Backloggery

Backloggery.com

2011-06-21

Remember11: The Age of Infinity Review


Title: Remember11 -the age of infinity-
Release date: 2004-03-18 (2010-10-11 in English)
Developer: KID
English publisher: TLWiki (as a fan-patch)

Of trolls and trollops...


If I was Ben Croshaw, I would already be preparing a hate filled rant about Remember11. Thus I consider it the game's luck I'm not him as the game itself is a huge troll - the sort you find under the Golden Gates Bridge or visiting 4chan. It appears, the main message the writer of Remember11 wanted to convey us was: "LOL pwned U". And despite it I consider it quite a good game. But let's talk about everything from the very beginning.


Remember11 is a sci-fi mystery all-ages visual novel and a spin-off to the critically acclaimed Ever17 (which to my shame I haven't played yet). If one hasn't been living in a cave while showing interest in visual novels, he has already met lots of people on the net that treat Ever17 like the next best thing after wheels and blow-up dolls. Let's see if R11 can live up to the expectations.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.

And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.

- Old Testament - 1 Samuel Chapter 18, Verses 10, 11


In the wonderfully done prologue chapter of the game we are introduced to our two (yes, two) protagonists of the story and the main intrigue is set.

Safest way to travel, my ass!
Fuyukawa Kokoro (Anima) is a student of criminal psychology currently writing thesis about a particularly gruesome murder that happened a few years ago. It concerns a certain Inubushi Keiko, the first person in the history of Japanese law to be absolved of her crime (a mass murder) due to suffering from DID (that is Dissociative Identity Disorder or Multiple Personality Disorder in layman's terms). Kokoro is traveling by plane to SPHIA - a psychiatric facility where Inubushi Keiko has been confined since her trial. On the plane she also meets a very important person to the plot - an eleven year old boy Kusuda Yuni (Trickster), who immediately takes a liking to Kokoro. As fate would have it, after a zone of strong turbulence the plane plummets down and explodes upon crashlanding on Mt. Akakura.

Yeah, after a night of drinking I also can't recognize myself in the mirror...
At the same time the prologue constantly switches to our second protagonist in another place. When we meet Yukidoh Satoru (Animus), he is climbing a long stretch of stairs to the SPHIA's clock tower while citing a Biblical passage about Saul and David. At the top of the clock tower he waits for someone to come and his waiting is not in vain - in mere moments an unknown person also reaches the top of the clock tower and Satoru is flying through the air after being pushed of the edge. It's not the end for our heroes though, as after a few hours Kokoro awakens in SPHIA in Satoru's body and Satoru receives a shock of his life in a mountain cabin in Kokoro's body.

There is nothing more terrifying than a being without malice.
-Yukidoh Satoru


A trouble in paradise?
The cast of characters is very limited in this game and and that is understandable considering the circumstances. Not counting Anima and Animus, the cabin on Mt. Akakura is occupied by: Persona (Mayuzumi Lin) - a rich ojou-sama, who believes in the inherent evil of humanity and firmly thinks that everyone must do for themselves; Old Wise Man (Yomogi Seiji) - an experienced mountaineer who is the only one fully understanding what dire situation the survivors of the plane crash are in and Kusuda Yuni, who actually found the cabin thus leading the survivors of the crash into safety. The people on SPHIA are: Great Mother (Utsumi Kali) - a half-indian who claims to be a psychiatrist; Kusuda Yuni, who stumbled there after a plain crash and Shadow (Inubushi Keiko) herself, though most of the time we see her other personality Suzukage Hotori. Now, there are two things you should have noticed from what I have written: all the characters are Jungian archetypes (Google the shit) and Yuni somehow ended in two places at the same time... like protagonists exchanging bodies is not enough.

