I bought this in last year’s 5pb sale along with Yubikiri no Kioku and shoved it in the backlog until now. The full package is Memories Off 6 Complete, which bundles the base game with the fandisc. It’s the 6th game in the Memories Off series, which had typically placed an emphasis on its realistic setting free of absurd elements and natural characters. The first Memories Off featured a protagonist who still feels the effects of the death of his girlfriend. The second game started with a unique situation in which the protagonist and main heroine were already dating. Yubikiri no Kioku (otherwise known as the 7th game) gave the hero a fiancee who sticks to him like glue, a girl who blackmails him for free housing, and a heavy past that ties it all together. This game? It’s a typical school life romance.
…And boy, is it dull. The other games I’ve played in the series aren’t exactly masterpieces, but they had their merits and compelling points. MemOff 6, though? You can pick any moege that received a console port and it’ll likely be a more entertaining galge than this. Moege are often berated by scenario-ge fans as shallow and unrealistic, with characters designed solely to sell and appeal to lonely otaku, but at least they appeal. Oh, and the story? It’s at the low point of the series from what I’ve read so far, with drama for the sake of drama and not even compelling ones at that.
The story starts off with Tsukamoto Shio, a high school student who lives alone and is the landlord of his apartment. He got mad at his dad years ago and kicked him out. No, you did not read that wrong. A high school student managed to kick his dad out and become a landlord to his apartment. The reason? His mother died 8 years ago and his father didn’t take an eternity to move on and start seeing another woman. Shio got angry over how easily his mother was ‘forgotten,’ and kicked his dad out. It’s like a teenager throwing a tantrum and actually getting his way, and the game never actually depicts his actions as immature or stupid. Even in the endings where he makes up with his father, it doesn’t feel like the guy has grown at all, and the make-up is about as dry as it can be.
Getting back to the plot of the game, it begins with Shio waking up his childhood friend Tohmine Ririsu. She’s one of the two main heroines of the game, and is a violent tsundere without an ounce of the charm that usually comes with tsundere characters. Often beating on Shio for the smallest things and badmouthing him, their interactions are anything but fun. There’s no merit to scenarios where the violent heroine constantly beats up a generic protagonist whose sole virtue is “being nice.” In order for violence to work, it has to be actually comical–like a constant tsukkomi-boke routine with a ridiculously stupid protagonist played for laughs, which Shio is not. This just becomes terribly unreasonable. Ririsu never even reflects on her violent behavior, and doesn’t evolve beyond the tsun stage. Maybe a tiny bit. Not enough to make her appealing.
Oh, and Ririsu used to be the shy kind of girl who always hid behind Shio when they were little. She moved away once and came back as aggressive and violent. This doesn’t get used as any sort of important plot point or interesting development.
The other main heroine is Hakosaki Chisa, a shy and feminine girl who confesses to Shio near the start of the game. She’s Ririsu’s best friend, and is constantly supported by her in her relationship. Since Shio doesn’t know her that well and fails to give an immediate response, she proposes a “trial period” where they try to go on dates and get used to each other, with the deadline being the dance at the school cultural festival. By then, he has to decide whether to reject or accept her confession. Chisa is a typical shy good-girl (plus honor student) without the subtleties that make this kind of character charming. Or maybe I just find this kind of heroine really boring without some kind of twist. Either way, she’s designed to be the exact opposite to Ririsu, and similarly, doesn’t develop much by the end.
The two main heroines have an extended route that the other three don’t, called the Triangle route. I went in expecting that kind of love triangle, considering how Ririsu is the one who helps Shio and Chisa hook up despite also liking Shio herself. The love triangle gets minimal focus (since Shio has already decided who he likes by the time the Triangle route starts), but instead it delves into Shio’s mother’s death. The problem is that there’s not much mystery surrounding her death: it’s made clear early on that she was sickly and died saving a kid from drowning when she went to the beach with Shio and Ririsu 8 years ago. So the rest of the route (for both heroines) is terribly forced drama consisting of “I have no right to love you because _____” which the heroine of choice one-sidedly decides without trying this real life communication technique called talking things out. Whatever mystery there is is easily figured out by the player due to the game being dead obvious about it, and to add to the drag, there is a flashback portion where the heroine talks about everything that happened from the beginning up to the school festival from her point of view. Except, y’know, you’ve already seen everything from Shio’s point of view and the heroine’s thoughts and feelings are obvious enough that you don’t need to see inside her head to know what they are. This further shows their lack of depth–seeing things from their points of view adds nothing new. None of the drama or how the characters handled it feel convincing at all, and you’ll probably figure out the “twist” (which the game really doesn’t try to hide) much earlier than Shio.
