come out of otome retirement to check out Bustafellows, a spicy premium visual novel from Nippon Cultural Broadcasting Extend, Inc. What can I say? I’m easily swayed by crime stories. Maybe my true calling is detective work.
New York City’s a hell of a town and a tough place to make it big. Cub reporter Teuta is learning that for herself; it’s hard to get tougher than one of your interview subjects being stabbed to death right as you’re trying to get the scoop, after all. Thanks to some time travel shenanigans, though, Teuta’s able to save the day. She’s gradually able to get to know her interview subject, questionable defense lawyer Limbo Fitzgerald, and a variety of other shady characters who make up an underground crime syndicate. This is an otome visual novel, so you can expect how things end up going from there.
There’s not a lot to say regarding gameplay here. You’ve got six different paths to take, with our heroine ending up with different partners as a result. Your options range from a hacker to a plastic surgeon to the aforementioned extra-dreamy defense lawyer (turns out that girlish squee is useful after all) so chances are you’ll be able to find a path that suits your taste. Note that while there are choices and paths here, there aren’t very many; don’t expect something like Ace Attorney here, Bustafellows is all about telling several different linear stories.
We’re mostly concerned about presentation here, of course, and as a premium visual novel Bustafellows manages to impress both from an art and writing standpoint. There’s a surprising amount of animation breaking up the text scroll, for instance, and I found it was easier to stick with this game as a result compared to most visual novels. Likewise, it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into ensuring Bustafellows’ writing and proofreading were top notch – and if you’ve been playing these games for a while, you know that this isn’t always the case.
On the other hand, there’s a few things that are missing here and there. For instance, there’s no dub; I’m the worst kind of anime fan (subs all the way, baby) so this didn’t bother me at all, but I know that some players would prefer English voice acting where possible. If you’re interested in rushing through the game in order to check out the other routes, you might be surprised that there’s no saving at dialogue options. Also, PC players are bound to be disappointed in the lack of resolution options. The Switch version might be a better option as a result, since the game was originally designed for that platform and there’s no resolution issues there.
Port issues aside, Bustafellows merits its comparatively high asking price. It’s a little bit like the Grisaia series of games from a few years back – with visual novels, you often get what you pay for. Bustafellows’ fantastic art, voice acting, music and animation make for an experience on par with any anime series, so it’s worth checking out for otome lovers.