So since Amnesia was licensed in English by Idea Factory and released on Steam, once it came on sale for like 90% off I finally convinced
Kentmy husband to buy and play it. And well since we used to blog anime together I figured why not have him review it? Although after reading his thoughts, I think I might have made a grave mistake ಠ_ಠ. If you dare to read his review (aka making fun of the game) please follow after the jump! If the reactions from my readers aren’t too horrifying, then maybe I’ll have him write up a review for the Norn 9 Aksys port that I’m forcing him to play. Also for the most part, it’s non spoiler but it does contain CGs from the game.
Thanks to the incessant oinking of my fellow mesubutas (what up grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrlfriends?), Amnesia: Shota Tulpa Chronicles has been released on Steam. While it can’t compare to my favorite otome games like Masu Efekuto 2 or Doragon Eiji, I figured I’d buy it (read: be forced to buy it) during one of those routine 99.99% off sales that Steam has all the time. So without any further adieu, the first (of hopefully not many) of my otome game reviews. If you’re like me, you’ll also spend the whole time reading this humming along to the anime song that wasn’t in the game while you constantly mumble “Hmm? Mmm…” to yourself.
The second thing that you will realize in Amnesia (the first of course being that you are now the proud owner of a shota tulpa) is that the nameless protagonist (who I will refer to as “Uguu Waifu”, as “Titty Monster” was too long—moar liek Amnesia: Mammaries amirite) doesn’t talk directly (you still pick dialogue choices, but that’s it) until she gets her memories back at the end of each route. The game sometimes is able to sidestep this sometimes through some careful phrasing in the dialogue, but there are still a lot of instances where you get mainsplained to in a way that’s pretty funny. It’s like the platonic ideal of mansplaining, since while “I’m a gynecologist and you’re lecturing me on periods”-esque mansplaining is pretty solid, this is the most blatant of all in that they even tell you what all of your feelings and mental states are, like “You’re tired after a long day” kind of stuff. Yeah yeah I know, Orion (who I will frequently refer to as “Mr. Bug”) is in your head and whatnot so yeah, he really does know what you’re feeling but it’s still kind of silly.
I played Shin’s route first, entirely because it was first in the list of choices and not, sadly because he is ~mai husbando~ (do not claim). Shin’s route probably used the amnesia concept the most effectively in that you’re trying to solve the mystery of who tried to kill you right before you lost your memories. This gave a clear goal to accomplish in the route and also helped to cut through a lot of the cruft that constantly wastes time in visuals novels. I’m also (being forced to) play Norn9 right now and it’s a huge contrast where for hours of playtime at a time all I’m seeing happen is characters doing chores. Here even scenes like going to work have a goal, in this case “I’m going to work to see if anyone knows anything, and also the suspense of seeing if I can fake it till I make it with my memory loss” and not “Okay, I went to work and made some food and delivered it and that took 6 hours and now it is time to go home”.
That also said, Shin’s route also most clearly showed the disconnect between what the game wants you to do and what I was assuming I should do. “What I assumed I should do” is look for clues and whatnot, since I am in a mystery that I am trying to solve. That’s completely the wrong approach to take, of course, since this is an otome game. The correct approach to anything is to try to figure out which dialogue choice will enable you to hold hands with bishies. It almost reminded me of the old Sierra/Lucasarts adventure games where you’d know what you needed to do, but damned if you could ever figure out the game’s method of doing that. The tendency to play the game the “correct” way came through most clearly when I played Kent’s route, as there really isn’t any kind of mystery there so it was almost more or less a straight romance storyline.