I know the Memories Off series is for drama, but at least the other ones tried to make it at least believable and/or bothered to keep an interesting mystery. Despite setting up a love triangle, it resolves itself and there aren’t any 修羅場 scenes. I don’t even like love triangles, but it would have made a more interesting read than the kind of drama they managed to shove in.
The three other heroines have regular routes that end on the day of the school festival, and are surprisingly better thanks to being regular galge routes instead of pulling the Triangle route bullshit. They’re still weak compared to other galge (and also other games in the series), but at least they don’t have that terribly forced drama that comes up in Ririsu’s and Chisa’s routes.
Following series tradition, there’s an older heroine. This time she’s 24 years old, which puts her at a 7-year age gap with Shio. She’s Suzushiro Rein, a novelist who Shio and Ririsu picked up on the streets, starving. In her route, she begins living in an empty room in Shio’s apartment and claims to be running from her editor. While the age gap proposes a good challenge to overcome as the central conflict in the route, it merely comes up and gets easily resolved. It doesn’t seem like Shio had to put much work into overcoming the drama about the age gap, and the conclusion doesn’t feel satisfying because the drama was lacking. Sure, it may not be a student-teacher relationship, but it’s not something that would be this easily accepted by both parties, especially in a series that tries to be realistic like Memories Off.
Kagamigawa Chloe is the student council president and the daughter of the president of a food company. She’s got a refined air about her and is treated as a 高嶺の花. She is also what saved the entire game for me (and a lot of other players, apparently), by being a girl I actually want to date, in this visual novel about dating girls! The route starts with Chloe requesting to live in Shio’s place because her father collapsed and she didn’t want to be alone in her house. It was an abrupt development that seemed to be out of character for what you knew about her at that point, but she slowly reveals her cute and homely sides as well as weaknesses. Oh, and she actually comes to terms with them at the end. The main conflict in her route involves gathering sponsors to fund the school festival, which is kind of a weak topic to use for drama, but it works for what it is.
Lastly, there is the underclassman Kasuga Yuno, who recently transferred into her school. My first impression of her was that she is as plain as a background side character. Her personality is also ordinary, and while she’s said to be a mischievous 小悪魔 type, it doesn’t show through that much. In her route, she and Shio are brought together by their love of listening to the radio, and the friendship actually develops pretty naturally. The problem is the conflict in her route, where it is revealed that she had a friend who she got in an argument with when they were trying to build a radio and it didn’t work. Then the friend moved away to another school before they made up, and Yuno lost contact with her. First off, how on earth do you not have your friend’s phone number or email if you’re both in junior high at that time? And not only is the reason for their big falling out unconvincing, but the resolution is also too convenient and I felt nothing. I like my friendship stories, but the writing was just lacking here.
I’ll probably end up playing the fandisc if only because it was bundled together in one package, but I’ll keep my expectations low. When I first played Memories Off 2nd, I didn’t get what was so special about it because I hadn’t played many VNs and what I did play set my standards stupidly high. Now I know. Memories Off 6 is probably a low point for the series, despite attempts to return to the series’ origins by setting it in the first game’s Sumisora high school. Even if the first game aged badly in terms of story, at least it had a melancholic tone that still stood out. And it might just be me, but the quality of the text fell too, with MemOff 6 being really dully written without an ounce of emotion. I think this game was the first one released after KID went bankrupt, which might explain why it’s severely lacking in quality.
Other stuff like art and music are also lackluster. The first two games, at least, had some pretty memorable tracks that left an impression. Here? It sounded ridiculously typical. The art is also inconsistent, and you can tell that the staff got lazy when it came to Yuno and Rein. The CGs are nothing to write home about, with lots of close-ups and generally uninteresting picture compositions. The vocal songs were okay.
It’s been a while since I went and complained like this (or at least that’s how I feel, with the increased ratio of positive:negative reviews lately). Unconvincingly forced drama, unlikable and shallow main heroines, a setting a premise duller than the rest of the series, and boring character interactions and conversations make up an uncompelling galge. With older stuff you can say it just aged badly, but Memories Off 6 came out in 2008. At the very least it could learn from all the other galge around it and give the characters more colorful personalities. Unappealing main heroines spell death for this kind of galge.
I own Memories Off 3-5, thanks to a giveaway at Magino Drive a while back. Knowing me, I’ll probably play through them, and maybe play through the other routes in the first game. At this point I don’t think there’s any meaning in searching for something particularly outstanding in this series, but I guess I enjoy seeing Inaho Shin, the first game’s protagonist’s best friend who appears as a supporting role in every single game. There were some decent entries, so I hope the other games are more like 2 or 7 and less like this one.