Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Amnesia: Memories (PS VITA)


Produced initially as a visual novel game for the PlayStation Portable back in August of 2011, the "Amnesia" series has continued on throughout the gaming scene in various forms, and has captivated it's core Japanese fanbase while doing so. In turn this capturing of the core audience's attention has also caused the creation of other non-game related merchandise including a 2013 anime series on the side. It has even brought the series over to our western shores via translated versions. The story behind said visual novel based experience is basically of the "Otome" game classification. Meaning that the gamer will be taking on the role of a female protagonist, and will be engaging in relationship related scenarios with provided male characters while progressing the plot at hand. While there's really nothing sexual to be shown in the provided situations the romantic relationships found within do play a prominent part in said instances. In the case of "Amnesia: Memories", for example the nameless female protagonist in question finds herself waking up without a name, recollection of she is, or what has happened in her real world to cause her to forget all of said information. What she is left to deal with as she awakes, and traverses several possible alternate realities/worlds named after playing card suits (Heart, Spade, Club, Diamond) is a lingering tug-of-war relationship with a supposed boyfriend, and a separate possible love interest/s.

As you play the game, and get to know the girl's odd situation more intimately through character driven conversation, detective work, and her daily routine things begin to make sense, but only if you choose the right replies to the questions that are asked of you. This is one of those game series where choices greatly impact the story's outcome, and as such you will certainly find different endings for each scenario based on what you choose. The balancing scale in the middle of all of said character interactions being that of "affection", "trust", and "suspicion". Mind you there is a common ground in the different worlds that the female protagonist encounters though, and for the most part that common ground comes from a rather fantastical source as you'll find out from the start.



When the game opens up past the artistically rendered cityscape panning, and provided musical soundtrack you will find yourself thrust head first into the story that is, "Amnesia: Memories" with little to no explanation of what it is you (the gamer) are supposed to do. You are initially presented with the click through role playing scenario of the currently nameless female protagonist who is caught in a sort of between worlds limbo. She's listening intently to the words being spoken hastily by an elfish creature that calls itself, "Orion", and it's through Orion that you gain the understanding that you don't have a clue in hell as to what's going on. Of course Orion tries desperately to jar your memory a bit as it's the only way he/she can free himself/herself from your soul after having crashed into your psyche while not meaning to. He/She explains this, and begins asking you who you are. As a result your first in-game action is to name the female protagonist which you'll be playing as from hence forth. It can be anything you like, but I personally chose to go with "Bradley" as that's one of my all-time favorite 'Suicide Girls (Female Performer)' names. Yes, Bradley is a girls' name too.

Moving on ... Bradley (as I'm going to call her) is then given a choice of one of four different worlds to go to in order to remedy her memory loss, and boot Orion the heck out of her soul. Whatever world you chose will include a sort of alternate reality in which "Bradley" is in a supposed romantic relationship with a certain guy, and for whatever reason (a fall, a car accident, etc., ...) she has lost her memory of said relationship. Through the meeting of supposed friends, and various other characters of interest both Bradley, and Orion will have to try to make sense of things, and find out the truth about how she ended up in the situation that she's in. Orion acts as a sort of guiding spirit, or angel/devil on your shoulder which pays close attention to your conversations, and replies as he/she tries to help you come to a definite conclusion as to who is really your love interest as well as what is the truth of your past life.


After naming your character, and choosing the worldly path on which she is to go you will given day by day conversations starting on August 1st with characters that will sometimes prompt the selection of a reply from touch screen sensitive choices. Choosing an answer won't really sway the conversation too much, but the collective end result of all your choices will add up to give you a 'Good', 'Normal', or 'Bad' ending accordingly. What's not told outright, and should have been is that certain buttons on your PS Vita will give you extra functions outside of simply progressing the story by choosing replies, and clicking the "X" button to advance the onscreen text. The "Triangle" button, for example gains to access to the 'Save', 'Load', and 'Parameters' menu. As far as saving your game goes the start-up screen claims it has an auto-save feature, but apparently that does not work. You can't actually save your progress until the initial dialogue of a given time has typed out onscreen. The same goes for the 'Parameters' in that you can't access the menu that houses said option until the initial text is done appearing. While the 'Save', and 'Load' features are self-explanatory the 'Parameters' is a little less so. This sub-menu of sorts houses three different gauges relating to your "affection", "trust", and "suspicion" of the main male character of interest. In other words by answering questions with replies these gauges will increase, or decrease accordingly, and will determine Bradley's outcome at the end of the given plot.


When it comes to the daily animations that are found in-game you'll find that the character designs that inhabit the simple background locations are static in nature except for their facial reactions, and sometimes stiff bodily movements. The animations add a sort of anime realism to the characters, and their included spoken Japanese voice-overs further develop the characters' personalities. As conversations come to completion the scenes will fade out to intermission art, and further into panning cityscape locations that fade from side to side on a sort of gradient pattern. All of it comes together like a sort of interactive artistic storybook in that sense.