Kokoro and Satoru continue to switch back and forth between their real bodies and their opposites throughout the game and there are two problems they are facing that are threatening their lives. The resources are quickly dwindling in the mountain cabin and the blizzard creeps in leaching the life force of the survivors bit by bit. At the same time it becomes quite clear that there is a person in SPHIA desperate with taking Satoru's life and he has to constantly evade attempts on his life. Thus a goal of the game: to overpower the threats in the cabin and SPHIA and solve the body exchange phenomenon.

The dark side of the Self is the most dangerous thing of all, precisely because the Self is the greatest power in the psyche.
-Marie-Louise von Franz


A jolly game.
Usually when the writer creates such a closed setting scenario, the strength of the work is carried almost solely on the shoulders of the characters as their interactions make up the most of the work. Remember11 doesn't follow that principle. The strength of the game lies mostly in the atmosphere and events depicted. Some of our heroes just try to survive, others to escape from their conditions or to solve the mysteries. Whatever is the outward motive, every single of them has an ulterior one and act upon it. There is not a single trustworthy person here, but the characters themselves are not very deep. That was disappointing at first, but upon thinking more about it, that actually makes sense. Every single of them is an archetype, a symbol if you will or an idea. It's their job to express it, but not much more. There is nothing wrong with our protagonists: they are not overly annoying or self-absorbed or stupid or reckless and that is the problem. Our protagonists are way too unremarkable. As I have already said, all the characters in the game are not very deep and that mars the enjoyment a bit as after a short playing you will stop caring about them. The one character that actually shines in this game is Kusuda Yuni. Seemingly innocent boy stuck in a desperate and hopeless situation switches seamlessly between charming and creepy and he is the character that undeniably glues you to the screen with his appearance. The lack of proper characterisation doesn't ruin the game though as it's main strength is atmosphere. Silent dread creeps in and turns the isolated confines of the mountain cabin and SPHIA into the deadly battlefields. You will bate your breath and click your mouse faster and faster as the plot starts to speed up and new mysteries are piled onto your head. 

Nothing beats despair like a good comedy.
Despite engaging plot and dark and foreboding atmosphere I think that writers lost their way here a little as they strived to make the game much too DEEP and the abundant symbolism was lost on most of the players including me. For example, I can discern that SPHIA stands for Sophia (Wisdom) - a fourth and ultimate level of Anima (the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a male possesses). Note, that it's in SPHIA that Yukidoh starts exchanging his body with a woman, thus that can be understood as him seeking the realization of his feminine self which can be identified as his late sister. The lower levels of Anima are Mary (Virtue) which is obviously expressed in Kali, Helen (a business-like and successful woman that lacks virtue) - Lin and EVE (Desire) - Hotori as she tries to seduce Satoru. Wait, can a single character also represent two archetypes; can Lin, for example, be both Persona and the second level of Anima? *head assplodes* Actually, don't pay any attention to this paragraph - I don't even understand myself what I have written.

The main question presented in the game and basically driving the plot forward is "Where is Self?". The problem is, it's deep water again and we are never presented with a satisfying answer to that question. According to Jung "the Self is the total, timeless man...who stands for the mutual integration of conscious and unconscious". Maybe it's That Guy, mentioned in one of the endings..? Who knows...

While we have thus shown that the wave function does not provide a complete description of the physical reality, we left open the question of whether or not such a description exists.
-EPR paper

Download the actual EPR paper by clicking on this man.

For those who won't try to kill their gray matter trying to crack Jungian psychology, there is presented another hard nut - quantum physics and here is a more understandable and familiar field for me. I have already said numerous times that Japanese just love bogus science and what we are introduced here is obviously bogus to the core. However, I have to give mad props to the writer for actually making that stuff believable. During the actual scientific explanation of the phenomenon I only wanted to facedesk once - when the characters talked about coffee (I will never again see coffee the same way). The explanation is far fetched but not unbelievable, thus turning Remember11 into a sci-fi mystery of quite a high quality. On the other hand, there are a few small detail in the science department, that are just too hard to swallow in this game. Our protagonists mention offhandedly, that in the game world fully functional clones of humans exist and quickly handwave that into oblivion. WTF, man! That is much harder to swallow than any other scientific theory presented to us. The game is set in 2011 and thus it makes it a totally different world from ours, which suddenly almost crumbled my immersion. If you mention it like that, explain it, bitch, in detail! Clones just don't fall out of the blue sky! I assume cloning featured a bigger role in the other games set in the same universe (Ever17 and Never7), but it's just a lazy writing to make such a big statement expecting that your readers played the other parts, as R11 is a stand alone game. Anyways, I somehow managed to handwave it too and move forward with the plot.


