Over the past year or so, there's been a recent resurgence in the "otome" genre in the West. For those not aware it's a visual novel-type game that's primarily aimed at female players, where generally you play as a woman with a selection of different guys (i.e. routes) available to choose from. Although there's a female focus in play, most all of the games that have been localized recently have been inviting to both men and women alike, although some titles have felt a bit too tired-and-true. Idea Factory International's latest title, Amnesia: Memories, mixes things up a little bit and brings some new freshness to the genre in turn.
Usually in an otome game, your decisions over time throughout the game decide which guy you'll be eventually courting, which might be annoying if you were aiming towards one specifically but ended up choosing the wrong options along the way. In Amnesia: Memories, you take the role of a female character who's mysteriously ended up with amnesia. You wake up to a mysterious young girl who tells you of this fact and that where you currently are is inside of your mind.
After entering in your name and answering a few questions, you'll be able to choose which guy you'll start out with. This provides an interesting twist to the genre, as you're already in an active relationship with the guy you selected. But unlike other otome games where you're building up a relationship from scratch, you're effectively working backward to rediscover yourself, who he is, and what brought you two together in the first place.
This type of approach could quickly turn depressing in an instant, but one positive to how Idea Factory International localized the game is that the narrative finely plays the line between being realistic to the circumstances the player finds themselves in, while still having enough humor and affection taking place between the couple to keep things well-grounded.
There's a couple instances where the suitors felt underutilized like when you find out one of the suitors, Shin, had an alcoholic father who killed someone while drunk, but the game never really plays into how that might affect him. There's also a few instances where when the player is getting closer to a bad end the game will get eccentrically more comedic and out-of-left-field in an attempt to quickly close the narrative.
Outside of those minor issues, the rest of the narrative is dealt with in very mature and adult manner. Both the female protagonist and her suitors feel realistic, and there's incentive to replay through their routes as there's at least three different endings per suitor. One huge plus by the developers is marking the choices you picked in green, so there's not a guessing game into which choice you need to choose to aim for a different ending. This in addition to a rewind feature in the case where you end up exhausting all of the options in a given route's branch and want to switch to a different branch without having to restart the entire route over again.
Another major positive to the game is the art direction. Each character and their surrounding environments is beautifully detailed, in a way that feels more realistic than obviously aimed to the female market. Sadly, the soundtrack is generally forgettable and is relegated to background music. While there's quite a bit of voice overs present it's all exclusively Japanese, so if you were expecting a full or even partial English dub, you won't find that here.
As far as side bonuses outside of the main narrative go, there's some different mini-games you can play with the various suitors, including favorites such as rock-paper-scissors and air hockey. There's also an art gallery and character bios that explain more about the various characters that are gradually unlocked as you play through the game.
While it's not a complete standout in the genre, the differences in Amnesia: Memories all add up to an otome game that's enjoyable for both sexes, as long as you are game for visual novels and/or dating sims. If those genres appeal to you, rekindling the protagonist's memories will be worth the time invested.
|The story mechanics are quite well done, with the characters feeling generally well-grounded.|
|Art direction is beautifully detailed.|
|Fun game for both sexes.|
|Soundtrack isn't that memorable compared to the storyline.|
|While the original Japanese voice track is good, those wanting a dub will be disappointed.|
|There's some story instances that feel under utilized or feel like they come out of left field.|