Similarly, it was often tricky to figure out what direct effects the various choices would have. At first I would look at the choices of “go out” and “stay home” and think “Hmm, if I stay home I can comb through the apartment to look for clues” and then afterwards get punished with “Oh, that means I just sit around rather than getting more hand-holding opportunities.” I think this may have also been an issue with the translation where nuance was often hard to pick up in the options I would have in conversations. This possibility took a while to dawn on me because unlike Norn9, the port of Amnesia didn’t have any of the blatant translation problems like typos, mistranslations, or completely inappropriate dank maymays so I assumed that the text that I didn’t have a direct reference for (like hearing the Japanese audio while reading the English text) was also pretty accurate. I constantly picked the incorrect dialogue options because I frequently read a completely wrong intent/emotion into the choices than what actually ends up happening when you pick them. I would interpret a choice like “Is there anything you want to talk about?” as confrontational rather than empathic and pick the other choice instead. It’s kind of like the complaint people often have with dialogue wheels where you get shown an emotion and a snippet of conversation and sometimes it can be confusing as to what you’re really supposed to say. At least in those cases, you could say to yourself that you’ll just hammer the Renegade option every time or whatever and probably be correct like 95% of the time. I kept wishing I could have something like that here because I’d often start to suss out how I’m supposed to act in the routes but again as I mentioned, often couldn’t figure out how to actually get from point A to point B.
Er actually, come to think of it there was one translation liberty that did grind my gears: in THE IKSTER’s route, the movie that I made him see is called “A Passionate Affair” in English rather than how in Japanese it’s “Sekushuaru Rabu”, which made me laugh because it sounds like we’re going to see an actual pinku eiga or something.
This was also amplified by how I couldn’t figure out how your affection stats worked until long after I’d finished the game. It turns out that when you right-click, there’s an option called “Parameters” that shows your affection stats with your current husbando. The problem though is that it’s hard to see how any changes here actually work or what the bars even really mean since there wasn’t any indicator that I was aware of of when your stats changed, so unless you’ve memorized your bars and re-check them every time you make a choice you really have no idea what just happened. On top of that, I’m still not really sure what the bars even mean. From what I’ve read for example, you trigger the bad end with Kent if his suspicion bar gets all the way to the end. On the other hand, Ukkyo and Ikki start with full suspicion bars, so shrug.
While I actually do prefer when your reputation is hidden rather than quantified in games (like Alpha Protocol), I think that approach requires both a much higher bar for the writing so that the player is able to properly understand the effects of your choices/actions along with often needing a more “win/win” style of interpersonal relationships where usually someone somewhere will always like the choice you just made. Since Amnesia clearly sets you onto specific routes when you start, it’s not like the incorrect choices could do something like move you onto another guy’s path. Now granted, often times it is obvious that you’ve made the correct choice in some of the dialogue choices when the bishie starts blushing and is like “okay I’ll hold your hand uguu~~~”, but there’s tons of times where your two choices are like “Thank you for the nice gift” or “What a pleasant surprise” and the response you get to both don’t cause a fireworks display of emotions so you have no idea if what you did was correct. Similarly, I have no idea how many dialogue choices in that vein actually mattered or if they were just fluff. I’m also totally okay with fluff dialogue choices that make you feel like you made a real decision or have some kind of personal role-playing aspect, but again don’t leave us hanging here.
Anyway, this lead me to getting the normal end for Shin, so I pulled up a guide to get the rest of the ends. This is how I rapidly saw that I was playing the game “wrong”, as I kept missing out on plot details or CGs because I’d get a choice like “Go to Sawa’s place” or “Go to Toma’s place” and think “Aw helllllllllllll no I am NOT going with cageboy (who clearly is the one that tossed me off the cliff) c’mon hetero life partner Sawa let’s go.” Of course, this then leads me to miss out on more backstory, but it had a kind of contradiction in that if I don’t really know what my past is in these routes, why would I think to act in certain ways? After making those necessary choices, I then motored on through the bad ends. Some of these are your standard “Whoops you accidentally fell off a cliff GAME OVER”, but the “real” bad ends often required such silly choices to actually achieve. There would be scenes where say, everyone is like “Let’s all go the fireworks tomorrow so invite Shin!” You then call up Shin and the choices are “Hey want to come with us to the fireworks” and “Oh wait nevermind.” Like, WHY would you ever pick the latter one in any kind of “natural” playthrough? I can understand getting bad ends because you couldn’t figure out the mysteries but options like those were just silly.
