Amnesia: Memories is the first otome game to be brought to Steam by Idea Factory, and it appears to have been a good choice. Presented as a visual novel and dating sim, it may not be to everyone’s taste – a distinct lack of both action and interaction keep the pacing slow – but the beautiful presentation and quality of the drama should be more than enough for anyone looking for a change of pace. Despite being aimed at a female market, there’s also enough here for people of either gender to enjoy, provided they don’t mind something a little slower than usual.
In Amnesia: Memories, you’ll find yourself stepping into the shoes of a nameless heroine who has, unsurprisingly given the game’s title, lost all of her memories after colliding with a spirit named Orion. Orion is filling the space in her head where her memories ought to be, and he tells her that the only way to force him out is to live her life without arousing suspicion, meeting the people she once knew and visiting places she has already been to. Without this stimulation, her memories will never return, Orion will be trapped, and her mind will simply corrode away.
Unfortunately, there’s a problem: the collision hurled the heroine into the space between worlds, and Orion can’t tell which one she belongs to. As such, she has to pick a world to re-enter, each of which is based on a suite from a deck of cards, and in each of which she has a different love interest. In the Heart World she’s dating Shin, harsh but caring; in the Spade World it’s playboy Ikki and in the Clover World (or as it really should be known, Club) it’s the intellectual Kent, while the Diamond World sees childhood friend Toma take the place of boyfriend.
The result is that Amnesia: Memories has a totally different structure to most other dating sims. You make your choice of world right at the beginning of the game, and thereafter you’re locked in to that choice of love interest. Instead of trying to win them over, you’re simply trying to recover the heroine’s memories and personality. There are three parameters for you to balance which determine how the story progresses and what ending you receive: the affection the heroine feels for her boyfriend, the trust between them, and how suspicious he is of her memory loss. These are affected by the choices you make and how many missteps you take.
It’s an interesting concept and not one that fails to deliver. Navigating your way through each story requires a bit of sleuthing to figure out who the heroine used to be and what her relationship was like with her boyfriend, while at the same time solving any problems that were affecting them. Often you need to read between the lines to understand what is truly going on, and growing to know each of the characters is rarely a simple matter. Unfortunately, it isn’t perfect in this regard. You’ll often find yourself making complete guesses as there’s no way to tell what the right option is.
Of course, Amnesia: Memories also suffers from the eternal problem of all games which feature dialogue options: having no idea what some of those options actually mean. For example, there was one case where two dialogue choices were available. One of them was “…” and the other was “…I, um…” and it isn’t difficult to see why you might end up screaming: “WHAT DO THOSE MEAN?!!!” at the screen. Peculiarly, it’s one of the game’s cons that comes to the rescue here. You can save at any time, and you can abuse this system to see what the results will be of your choices. On the one hand, this undermines making meaningful decisions when the evidence is at your disposal; on the other, it’s extremely useful when the game is less than helpful.
The biggest problem with this game, however, is that there isn’t enough for the player to do. That might sound like a strange criticism for a visual novel, but the simple fact is that repeatedly clicking through lines of dialogue isn’t all that interesting, particularly when it’s purely expository. If it weren’t for how engaging the stories are, and the sense of mystery and danger you get all the way through, it might even be boring – but it steers clear of that fate. Strangely, there are two mini-games you can play from the main menu – air hockey and rock, paper, scissors – but when they come up in the game, you can’t play them. It would have been a nice touch if you could have, and would have added just a little extra depth.
Despite this lack of interaction, it’s likely you won’t mind staring at the screen during Amnesia: Memories. The presentation is simple in style – the heroine rarely appears on screen, and instead other characters appear and talk directly to you – but the quality of the artwork is truly exceptional. The characters are bright, detailed, and gorgeously designed, and each of them really stands out. The music is generally understated, but you’ll nevertheless find it sufficiently memorable to still be humming it after you step away from the screen.
Ultimately, Amnesia: Memories has considerably more good points than it does bad. Chiefly, the story has an interesting concept behind it and is engagingly executed. Thanks to its multiple endings, there’s even a fair bit of replay value, and once you’ve got the “Good” ending for the four main worlds you’ll unlock a fifth, the Joker, where the mysterious Ukyo will explain exactly what’s been going on. Thanks to its style, you may want to leave it a while before you give it another go, but one thing is for certain: you will want to give it another go.