Aspiring brides are scary.
Memories Off: Yubikiri no Kioku is the seventh and latest entry in KID’s console galge series that was handed off to 5pb, Memories Off. The only one I’ve played prior to this is Memories Off 2, which I went through during a period of time when I had very different expectations for galge and in turn, failed to enjoy it (pls don’t bring up my 黒歴史). Taking advantage of last month’s 5pb sale, I decided it was time to give the series another chance, starting with the most recent release.
The story is of Serizawa Naoki, a high school boy with an ordinary personality but surrounded by slightly less ordinary circumstances. He was once deemed the heir to the Serizawa family, but an incident in his youth caused him to lose his memories of his childhood. The same incident also apparently caused the death of one of his childhood friends, but all he knows is hearsay as he does not remember anything. Ever since the incident, Naoki has been removed from his position. Instead, inheritance of the family has now been passed to his cousin and ex-fiancee Chinatsu.
Naoki, who has grown up living with Chinatsu’s family after being abandoned by the main family, is suddenly forced to live by himself as the family heads want to pull him away from the heir. Not long after moving into his apartment, he gets blackmailed by a girl named Kasumi who had run away from home into letting her stay with him for free. While spending his days trying to not let Chinatsu or anyone else find out, he also begins a part-time job at a Japanese-style restaurant.
One of the main things to note about MemOff 7 is that Naoki begins off with a fiancee. Well, ex-fiancee, to be technical, but Chinatsu sticks to him like glue and asserts that she is his bride at every opportunity she gets, very much willing to believe that she is still his fiancee even if adults from the main family state otherwise. This being Memories Off, not only will the situation get sort of…messy when the protagonist decides to fall for another girl, but Chinatsu’s very character setting should serve as a giant red flag.
There are a total of five heroines, with Chinatsu and Kasumi being the routes that touch on the main plot and Naoki’s backstory, and the other three being what essentially amounts to filler. The fact that you have to clear the other three to unlock Chinatsu and Kasumi’s extended common route drags the game down a lot, as the side heroines routes are nothing to write home about. There are something like four different writers listed in the credits, and you can kind of tell based on the discrepancy in route quality.
The characters themselves also aren’t too memorable, and there were only about two heroines that I actually liked.
Serizawa Naoki is the protagonist of the game. He doesn’t remember anything from before he was seven years old, and only knows his childhood through what his childhood friend and ex-fiancee tells him. While his story is rather interesting, his personality is quite typical and his characterization seems to change based on the needs of the story. In one route, he’s ridiculously oblivious, while he is shown to be rather attentive and observant in others. He is deathly afraid of roller coasters in routes where the heroine enjoys them, yet he seems to be completely fine and even suggests going on one when he’s with a heroine who is scared of them. There’s no consistency to his character, even though he has a high importance in the actual plot.
Amakawa Chinatsu is Naoki’s childhood friend and ex-fiance who claims to be his bride at every chance she gets. She’s clingier than super glue, and her entire characterization seems to consist of her being his “bride.” Even if she is initially presented as an endearing character archetype, the player’s impression of her will most definitely turn sour before even entering her route (or, perhaps, you will end up liking her better for being more interesting). There’s more to her than what meets the eye, and at some point, you will want to turn 180 degrees and run the hell away no matter how sickeningly sweet she is. It doesn’t take long for the creepiness to seep through…
She can be considered one of the two main heroines of the game, and her route is probably the most interesting and fleshed-out story this game has offer. It may not exactly be a masterpiece, but at least it stands above the sea of mediocrity that is the rest of the game. It’s also a good thing this was an all-ages galge, because I can see her route being rather…unwelcome amongst eroge fans, should I say.
As for my opinion on Chinatsu herself…well, I’d say that her physical appearance is appealing, at least. And I did enjoy her presence as a much-needed source of conflict. It was fun to look forward to Chinatsu as a phenomenon. Fans of unstable heroines will probably enjoy her route. (Spoiler hint: here)
Nagumo Kasumi is the other main heroine. She doesn’t set off the best first impression, taking advantage of the protagonist fainting to create false evidence of him ~attacking~ her so she can blackmail him into letting her live at his house after running away from home. Initially cold and bossy, she eventually warms up to Naoki and becomes a reliable ally. Well, it’s exactly what you’d expect from her character type, and since I’m normally fond of said type, it didn’t take long to take a liking to her.