After finishing Shin’s route, I figured I’d knock out the minigame cheevos. The rock/paper/scissor game was actually terribly designed once I figured out how it worked. It isn’t just that you have to choose one of the three, but that after both players choose that player doesn’t win until they bonk the other player with a pico pico hammer. What this meant was that I always picked scissors because it’s in the middle. This meant that I could as easily then move to either the hit or guard option on the left or right, and that I would never need to remember what I was picking each time (if the bishie picks paper I always click left and if he picks rock I always click right). Those were painless to knock out, but I immediately noped out of the air hockey ones because it clearly was designed for the Vita’s touchscreen because it just did not respond properly to the mouse.
As I mentioned in Shin’s route, THE IKSTER’s route doesn’t really have a mystery to it. There’s still the overarching “mystery” that every route has about trying to figure out what your prior personality was like, but that’s really it. That’s pretty easy to figure out in this route (oh look, I bet he likes the one girl that doesn’t throw herself at him at every step and may even think that he’s a chauvinist pig), but again it comes back to my earlier frustration of “okay, I figured this out but now which dialogue choices indicate that response rather than being apathetic or even downright hostile to him?”
THE IKSTER had one of the bad ends that I was joking to myself in my head should be in the game. I speak, of course, for the blatantly obvious “Oh yeah, before you lost your memories we did it all the time. Like, NONSTOP. I could barely keep up with how much you wanted to make the sex.” On that note, maybe it was the effect that THE IKSTER has on girls permeating through the route, but dayamn even Sawa and Mine were thirsty af in that route. They got so desperate for the D that they were gonna double team that hyper ossan manager of the lodge when everyone went there for the club trip because of a lack of any other options. Seriously girls, have some respect for yourselves!
Continuing in order, I thought I would actually get the good Kent end without a guide but nope, still a regular end. As I mentioned earlier, since his route is the most straightforward I kept assuming that I should pick the most hand-holding-y choice every time which worked pretty much every time. Of course, I made enough of those “how in the world are these even different?” choices that it bumped me down to just the normal one. I figured out almost immediately that his “secret” was that he probably said something completely logical that was also completely insensitive that made Uguu Waifu extremely angry and/or hurt, although obviously I didn’t know exactly what said event actually was. This time it actually made direct logical sense with the choices where “get him to like/trust/handhold” with you will then lead to him opening up/confessing/apologizing about said event.
Kent’s route opened a can of worms that did cause problems for me with the writing in all of the other routes: basic logic! In just about all of the routes, Uguu Waifu stumbles around in the dark trying to figure out lots of basic stuff and you have to try to figure out the least suspicious ways of asking things to your friends to find this stuff out. In Kent’s route, we get the standard early scene of “Hmm, what’s ‘Meido no Hitsuji'” and rather than doing something like asking “Uh hey guy that just knocked on my door what’s up do you want to go to Meido no Hitsuji (so I can find out what it is)?”, she just googles it up to find out both what it is and how to get there. WHOAOAOAOAOAOAOAOA! It almost poisoned the well in a way where from every point forward whenever she doesn’t know something I would sigh and wish that she would also just google it. After that example in Kent’s route, I felt like I kept noticing similar sorts of situations in other routes. There’s a minor one in Ukyo’s route where you actually call 9/11 when you’re in danger, and a scene in Toma’s route where Mr. Bug uses his incorporality to go around exploring for you.
That also said, just like all the other bishies Kent’s route too was extremely ~problematic~ in that it continues to perpetuate the stereotypes that girls are bad at math and this is what is keeping them out of lucrative tech careers. Just because Uguu Waifu is a girl doesn’t mean that she can’t figure out your math problems about the proper amount of Brawndo to feed your plants you techbro! I mean holy shit the microagressions on display here from this shitlord!
