Remember

vndberogamescapeOP

Intro:

Remember – Saiai no Tsuma ga Hoka no Otoko no Ude no Naka de Hohoemu, Mou Hitotsu no IF is a 2012 eroge from Atelier Sakura, a company known for their countless short netorare nukige. Remember (even the game itself, fortunately, mostly just refers to itself as such) is not a netorare nukige despite the overly long subtitle and the obligatory reference to a “Hoka no Otoko” (“another man.”) The game is written by Onboro Tsuki, Atelier Sakura’s most frequent writer and the writer of most if not all of their good games.

Story: 8/10

When he was in college Kotarou’s fiancée, Maki, was hit by a car and killed. With time he is able to eventually get over her death, mostly. Ten years later he’s married to another woman, Tomoka, with whom he has a daughter, Moeka. On the ten year anniversary of Maki’s death Kotarou himself is hit by a car. He wakes up in the hospital, in a world where Maki is alive, and where he’s married to her, rather than Tomoka; Moeka is nowhere to be found.

It’s not exactly a subtle premise. Not that it has to be. In fact the straightforward but powerful, gut-punch premise is what got me interested in the game in the first place, and it’s also what drives the reader’s interest throughout the story, at least once we get to the part where Kotarou wakes up in the alternative world (the intro is a bit too drawn out, though it’s important for giving the reader a sense of Kotarou’s life in the original world.) There’s not much else going on plot-wise, and of course the preternatural set-up exists to establish a relationship drama between Kotarou, Maki, and Tomoka, who is single in the world where she isn’t Kotarou’s wife. The plot progression hinges on whether Kotarou will choose Maki or Tomoka, and since this is a branching eroge we get to see both outcomes. So that lame “who will he choose” love-triangle suspense is fortunately hamstrung, though since there’s also a true end to the game I suppose there is still the matter of who the protagonist ultimately ends up with; but as you play through the game there shouldn’t really be any surprise about how the game ends. The matter of how Kotarou ended up in a parallel world never really seems like a main concern of the story, even if it is for the character himself, so it’s neither surprising nor disappointing that there is no particularly interesting explanation for this plot element.

So while the premise is a serious hook, the progression of the plot doesn’t really drive anything. Meaning the appeal in the game lies in the process of things, in other words the execution, specifically of the relationship drama. The situation Kotarou finds himself in in Remember taps into one of the most powerful emotions: regret. There is rich potential for mining the emotional state of the protagonist and the frankly shitty situation he finds himself in. The ambivalence, the push and pull between two major loves, and that nagging demon “what might have been.” Perhaps the game places its thumb on the scale toward Tomoka a bit, or maybe the situation itself does, but it does diminish the protagonist’s emotional and moral dilemma somewhat. For the most part Remember dutifully explores its themes and the various concerns of the scenario. Toward the end of the game it even in one or two scenes plumbs the true existential depths of the protagonist’s situation, and the heart of the existential concern caused by regret. One major gripe I have about the story, however, is that large parts of the true route contradict the message the game had been building up to and even concludes with, a serious misstep for a game that is otherwise water-tight and laser-focused in its messaging.

Remember is thematically and dramatically proficient, but it can also feel mechanical and sterile. This is seen in how, short of those late game scenes, its exploration of existential regret and moral entrapment bottom out at a mid-level depth that leaves a clear sense that there is more to get into were the story more passionately conceived and executed. It is also telling that although the premise of the game is rich in possible emotional turmoil, I have thus far focused on the more theoretical, rational aspects; the truth is the game doesn’t deliver on its emotional potential. The game isn’t devoid of emotionality: there is an atmosphere that captures some of the protagonist’s conflicted emotions and depression about his situation; and there are a few major emotional scenes that cash in on the emotion banked by the scenario and may very well make you tear up. Nonetheless, the game falls short in this area and often reads more like a moral or philosophical treatise than a story about three people and their intimate lives.