Once Bradley gets her cellphone early into the playthrough it too will become a part of onscreen happenings in that it will show the date as well as let you scroll through important text messages that are necessary for understanding the unusual circumstances. Let me not forget to mention the fact there will also be flashback moments where Bradley recalls a lost memory. In these animated sequences the screen will often go blurry, and the vocals will have a sort of echo to them. Like these short lived single panel cutscenes certain event scenes will also play out in a similar way showcasing involved characters in a less than straightforward facing perspective. The memory recollections are crucial to advancing the plot as are the event scenes, and will each come into play at certain points in conversation. For those of you worried about a choice you've made you can press "Up" on the PS Vita's "left Thumbstick" at the right point (after a reply decision is made), and rewind the conversation, or simply playback the onscreen dialogue voice-overs.


For the most part your role in the given stories will be limited to reading the lengthy conversations while trying to make sense of it all as you click "X", and tap the screen. Your end goal is to get the best ending possible, but to fully achieve all that the game has to offer getting all possible endings is a must. I think in total there are over 20 different endings you can get, so the replay value is definitely there. As far as main menu options go Initially there is only the main story made available alongside the usual game options as well as two interesting mini-games that are only there as things to do on the side. The tweakable options made available in the "Options" menu include the normal sound, visual, and text reading options as well as an option to turn of individual voice-overs, or all voice-overs. It's a little more than the basics in that sense. Among the available mini-games you'll find an alternate timed version of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" called "Hit 'N Guard" which will have you trying to out-tap the five main male characters of the game as they choose one of three options (Rock, Scissors, Paper) via iconic cards that appear after a countdown. The catch being that you, and the male player will also be able to counter the result by tapping an onscreen helmet icon if you are wrong, or a hammer icon if you are right. By hitting the CPU opponent with the hammer you'll score a point, and should the opponent do it he'll score a point. Should you tap a helmet if wrong you'll guard against an incoming hammer strike while the opponent can do the same. The player to score the most points by the time the timer runs out wins.


When it comes to the second available mini-game option you'll find that it's a scaled down version of "Air Hockey" with each player having a large themed paddle. The goal of course is to swipe the paddle using the touchscreen, and knock the puck into the opposing player's goal. The first to 7 points wins. Should you win against 3 off the five available male opponents in one mini-game you'll earn yourself a shiny PSN trophy. Should you unlock 3 in each mini-game you'll get a bonus reward, which I will not spoil for you. If you beat all opponents in each mini-game expect a couple more PSN trophies for your efforts as well. Beyond those main menu options you'll also find an "Album" listing that houses a variety of unlockable extras. These extras are further divided into the 'Gallery', 'Movies', and 'Endings' sub-menus.

In the "Gallery" menu all the art event scenes you watched in the story portion of the game will be listed, and viewable individually under their respective main male character listings. The only exception being the "Etc." listing which houses the more miscellaneous in-game art such as the intermission loading screens. As far as the "Movies" go these are also made available through your playthrough. Among the movies are the opening cutscene, the credits, and various other character/game related videos. The final sub-menu which houses the "Endings" is further divided into menu listings including "Good", "Normal", and "Bad" for ease of access. Each of which contain final quotes relating to the results of the choices you made during your playthrough. They are clickable, and once clicked will show off that particular ending. Past all the previously mentioned main menu, and sub-menu options are also two extra modes/features marked by question marks. You'll have to figure out how to unlock on these hidden secrets your own. Just know it involves the story mode.

The Verdict ...

Story-wise "Amnesia: Memories" was very entertaining. As I played through the game I couldn't help, but feel invested in the characters, and their situations. It made me want to read through each story in one sitting in order to see how my decisions impacted the main character's life. The characters, in general each had their own unique personalities, and the main character herself (despite not having an actual identity due to amnesia) even contributed to the rich storytelling in a more personal way. In effect (despite being a guy) I became that main character, and was able to fill her shoes as she tried to piece together the puzzles of her forgotten life. It helped me better relate to what was going on in doing so. I particularly liked how the author of the game built upon the mysteries with truths, lies, and half-truths. Even the manipulation, and questionable activities kept me guessing as to which answers/replies would get me the best ending.

The only things I did not like about the game included the controls which were never fully explained, the auto-save feature that did not work, and the chosen replies in-game which usually resulted in similar if not the same follow-up replies from the characters you were having the conversation with. The latter itself confuses me as I don't see the replies impacting the story progression all that much within the given plot twists. There should have been game changing events scattered throughout, but from what I witnessed the stories are mostly linear in path. There definitely needed to be a tutorial as well since the "Parameters", "Rewind", and "Save/Load" features were never explained in the game. Accessing them was a mystery in itself, and was one that I had to fumble around with in order to figure out. It actually delayed my review, because I had to restart my playthrough from the beginning due my inability to use the save function. Looking back the game definitely has some serious issues. It also had some good points though. I'm gonna have to say this game might be worth it at a cheaper price, and that's only, because the story, and it's multiple endings are worthwhile. Do keep in mind that this is a game that's geared more towards female gamers though.

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