I think I’m slowly warming up to otome games…
The heroine lost her memories due to a spirit named Orion landing in her head, and conveniently for the narrative, also wiped out whatever previous personality she has! Together with Orion (who only she can see), she must interact with those around her to regain her memories, while also being careful to not get found out about her condition lest she get sent to the hospital and left there to rot without remembering anything.
The way the story branches is kind of peculiar in that you are given the choice of whose route to enter at the very beginning of the game, and each character’s route is its own parallel universe where the characters’ relationships and sometimes the heroine’s prior personality differ. At first it looked like some kind of short cut for the writers to not have to bother with consistency between routes, but it works out better than expected and manages to keep each route fresh. Unfortunately, not all of them are good. Each route begins with the amnesiac heroine already having a boyfriend prior to losing her memories, and who that boyfriend is depends on the route. The length of the routes are quite short, so the game hardly drags on and the story maintains a decent pacing throughout. The downside is that due to the short routes and ever-revolving character relationships, the group dynamics aren’t very strong if they exist at all, and most routes are rather light on plot and don’t leave the player with much thought after they end.
The major problem I have with Amnesia is that it features a silent protagonists, of all things. There is no narration except for some flashbacks and short segments at the end of the route, and the heroine herself hardly ever speaks. The story is carried on by dialogue from other character and the player’s dialogue choices, which aren’t exactly of the interesting variety. Most of the time, the characters are talking either to the heroine or implying that she’s there, but since she is hardly ever shown to even have a human thought process, it feels like talking to thin air. I suppose this makes self-insertion easier, but they also imply the heroine’s personality at multiple points, so true self-insertion is difficult. It’s also hard to relate to her as a character since, well, she’s a blank slate after her memory loss and apparently doesn’t do much thinking. Thankfully, Orion is there to make snarky comments in her place to break things up.
The routes themselves differ enough from each other that none of them are really definitive of the game as a whole, but there is a cumulative final route that gives true end and reveals the story of Orion and everything that goes on in the background behind the heroine’s memory loss.
The heroine is the game’s cute but silent protagonist whose personality seems to vary in each route but hardly ever strays beyond passive otome game protagonist except for in one. She’s a first-year university student studying psychology.
The first route I ended up doing, by virtue of being first on the list of choices, is Shin’s. His route is kind of misleading, since the heroine actually got severely injured falling off a cliff before losing her memories, and there’s a culprit behind her attempted murder. The route revolves around solving the mystery behind the heroine’s injury, but goes about it in a dull and unexciting sort of way since it’s more like leaving Shin to play detective while you try to do the same thing but never get anywhere so it’s like watching someone else play Ace Attorney/Danganronpa. There’s even a Shin cut-in that parodies DR!
Because the routes are so short, they can only really focus on one thing at a time. They spent most of the route trying to figure out whodunnit, so whatever romantic development ends up dry and unfulfilling. Shin is the heroine’s childhood friend who is also a year younger, but he’s responsible, straightforward, and has his act so well together the age difference might as well not exist. He’s harsh on the heroine, but really cares for her and her long-term development, so he’s like the typical asian mother. It might have been fun seeing how they fall in love, but he starts off as her boyfriend already so as the player, you wake up from the hospital not knowing shit and suddenly there’s this guy kissing you and ordering you around.
Next is Ikki, who is some sort of super pimp who never dates a girl for more than 3 months and walks around with his whole horde of noisy fangirls. Deep down, he is a good person and has a reason for his actions, but you spend so much of his route dealing with his annoying way of dating the heroine and his murderous fanclub that the routes ends before he gets any satisfying development. The mystery in this route surrounds Ikki’s whole dating policy and why the heroine decided to go out with him despite her apparently detesting him before.
The most satisfying route is perhaps Kent’s, because it cuts all other bullshit and retains focus on the development on the main couple. Kent and the heroine only started going out, and so he is inexperienced with the whole dating thing and tries to go about everything using “logic” as determined by a math graduate school student. He and the heroine went into a fight shortly before her memory loss, and this is the one route where the heroine was actually an assertive, argumentative girl who constantly challenged Kent’s logical and methodical approach to all aspects of life. It seems that both of them were terrible at expressing their true feelings, but the heroine’s memory loss gave her a more honest, dere side, which also proceeds to bring forth Kent’s.
Best route, best dude.
Meanwhile, Touma is the heroine’s overprotective big brother figure and his route is so bad it’s hilarious. The guy is an aspiring lawyer, but he manages to break the most laws himself. I guess Manfred von Karma is his role model. There’s a huge emphasis on the “overprotective” part of him, and he basically keeps the heroine in his house without letting her leave, drugs her so she only wakes up when he is home from university, and eventually locks her in a giant dog cage because she kept trying to leave the house when he is desperately trying to protect her from outside dangers. Good for him, because the heroine is too blinded by her love for him to even escape when she had the chance! At the end, all is forgiven, but at least the game had the decency to acknowledge that Touma is shit and the heroine has shit taste for liking him. They make quite a nice match too, as she is a wimpy crybaby in her flashbacks and highly injury-prone, while he is pathetically overprotective. It all works out.
The final route that reveals everything regarding Orion and the gods + spirits setting is Ukyo’s, the green-haired guy who seems to have a split-personality issue and alternates between shady and creepy. Being the final route, it wraps things up nicely, but is also kind of underwhelming as far as emotional scenes go. I blame this on the lack of strength in the actual text, as the concept is tried-and-true and should work out decently. Some of the scenes in the middle are quite dull, possibly because Ukyo fails to grab my interest, and choosing to spend time with the rest of the heroine’s friends is much more entertaining (everyone is good friends in this universe). Still, probably the second best route for what it does.
The art is quite solid and high-quality, with nice shading and use of color. The backgrounds clash with the rich character art since they are black-and-white illustrations with some colors and filters overlaid to represent change in time/lighting. The character designs for the females are quite nice, and the heroine’s female friend Mine is very cute. The CGs have good lighting and are quite beautiful.
When it comes to the dudes, however, I question what was going on in the character designer’s head when it comes to fashion sense. The design philosophy seemed to be “stick on as many flashy things that look like a pain to equip as possible.” Kent’s design was the most eye-pleasing, and I still had to wonder why he has enough belts in his coat to be a JRPG protagonist. It made sense if these guys were hosts or flashy undefeated poker champions at a famous casino where dark, shady things go on behind the scenes (I honestly thought that would be the plot when looking at only the promotional images), but what kind of university student puts on such troublesome clothes on a daily basis!? In fact, why was there even a need to give the guys a poker suit motif when no one engages in actual poker in the game?
…Maybe young guys in Japan are significantly more fashion-conscious than Canadian math and engineering students.
It was a decent VN to play while I’m waiting for upcoming releases, but doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression. The game is quite short with decent pacing in the plot, and a spectrum of characters for キャラ萌え. It held my interest for the duration of each route, but most of them aren’t very impressive, and could get to be downright irritating depending on the person. Kent pretty much made the game for me, as I actually understand his logic and point of view pretty well, being a math/CS person myself.
The route that just focused on romance ended up being the best, because the suspense and mystery elements aren’t that well-done, and your only other choices are to get locked up in a cage or get mobbed by insane fangirls.