Welcome to the NEVAH Academy! Bad Apple Wars is a visual novel experience on the PS Vita. Players have five varying story routes to take. Each of these routes contains a good and bad ending. Like a majority of visual novels, the core of the gameplay is making the choices. The result of this makes the main draw of the game its story and visuals. How well does Bad Apple Wars perform? Warning there will be some spoilers ahead!
You play as a female high schooler that through unforeseen events winds up at NEVAH Academy. Basically, the Academy is a limbo between life and death for students within that age bracket. The game does not explain it this way, but that’s what I gathered from the story. The students can come from different time periods. They will reference Showa and Taisho Eras, which can be confusing for Western audiences. There is the strange occurrence that even if someone is born before someone else they can arrive after they do. Why? Because. One of the few oddities that I at least chose to forgive and accept due to the fantasy nature of the game. I even have theories as to why this would occur from a story standpoint. There are some other oddities that made less sense to me and seem to play with the rules that the story provides that I will discuss later.
At the Academy and the first major choice given is to be a Good Apple or a Bad Apple. All the details are not fully presented before taking the route. Which makes it slightly more balanced since after learning the details the game weighs heavy to one side other the other. It is explained that going the route of the good apple involves following the rules no matter how odd or inane they might be. As a result, it gets one closer to graduation with the side effect of making them lose their memories. The bad apple route is about breaking the rules in the hope to be expelled rather than graduate. Graduation is passing on into the afterlife, but expulsion means being able to return to your life before arriving in NEVAH. I will also note that those who do pass on through Graduation are set on to be reborn into a new life.
By now the Bad Apple route is already looking more appealing. There are other factors that add to this also. Because the group is all about breaking rules the characters in the group have more variety of design and style. They do not wear uniforms, multiple characters have unnatural hair colors. It already makes them stand out to the Good Apples who all wear masks and are hard to distinguish between them. Which is why I went through the all the Bad Apple routes first.
After choosing between the Good and Bad Apples it is then all about choosing who to romance basically. When I played I purposefully chose to focus in on one character alone through each play through. The characters are easy to distinguish by the colors they as on the map, their dialogue will also have a matching color, and their color will play a role in their physical appearance. There is Red, Blue and Yellow are available in the Bad Apple route. Purple and White/Gray for the Good Apple route. After selecting them a few times at the start the game automatically began sending me down their path.
No matter the route one takes the goal and the path of the story remains the same for the most part. The difference is on the side of the Bad Apples the main character takes a more active role. During the Good Apple route, they play as an accomplice to their plans without becoming an active member. Then there are the disparities between the focus character of each route. My real interest in going through all the routes became focused on their history and backstory more.
On a concept level, the story is interesting. It just falls into some pitfalls to logic. I did mention that some of the strangeness is forgivable due to the fantasy nature, but not all of them. Such as confessions of love will lead to a secret graduation, but physical intimacy is just another broken rule. While I’m certain Or why that one rule getting broken will cause a graduation, but none of the other known rules have that effect. Then there are arbitrary limits with unknown conditions for getting past them. The only real answer for all these oddities is because the story needed it. With these things, there would be less conflict and drama within the story.
There is also the factor of not everyone is from the same time period. Which when going for the True Endings means when they come back to life the story needs to jerry-rig itself into a happy ending. Which for one character means ending up with the Great-Nephew since they’ve already passed away by the point the main character returns to life. Or for another it means they graduate to be reborn for the main character to meet them again. These types of endings can feel unsatisfying and almost make the technical bad endings where they remain at NEVAH Academy more preferable.
There are still some other noteworthy items. I did find the music to be fun, the opening song is a favorite of mine. In helping with going through multiple routes there is the option to skip over dialogue specifically it can be selected to only skip overseen dialogue. It isn’t a perfect system as even slight variations to the conversation will be considered different, even if it doesn’t really provide new information. Still, this makes it slightly faster when playing through multiple routes and going for both endings. As I mention it has a lot of interesting details in terms of concept, but it feels unsatisfying as a whole in terms of the execution.