However, despite being hyped up as a main heroine with a route that should be done last (because it spoils Chinatsu’s route left and right), her story turned out to be little more than an afterthought. Her voice is also not the best performance, as she has this raspy tone that gets difficult to bear when she turns dere and suddenly starts speaking in a higher pitch.
Either way, Kasumi is a rather 王道 galge heroine type, so you’d figure out pretty early on whether you would like her or not.
Onto the side heroines:
Lisa K. Foster is essentially there as the token foreigner heroine who has a strong fascination with Japanese history and culture. In Lisa’s case, she is especially obsessed with the Edo period. She works at a Japanese-style restaurant that Naoki and Chinatsu eventually end up working at, and is popular amongst customers due to her professional work attitude and constant smile. There’s not much to say about her route, as there isn’t anything special about it, but also nothing to really complain about. It’s the most peaceful and drama-free route. Since Lisa wasn’t very remarkable as a heroine, “drama-free” becomes synonymous with “boring” when comparing to the rest of the VN.
Kodou Shiina is an energetic underclassman who constantly carries around her camera and loves gossip. There’s nothing wrong with the basic concept of her character, but her route was so terrible that I had a hard time liking her as well. The entire “drama” portion of her route was due to Naoki’s donkan level that is nowhere near as bad in any of the other routes, and said donkan protagonist essentially caused a long string of misunderstandings where he likes Shiina but thinks she likes someone else. There were so many more things they could have used as the main source of conflict rather than dragging out the “I like her, but she definitely likes someone else!!” plot.
Finally, there’s a teacher heroine in Hoshitsuki Orihime. The Memories Off series began in the 90’s, where teacher/older heroines in general seemed to be quite common. Carrying on with series tradition, there’s an older heroine in MemOff 7. Oh, and to keep up with modern users’ tastes, she looks to be a middle-schooler at best thanks to being vertically challenged, despite being 24 years old. To my surprise, I ended up liking our loli sensei a lot. The juxtaposition actually works to create a unique charm that makes
Hime-chan Hoshitsuki-sensei far from being just a legal loli. After all, she’s had a boyfriend before! That would never fly if she was a real loli. Her route is also the heaviest on drama of the three side routes, and provides a good preview of just what to expect from Chinatsu.
Oh, and after the main story, there’s also a fandisk-esque portion that lets Naoki go on various dates with the heroines, which might be enjoyable if you happen to want more icha^2 with someone who had a heavy route.
Visual, Audio, System:
Nothing to write home about in either department. The art is cute but a tad plain, especially compared to everything else on the market today. The cover and promotional CGs actually look a lot better than the dull color palettes and bland shading used in the in-game graphics. Despite the plain style, the portraits have much more pleasing anatomy than the art for the previous Memories Off games, so you gotta give credit where it’s due. The down-to-earth style also works quite well with the tone of the story, but the CGs are inconsistent in quality. I chose to take screenshots of the ones with better coloring and composition, but there are some off-looking ones that appear in the middle segments of the routes.
Music was decent. 可も不可もなく would be an easy way to sum up the audio/graphics/interface. The system is basically your standard VN choice-making, except there’s a lot of choices. A lot of recent eroge have drastically reduced the amount of choices needed to get into a heroine’s route, so those who got used to having few choices will probably find this annoying. There’s also choice-making in the form of the Yubikiri system, where a prompt comes up and you can make a pinky promise with a heroine. It’s pretty straightforward, but also kind of annoying.
It has its merits and good moments, but certain routes bring down the average. I would have been fine with the story being cut down to just the Chinatsu/Kasumi routes. If the other three routes weren’t all needed to unlock the two main routes, then that would have been fine as well. The common route was also dull, as the character interactions aren’t anything special. Chinatsu’s/Kasumi’s extended common route was more enjoyable thanks to the 修羅場 scenes and foreshadowing for Naoki’s past. Most of the heroines were a tad too plain, characterization-wise, to really drive the game on their own.
I guess I enjoyed it enough since I was itching for something different than what I’ve been playing recently.