Kagome kagome,
Kago no naka no tori wa
Itsu itsu deyaru? Yoake no ban ni
Tsuru to kame to subetta.
Ushiro no shoumen daare?

Kagome kagome, the bird in the cage,
when, when will you come out?
In the evening of the dawn,
the crane and turtle slipped.
Who stands right behind you now?


-A Japanese children's game

The game has a whooping 33 endings, with 30 of them being Bad Ends where you die horribly or something. Probably they were supposed to provide you with side information not available on the main route, but only one of them is important in any way (I didn't even bother to get them all). Obviously, death is not that far behind in extreme conditions that our protagonists face, but so many bad ends is an overblown decision. I have to speculate that writers wanted to extend the play time for the completionists and diminish the disappointment many a player might feel after reaching the game ending (a bit later about that).

Good Old Game
Everything about this game reminded me a bit of a very old game from C's Ware "Desire". Starting with the OP itself which is very similar, Remember11 also has an enforced playing order with each route devoted to a different protagonist, both games are science fiction mystery stories and mindfucks to the core. The key difference is, "Desire" wraps everything up quite nicely and while one of its routes was a bit lacking in quality, overall the game managed to evoke a major psychological response from the player while providing satisfactory conclusion to the tale as a whole. Remember11 on the other hand is a major mindscrew (the biggest one I have ever encountered) that lost a screwdriver somewhere. Yes, dear readers, the game has no answers to its mysteries - its an unfinished game that ends with a major cliffhanger. Mass rage by detractors and mass guessing by fans galore. Many events can be guessed after examining circumstantial evidence available in the game, however there just are things that are impervious to guessing and the true story of Remember11 is left behind a veil of obscurity. That is a reason I called the game a massive troll in the beginning - it leads us on a high adrenaline chase only to end in the most interesting place with no explanation.

What's important isn't the result but the process
Just like it is with life.
-Yukidoh Satoru


In the end I must agree with Satoru and say, that the journey together with him and Kokoro through the tangled plot threads of R11 was such an amazing experience, that even though the ending made me rage, I still consider Remember11 -the age of infinity- to be a great mind bending game that will stay with you long after you finished it. The process over the result.

Note. It came to my attention, that PSP version of R11 provided two new endings and a proper conclusion to the story. I wonder if there are so kind hearted people out there that would translate those endings and somehow incorporate them into PC version. Probably none, but one might dream.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Where to get the game: Jlist carries the physical copies.
Get a download edition at GameLiner.
English patch for PC version

Time spent playing: about 25 hours for Kokoro, Satoru endings, epilogue and about 10 bad ends.

Final verdict: 80%

4 comments:

  1. You managed to get the Kokoro, Satoru, and epilogue endings in 25 hours!? You sir, are a speed reader among men. It took me 70 hours, although I may have accidentally slept with the game on one night, so I'll say 50 hours to be generous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your time is frankly baffling. 50-70 hours would put the game at FSN level and the whole of Remember11 was barely as long as Fate. Even striving to get all 33 endings (which I didn't try to do) I can't imagine spending more than 35 hours of my time. So, no, I'm not a speed reader. Maybe you just left the game running not only during the night but for a week ? :-P

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, it took me about 45 hours to complete all the endings :o (am I really a slow reader ?)

    The combination of Jungian archetypes and quantum teleportation...*head explodes *basically they aren't my field
    Well, the DMT and MAO inhibitor stuff is much familiar to me :D (as a Pharmacy student)

    ReplyDelete