The Amnesia game franchise has been a popular series since its first release in Japan in 2011 for the PlayStation Portable. The initial game was so well received that a fan disc called Amnesia Later was released in 2012, followed by a sequel titled Amnesia Crowd in 2013. Although the game was making waves in Japan, its presence in the EU and NA stayed well below the radar until the Amnesia anime release in 2013. Finally, on August 26 (25 for NA), 2015, the game reached its Western audience in the form of Amnesia: Memories, a visual novel available for both the PS Vita and the PC via Steam.
Idea Factory, the developer of Amnesia and all its sequels, certainly knows how to build anticipation, but finally fans outside of Japan are able to fully appreciate this enticing visual novel. If you’re still sitting on the fence about whether or not you should buy Amnesia: Memories, then I eagerly invite you to read this review. It would be my pleasure to guide you through the ups and downs of this game, and all without revealing any major spoilers!
So what is Amnesia: Memories? Am I its target audience? Should I even care? Allow me to tell you a bit more about the game, and then you can decide the answers to these questions yourself! Amnesia: Memories takes place in Japan, in a setting no different to today’s everyday lifestyle. You play as a first year psychology student who wakes up with no memory of who she is. That’s right, if you hadn’t already guessed from the title, this young lady has amnesia! A spirit named Orion appears before you and explains that he has accidently merged with your consciousness, meaning the that space in your head reserved for memories was pushed out upon his arrival! In order to get your memories back and send an apologetic Orion home, you must interact with the world and people around you in the hopes that something will bring those vital memories back! You must do this with extreme caution however. If the people around you realise you’re not yourself, they may try and send you to the hospital, a place that won’t provide you with the stimulation you need to spark those important memorise! The longer you wait the more Orion’s presence encroaches on your mind, meaning that eventually those memories will be lost to you forever… It sounds like a psychologist’s dream, but in reality it’s a psychology student’s nightmare! Amnesia may not be the most creative of starts for a story, but with the addition of a spirit, the need for secrecy and the addition of psychological turmoil present, the premise certainly creates enough intrigue to make you want to pick up the game.
If the situation wasn’t urgent enough, there’s also this guy hanging around who claims to be your boyfriend! Do you believe him? Do you trust him? Most importantly, will you be able to fall in love with him all over again? Although Amnesia: Memories contains mystery and suspense, romance is the theme that takes centre stage. The game focusses on emotion and scenes of blushing, rather than scenes of skin and hyperventilation. To put it another way, Amnesia: Memories targets the Romeos and Juliets of the gaming world, not the Quagmires and Jessica Rabbits…
Amnesia: Memories is primarily an otome game. Such games are usually aimed at a female audience (although that’s not to say that males can’t enjoy the game too) with the goal of romancing one of multiple bachelors. They star a female heroine and tend to feature visual novel characteristics, sometimes with stat raising mechanics or simulation elements. The genre is available across multiple platforms and is most popular in Japan. Idea Factory has recently given mainstream otome titles a small boost in Europe and NA. Earlier this year they re-released Hakuoki (an otome game set in Japan’s Edo period) for Android and iOS, and also announced Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ and Norn9 Var Commons (two otome games set for the PS Vita) for the EU and NA this fall. The continuous release of otome titles suggests a positive and successful response for the genre from the Western audience, with Amnesia: Memories being the result of such encouraging feedback.
The adorable girl pictured above is the Amnesia: Memories heroine. Her name is completely left to your discretion, as you are given the option to name her before beginning gameplay. Having lost her memories, and her sense of self along with it, the heroine can largely be seen as a blank canvas. You decide on her personality, reasoning and actions. Admittedly she can be rather quiet, especially as any inner monologue is taken up by Orion, the spirit living in her consciousness. What memories we do see usually depict her as a sweet but naïve young lady.
This hardworking psychology student is also a waitress at a butler and maid café. This slightly bizarre workplace provides a wealth of information for the confused heroine and some chuckle-worthy comedy for the player. The heroine is a popular girl indeed, with both best friends and boyfriends (as well as some less friendly ‘friends’…) fighting for her attention. Some girls just have it all I suppose! Although contending with all these relationships while keeping your amnesia a secret is certainly less than ideal… How did that song by Irving Berlin go again? ‘There may be trouble ahead…’ Good job the heroine has ‘love and romance’ I guess!
This sweet-looking young boy is named Orion. With his wasp-like features and short purple hair, Orion is far from your ordinary youngster. He is a kind and cheerful spirt who accidently merged with the heroine’s consciousness during a routine trip to earth. He’s optimistic and always tries his best to help the heroine.
Orion is your companion rather than a route to pick from or a bachelor to romance. He’s very chatty, with a lot of the heroine’s inner thoughts seemingly coming from Orion himself. He comments on how angry the heroine suddenly feels, or how surprised she must be feeling after something unexpected happens. He speaks for her, in essence. This quirky spirit is a highly entertaining character however, so the loss of the heroine’s insight during gameplay isn’t hugely missed.
