What is it with visual novels and obnoxious characters? Steins;Gate’s protagonist was a thoroughly unpleasant jerk. The Xblaze games are packed full of people who can’t stop bickering with each other. Even Hatoful Boyfriend wasn’t immune to it, with many of its avian characters proving that just because you’re a bird, it doesn’t mean you’re less obnoxious than a human. I freely admit that I’m not versed in anime tropes, so maybe I’m missing out on something crucial, but I just don’t get why game built entirely around human interaction have so much trouble showing them interacting in any kind of believable way.
It doesn’t take long for Amnesia: Memories to reveal that it embraces this tradition. The game is barely a few moments old when all of a sudden you find yourself stuck in a conversation with someone who can’t stop insulting you. You soon discover that a) you’re fresh off a major head trauma and b) the person you’re talking to may or may not be your boyfriend, but neither of those things stops him from constantly telling you how stupid you are. It should come as no surprise that the rest of this game follows in a similar vein, with everyone you meet first remarking on your head injury, and then making fun of you for being slow.
What’s baffling about this is that the game doesn’t seem like it should be so abrasive towards its main character. After all, Amnesia: Memories is ostensibly as much a dating simulator as it is a visual novel. You’re tasked with determining your relationships with five different men/teenage boys, and pursuing one of them to a happy ending. Not only that, most of the dialogue has a breezy, carefree feel, and the game doesn’t take itself too seriously most of the time — I mean, the reason you’ve lost all your memories isn’t just the head trauma, it’s also the fact an alien spirit accidentally knocked out your memories. You’d think that the factors would cause the game to embrace the cheesy romance factor, rather than make you wonder why the character wants to pursue any of them, when there are presumably guys out there whose romantic game doesn’t begin and end with “negging”.
Having said that, when Amnesia: Memories focuses on the story rather than the relationships, it’s kind of interesting. Treat the game as a mystery in which you’re trying to figure out the circumstances behind your injury, and it doesn’t do a bad job of meting out the facts in a way that will get you hooked. We’re not talking an Agatha Christie-level whodunit or anything, but at the very least it approximates a fun Choose Your Own Adventure mystery.
The problem with that, of course, is that Amnesia: Memories isn’t aiming to be a CYOA mystery, it’s trying to be a dating simulator. And call me an old-fashioned romantic, but I’d expect one of those to include people who might be worth dating, not just guys who can’t stop calling you stupid. Without those, the whole concept never quite clicks — though if you play your cards right, you may at least get to do some fun gumshoeing before it all ends.