There’s a character in this game who is constantly calling me an idiot. He’s obnoxious, lies way too much and is continuously bossing me around. I really want to like him and I get the feeling the game wants me to like him too. Maybe I’m simply the wrong target audience, but I’m sad to say that his tough love just grated on me right up until my first playthrough of Amnesia: Memories came to a close. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the time I spent with the game.
Idea Factory’s latest otome visual novel is a tough nut to crack for someone like me who is fairly new to the genre. It’s a pretty unique game but if I was pushed to make a comparison I’d try to sum it up like this (bear with me): take the dating elements from Hatoful Boyfriend (just lose the birds), add a sprinkle of the murder mystery and amnesia flavours of the movie Memento (just lose Sammy Jenkis) and finally mix in a dash of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (just lose the crazy bears and trials). Even though, on paper, that all sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, it actually really does work. And it works, for the most part, really well.
The plot focuses on you, a nameless heroine, awaking in a mysterious realm caught between worlds. Something has happened to you but you’re not quite sure what. To your surprise a bubbly spirit called Orion appears from no-where to tell you the bad news: You have lost your memories. Oh dear. Your memories have somehow been replaced by the dainty little sprite Orion, who pledges to help you regain your lost memories so you can both get things back to the way they were. In order to regain your lost memories you and Orion must work backwards to re-discover who you are and what has happened to you. It’s an effective premise that lays the groundwork for some pretty compelling storytelling.
As you might expect from a visual novel, the main bulk of Amnesia: Memories is reading, thus the story is very much front and centre. And that’s a really good thing as the story is one of Amnesia: Memories’ most fascinating parts. It’s a tale, or more accurately, a collection of tales that brim with emotion, intrigue and tension, though the inclusion of some downright abhorrent characters can be jarring and can occasionally undermine the impact of the story, well at least for my play through anyway.
See, the game actually has five distinct storylines and these storylines each have branching paths that even lead to very different outcomes. It is through the choices that you make within the story that affects the ending of the game. There are even some endings that get pretty damn dark and can easily catch you off guard. There are moments, however, where the story does sag a little. For example, the Rock, Paper, Scissors and Air Hockey mini games are a nice addition that help round out the package (you can select them from the menu screen) but their inclusion in the main story kind’ve felt hamfisted and somewhat disrupted the flow of the game for me. You don’t actually play the games in the main story but instead you watch other characters play Rock, Paper, Scissors and Air Hockey. Which is as boring as it sounds. I don’t want to dwell too much on the story as this could lead to spoilers but I do want to make one thing clear: the replayability of Amnesia: Memories is incredible and is definitely one of its most ambitious and successful aspects. There really is a lot of unique and replayable story content here and Idea Factory should be applauded for that.
It should also be noted that the game looks fantastic. The wonderful character art is a joy to behold and the cute anime character designs are gorgeous. The voice acting is also top-notch despite having only Japanese audio and English subtitles (though I hear many fans prefer this) and the music is chilled, relaxing and mostly inoffensive. A few of the tunes even reminded me of Ben Folds’ quieter, jazzier more introspective moments. And that’s a good thing.
Amnesia: Memories does a lot right. When the momentum picks up it really becomes rather thrilling. There are moments in the game where I was glued to my Vita but it’s unfortunately offset by some really annoying characters whose actions and words really got on my wick and only helped to undermine what is a pretty moving and poignant story. It’s not quite unforgettable then, but a curious little gem nonetheless that will shine in the hands of those who discover it.
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