Many would say that Kent is the most intelligent bachelor in Amnesia: Memories, but my goodness does Shin give him a good run for his money! Shin is a year younger than the heroine and is a childhood friend. He may not be the kindest boyfriend around but he is by far the most aware. He immediately notices that the heroine isn’t herself, challenging her on the second day to confess and then berating the poor girl straight after for not telling him sooner! He’s not gentle with his words, but I have to say that Shin’s reaction was very refreshing. For a game to throw you in a direction you weren’t expecting can be a very nice surprise, and I assure you Shin’s route is full of nice surprises!
One element of Shin’s route I just have to tell you about is its sudden Danganronpa-ness. With Shin playing the part of Kyoko (the Ultimate Detective) and the heroine cast in the role of Makoto (the… less competent detective), the two embark on a mystery full of blood, screams and numerous suspects! They even have the drawing of a creepy featureless suspect with crazy eyes! I feel a chill coming on…
Toma is the most brotherly of the bachelors. He dotes on the heroine and feels compelled to protect her from anything (or anyone) who could cause her harm. This would be a very endearing quality if not for the fact that Toma takes such characteristics to the extreme. Unlike Ukyo, Toma isn’t aware of his insanity, making him one of the most dangerous bachelors to fall in love with.
Toma sees the heroine as someone who needs to be guarded, as someone who needs to be shielded from the harsh reality of the big wide world. He is a kind man at heart, and he undoubtedly loves the heroine deeply, but in order to keep this young girl safe, Toma has no quarrels about throwing in his waiter job in order to become a fulltime prison officer instead… Indeed this route specialises in handcuffs and iron bars, something that is sure to please the more passionate otome fans!
The silver-haired enigma pictured above is Ikki. Much like the mythological figure Medusa, Ikki has a certain ‘power’ involving his eyes. Rather than turning his victims to stone however, Ikki’s victims heat up to a dreamy frenzy! This bachelor is a playboy prince charming. He is always polite, kind and gentle to women, but what he really has a problem with is committing to just one!
Appearances can be deceiving however, and in reality Ikki’s problems with women aren’t as shallow as they first seem. The problem is hard to fix though, especially when there’s an official Ikki fan club following him around 24/7! The danger in Ikki’s route comes from his stalker-ish fangirls. Can your love for Ikki stand up against this terrifying horde?
Kent is a mathematical genius. He revels in strategies, numbers and algorithms. One of his favourite pastimes is making up maths puzzles for his fellow graduate, Ikki. They both go to Seichi University and share a comic rivalry and friendship. Kent’s not very good at reading emotions or fitting in at social events, and so he can come across as slightly cold at first. This does create problems between him and heroine, as it can be very hard to tell if Kent actually cares about her or not.
Kent does have a good heart deep down, he just has a hard time expressing it. His mind is calculative, but it’s also very open and understanding. One could argue that Kent’s route is one of the more ‘normal’ options on offer. That’s not to say that the route is boring, far from it, but it does offer a nice change of pace after experiencing more aggressive routes.
With his long green hair and black leather cap, Ukyo stands out with a fashion sense that rivals even Ikki’s! He’s certainly not one to blend in, not just because of his appearance but also because of his conflicting personality. Usually a picture of serenity, tenderness, beauty and hope, Ukyo has also gone through many traumas in his life that constantly bite and snarl at these pleasant traits. Such pain has left him deeply confused, scared even, about his feelings for the heroine.
Ukyo’s route can only be accessed after completing Toma’s, Shin’s, Ikki’s and Kent’s routes first. Indeed Ukyo’s route ties in with all the events that took place in the previous bachelor routes, meaning a lot of information that previously didn’t make sense finally gets explained. Ukyo’s path is definitely an eye-opener, and it does touch on topics that might be a little hard for people, such as death and suicide. Such dark subjects are offset with bursts of comedy that neither belittles the topics nor accentuates them (no dark comedy here!). The result is a nice balance of emotion and an interesting story.
Visual novel – Amnesia: Memories plays in the form of a visual novel. This means that the game plays like an interactive fictional storybook. Text choices appear during key points in the game. The player then chooses between these choices to progress the story.
Worlds – There are five worlds in Amnesia: Memories for players to choose from. Each world represents a playing card which in turn represents a bachelor. Shin represents the Heart world, Toma represents the Diamond world, Ikki represents the Spade world, Kent represents the Clover world and Ukyo represents the Joker world. You choose one of these worlds before starting gameplay. This means there are five unique stories to play through in a single game!
