If you could go back and change something, would you do it?
Would you risk everything for simply a chance?
Is that truly your wish?
What could be more difficult than waking up into a world where nothing makes sense? Your work, your school, your friends, your interests, your dreams – why can’t you remember? It seems like there is something you should not have forgotten, no matter what happened. What…or who…could it be?
Opening your eyes for the first time you come across a strange looking boy with horns – a spirit named Orion. Barely remembering your own name, Orion explains that he accidentally crashed into you – literally – and fused with your subconscious, knocking your memories and personality to the winds while doing so. How unfortunate, but luckily he vows to stay with you until your memories can be found and returned. Now, where to start ~
Amnesia: Memories by Otomate and Idea Factory is a beautiful visual novel in which a young girl, the player, returns to her life after an uncanny turn of events and attempts to recover everything about herself that she lost. Reliving the month of August within 5 different timelines – the places remain the same and so do the people around her – but not everything is just as it used to be.
Although waking up with amnesia is certainly terrifying, staying locked inside is probably the worst possible scenario: no outward stimulation means no chance of triggering a memory returning. Only once these precious significant memories are recovered can Orion finally be separated from you and you can begin to live your life as you used to.
Your apartment, your work, the hospital, the theater, the park – these are all places that mean so much to you for various reasons both past and future, yet they always remain static; it is the people you surround yourself with that have the biggest impact, and also provide the biggest danger. There is Shin (the harsh but caring suit of hearts) and Toma (the protective suit of diamonds) that have been your closest friends since childhood; Ikki (the compassionate playboy suit of spades) and Kent (the methodical suit of clubs) who you know from work and school; there is Sawa, who one of your best friends, and Mine who is a younger co-worker and occasionally a friendly rival; then of course there is the manager of your work, Waka, who has unique quirks of his own (military style run maid cafe? Sure, why not). Last but not least there is one other individual (the joker) – his appearances are rare and usually veiled in mystery, yet he almost seems the most important…but why?
So you must relive and relearn life as you once knew it five times over; but fear not, although the faces and locations remain familiar, the events that occur within each story arc vastly differ and are never easily overcome.
Each of the five arcs hold numerous bad endings, a normal ending and a good ending; which although may seem like a lot (26 endings in total) they truly leave you with a thorough understanding of everything around you. Initially, the first four arcs (heart, spade, diamond and club) may be played in any order; once completed, the final arc (joker) may be played. After viewing all the other stories, the final arc is almost a culmination of aspects the other four possess and represents the place where you truly belong.
Amnesia: Memories is truly a captivating experience and never seems like you are simply reading the same things over and over again. How you react and the answers you give to those around you can make a huge difference and change how the story plays out in drastic ways. Attempting to hide your amnesia but poorly masking it may lead others to become suspicious of you or even acting so off course to how you used did (which who really knows how that was until someone tells you) may become a good or a bad thing. However, even though you go to and from your apartment and work so often throughout the month, don’t think for a second that it is just an average slice-of-life playthrough. Each route holds its own suspense and in each one there are attempts on your life through various forms of dangers and harassment. Perhaps it is a jealous fan club that wishes you harm for dating their obsession or maybe it is being pushed by an unknown source into an oncoming train or traffic. Orion and those around you try to help as much as possible, but it is never easy to know the future or react fast enough when the time comes.
You may think this sounds familiar, and perhaps it is; there is an anime of the same name that follows a similar premise (If you’d like to see my review of that, click Here). However, the downfalls of the anime are almost entirely replaced within the visual novel on so many fronts. For one, the visual novel requires self insertment meaning that you, the player, become the protagonist/heroine and you decide what is going to happen and how to answer; in an anime, the viewer has no input and therefore the heroine became a blank slate with no memories, no personality, no brain (or so it would seem) and was simply frustrating to watch at times. The VN also is able to place far more detail into the story – almost akin to how reading a book and watching a movie based on the book will be similar, but not the same. The VN explains that it was her personality as well as her memories that were pushed out by Orion fusing with her and it also goes into far more aspects of the other characters that simply could not be conveyed in a 12 episode series adaption.
An aspect of the anime that did transfer over from the VN would be the exquisite art style and the beautiful soundtrack. From the ornate and detailed outfits and look of all the characters to their multifaceted eyes, the art style is mesmerizing. The music adds its own opening and closing themes and the instrumental backgrounds that accompany the scenes simply meld perfectly – from gentle, unknown melodies to beautiful piano arrangements to suspenseful rhythms which all somehow never take away from what it actually happening on screen. The voice acting is also superb and really brings the characters to life no matter what change of atmosphere may occur.
One thing that caught me off guard in a good way was how consistent the story remained in its finest details. Many games that have multiple endings will change them drastically and leave you wondering which is truly the correct ending – which one really adds up all the details and makes sense 100% and which ones don’t quite fit right. Within each arc there are 4-5 different endings, yet the story never deviates from its ultimate path. For example, in the heart world you are pushed off a cliff by someone and wake up in the hospital. Shin is suspected of having done so but was let off after many interrogations and your own support to the police claiming that he did not do it. As the story goes on and you, as well as everyone who was present that night, go back to investigate the incident the paths begin to diverge. However, even though all of the endings come to vastly different finales, the culprit who pushed you remains the same…although that may not necessarily be the same person who kills you or attempts to interfere or otherwise. On a larger scale, even throughout viewing the stories of the other worlds so many things remain the same. Each characters personalities never falter even if their type of relationship with you changes, who they are friends with, who you are friends with, the types of dangers and atmosphere at present – they all exist in all of the worlds, it is how they affect you and what you are involved with that changes the outcome.
In the end, Amnesia: Memories is a romance and mystery visual novel with dabbles of supernatural (I mean, you are fused with a spirit after all). I suppose something that should be explained for those who may not know is what a visual novel actually is: it is an interactive fiction game usually using anime style art and still images. For anyone who may have only seen the anime or is interested in this series, I would highly suggest playing the visual novel. It is not a game for everyone, but if it is you will certainly not regret it. Give it some time and let the story truly encompass you. Let the fear, the sorrow and happiness pull you in. Experience the journey. Remember the good and the bad. Simply, feel.