A quick aside on netorare: this game does have some NTR. The “hoka no otoko” in the subtitle is misleading but not a lie. The netorare comes from the fact that if you don’t pick Tomoka she begins dating Maki’s brother (and Kotarou’s friend) Ryouichi. This is important for the story and themes, as Tomoka dating another man emphasizes that by choosing to stay with Maki Kotarou is losing his relationship with Tomoka, and losing it forever, but it is also clearly included for the NTR fetish, as evidenced by the fact that we get some gratuitous ero scenes with Ryouichi and Tomoka. It is also arguable how “netorare” it is for a girl you had no relationship with (in that world) to date another man, but I imagine people with little resistance to NTR will not appreciate these developments, and certainly not the ero scenes.

Characters: 6/10

Perhaps one reason the game feels so sterile and short on emotion is the weak cast. The characters feel more like story pieces than characters. They aren’t very interesting. Despite the story being structured around the protagonist’s choice between his current love and former love, Tomoka and Maki hardly seem different. It’s a cliché for heroines in love triangles, or harems, or just eroge in general to have opposite personalities; in a sense this game shows why: if there’s no difference between the girls does it matter who the protagonist picks? Of course love is more complex than “pick your favorite personality,” and there is something to be said for the more understated personalities helping Remember feel somewhat more realistic and less anime-like. But it’s still hard to care that much about the characters. Especially the protagonist, the character at the heart of the story who we should really feel for, who is an indistinguishable good-guy salaryman like every Atelier Sakura protagonist. When you can’t distinguish yourself from a lineup of NTR nukige cuckolds you’ve got a problem.

Sound: 8/10

Atelier Sakura has always had better music than they have any right to have as a nukige producer, and the music in this game matches that quality. In fact I’m pretty sure some of the tracks are recycled from other Atelier Sakura games, which I can’t bring myself to care too much about since it seems a waste to use quality tracks for a single few-hours-long game and then discard them; and above all the songs are good and fit the game. With Remember there is finally a good use to put that good music to, and indeed the music greatly enhances the experience of the game. It captures and draws out both the pervasive emotions of the story and the marked emotions of the few big scenes.

The voice acting, on the other hand, is subpar. Perhaps you can’t expect quality acting from a nukige company, but not even the ero scene voice acting is good; it’s grating and not hot.

Art: 9/10

Remember has art from the best artist Atelier Sakura ever had, and they’ve had a lot of different artists. The art has bold line work that still captures finer details. The coloring is shiny with stark shadows. The composition of CGs is good, especially for the ero CGs. The character designs are a bit uninspired, and in a few CGs the male anatomy looks off (the naked male bodies often look wide, not fat but wide) but those are the only complaints I can make about the art. There are not really a lot of CGs, because this is a short game, and the CGs fall more heavily in the ero scenes, but the nature of the story doesn’t exactly require or even benefit from a large number of non-ero CGs, so this isn’t much of an issue.

Ero: 7/10

In terms of ero:story balance, Remember falls in between a scenario game and a nukige. I often enjoy these gray-area eroge, but unfortunately this one doesn’t integrate its two halves well. The ero scenes in Remember fall into two categories: story-related and superfluous. The first are sex scenes that contribute toward character development, and that is the focus of the writing. For that reason they aren’t especially arousing, and they’re more or less equal to ero scenes in scenario-based games. The second set of ero scenes are written more like nukige scenes, so they’re hotter, but they also have little to no relevance to the story. So rather than being an integration of a nukige and non-nukige (like, say, some of elf’s games) Remember more so alternates between being a non-nukige and a nukige, which can be off-putting.

Overall: 78/100

Pros: Good premise and themes; several great scenes; excellent art and music

Cons: Overly mechanical and sterile execution; uninteresting characters

It was a big risk for a netorare nukige maker to try their hand at a (mostly) non-netorare non-nukige. The irony is that the game feels like it’s being played too safe. While it has a solid premise and message, its execution is too dispassionate, like the writer is being overly careful in arranging the necessary ingredients for a good eroge. As a result, the game sometimes feels like it has less emotion than some of Onboru Tsuki’s better NTR nukige. All that said, I did enjoy this game. It has some remarkable moments when it plunges into the existential depths of regret and finds its clear answer to this universal human problem: the game’s message that it is necessary to accept the past in order to accept the present. Similarly, when it connects this message with the lives and feelings of the characters it can have a strong emotional impact. To sum it up, I suppose, I’d say this is a good game with some flashes of greatness.

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