Stats – The text options aren’t the only gameplay mechanic to progress the story. There are three stat bars you need to keep your eye on: Trust, Affection and Suspicion. These stats increase and decrease depending on what text options you select. Be warned however, it’s not simply a matter of one text option being the right answer and one text option being the wrong answer. You may find that selecting one answer will raise trust, whilst the other answer will raise affection. Both answers are technically right, so which one will you go with? It’s difficult because not every route requires you to achieve the same state levels. For example, having suspicion maxed out in Shin’s route is perfectly fine, but having suspicion maxed out in Ikki’s route will lead you to a game over or ‘bad ending’. This mechanic adds a welcomed challenge to what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill visual novel.
Skip Read – Skip read is a blessing when starting new routes. Although every route is different, in order to start the route you must first go through a conversation with Orion. It’s not that this conversation isn’t entertaining, but as you’ve already read it during your first play through there really isn’t any need to re-read it, especially when you’re eager to start the next romantic adventure! Skip read also knows what text you have read and what text you haven’t, so it will automatically stop when reaching new text.
Log Book – The log book allows you to re-read and re-listen to previous text whilst in game. This feature is especially useful when you need to memorise a customer’s order and then relay it the café staff! Seriously, those orders can be confusing…
Quick Save/Load – As the stats mechanic demonstrates, knowing what options to select to get those good endings isn’t easy. A quick save/load feature is thus vital for making those re-do’s simple rather than frustrating.
No one can complain about the quality of the artwork in this game. It’s beautiful to look at and expertly drawn. Mai Hanamura skilfully produces images containing difficult angles and imaginative lighting. Just the character portraits, for example, which depict bachelors mid-turn whilst looking over their shoulders, is a joy to look at. What I most appreciate from Hanamura is her use of different viewpoints and distance shots in CGs. The variety in how she draws ensures that players will not get bored when viewing the images in the in-game gallery. Uta Natsume also depicts some adorably humorous chibi art, and Keiko Oishibashi has drawn some very unique and gorgeous background art.
The entire theme of playing cards has transferred well onto the character designs. With Shin’s red shirt having the word ‘heart’ scrolled above its hem, Toma having a diamond logo on his jacket, Kent having clover-shaped holes pressed into his green belts, Ikki having a large spade hairpin and Ukyo having his one chequered sleeve and green hair, all of the bachelors perfectly (although perhaps not subtly) represent their playing cards. The heroine takes a more subdued approach to the theme, representing a more Alice-like character who has jumped down the rabbit hole. She also takes inspiration from the Queen of Hearts, her motif largely centred around roses, a connotation of both romance and the Queen of Heart’s love for that particular flower. It’s a fitting image, as the heroine certainly rules the heart of every bachelor in the end.
The music in Amnesia: Memories is a treat. An upbeat opening theme dubbed Reverberation, sung by Kaori Oda and written by rino, welcomes the player upon start-up of the game. A serene ending theme entitled Shinai naru story, also sung by Oda and written by rino, congratulates the player when finishing a route. I was a little disappointed that the song Zeotrope by Nagi Yanagi didn’t make an appearance, but as that track was developed later for the anime, it makes sense that it wouldn’t be in the game. Players will be happy to know that all the characters are also fully voiced in Japanese.
Memories – There are moments in the game where the player might think, ‘I wonder what happened that night between Ukyo and the heroine?’, or ‘I wonder how Toma really felt when he found out the heroine was in love with him?’ The memory section allows players to view scenes that aren’t accessible in the main game. They explain how the bachelors were feeling on a deeper level, and provide some very touching bonus gameplay. There’re no worries about choosing the wrong text options as stats are disabled. It’s simply a matter of enjoying some extra visual novel fun!
Short Stories – The main game may tell the story of Amnesia: Memories from the viewpoints of Orion and the heroine, but the short stories are told from the bachelors’ perspectives. There is a story for each bachelor, and each give a personal account about a day before the heroine lost her memories. The stories provide some interesting insight about the bachelors and how they felt about the heroine before Orion appeared.
Mini Games – Are you up for a challenge? I hope so, because the Amnesia: Memories bachelors are challenging you to a game of air hockey and rock, paper, scissors! Beating these competitive boyfriends will win you some rare CGs! The games are a lot of fun, and with rock, paper, scissors having a ‘hit your competitor over the head if you win’ twist, I can’t say that the games aren’t unique! A little odd, but definitely unique!
Overall I have to say this was a very enjoyable visual novel. A bit more personality on the heroine’s part would probably have been welcomed, but even so she was still a very pleasant character to play as. As this is an otome game, Amnesia: Memories has largely been designed to please the feminine eye. That being said, I wouldn’t simply dismiss the game if you usually play masculine titles but like the game’s synopsis.
The game is generally well translated, although there is the rare typo and grammatical error. The artwork is stunning, the voice acting flawless, and the plot certainly has some interesting twists. There is heart-fluttering romance, satisfying bonus stories and challenging game mechanics. If you are an otome fan then I would definitely suggest picking up this title. Perhaps, if the game is well received, we will also be seeing the game’s fan discs, Amnesia Later and Amnesia Crowd, being released in the EU and NA in the near future too? Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
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