Ironically the fact that I’m basically done now with Kent’s route is the evidence of why it’s probably the route that works the best. You do what you more or less think you’re supposed to be doing, and this leads the game to reward you the much-desired hand-holding and (ohmigawdIcanbarelysayit)…kissing. I know one complaint I’ve read with regards to romance in video games is that by abstracting everything to input systems it makes the whole thing hella weird, but in Kent’s case it was amusingly appropriate in that he’s frequently such a robot that you even have conversations like “beep boop that is not the action which is commonly performed at this level of relationship beep boop”. Hmm come to think of it, Amnesia is almost the reverse in that kind of sense: instead of beep boop select inputs beep boop output teh secks, you produce all these romantic inputs in order to get the non-romantic outputs (read: the mystery backstories).
Awwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah, now it’s time for dat good shiat: Toma. As you can see, Toma is the most ~problematic~ of all. You’ve got drugging, gaslighting, confinement, the works. And that’s what makes him ~so dreamy~ uguu~~~~~. All joking aside about that silliness, Toma’s route was the worst route by far and encapsulated all of my gripes about the gameplay. I figured out pretty quickly that it’s Ikki’s fangirls that are bullying you and that Toma is trying to stop them. The problem was that even though I’ve figured this out, I couldn’t actually DO anything about it. I’m not even talking in terms of trying to figure out which of “I like green tea/I like black tea” REALLY means “talk to Toma about legit issues”. I’m talking about “Can we stop popping sleeping pills and playing Dynasty Warriors and actually talk about this stuff?” I mean shit, you wouldn’t even need to get into the cage (“DOG, BACK IN THE CAGE”) since you could be like oh yeah I’ll just hang around here for a day or two until this cools down and you talk to the cops.
Ack, still gotta keep ranting. On top of that, seriously how long does he even need to keep you cooped up in there? I figured after maybe a week (and remember, you spend the first few days in the hospital as well!) he’s have enough evidence to talk to THE IKSTER about (and remember, they’re co-workers so they’re interacting with each other constantly) so that he could get his crazy fangirls to cut that shit out. On top of that, the fangirls are SO outlandish in this route that the game succeeded in “tricking” me into thinking that your boyfriend was THE IKSTER rather than Toma. I mean, in his route you basically tell them to go fuck themselves with all of their dating rules and queen bee hierarchies and whatnot and they mostly just get angry at you. In Toma’s route, you randomly talk to him while you’re at work (YOU’RE CO-WORKERS) and this makes them all go completely batshit to the point where they harass you every second of the day, vandalize your apartment, try to get you raped, and repeatedly attempt to straight up murder you.
So because of those issues with the writing, this was the only route (other than Ukyo’s but that’s because that one branches in a different way compared to all the others) where I got the bad end (that wasn’t just like “you randomly get run over” variety). Of course, the BDSM Porno Bondage Cage Fetish bad end here is actually the TRUE CANON BEST EVER best because c’mon seriously of course it is. That said, it’s also my fault for being dumb there in that OF COURSE Toma was the real boyfriend. This is Toma’s route! I really should’ve kept forcing myself to be like uguu Toma you’re so dreamy uguu~~~~ since obviously that’s what’s going on. There’s no way the good end would’ve been like oh yeah seriously I love being NTRed because I’m a beta cuck (not to be confused of course with a cuckservative). Er, no way that a good end would be like that in an all-ages otome game. I’m sure there’s gotta be a zillion R-18 ones where that’s a good end.
Finally we’ve got Ukyo, which is the SO-CALLED canon end. I say “so-called” since obviously my headcanon is the BDSM Porno Bondage Cage Fetish “bad” end (although begrudginly, Ukyo’s ending is the one where the game FINALLY answered the burning question of “why is it so cold?” Seriously, that was the one thing I wanted to find out more than anything else in the entire game!) Ukyo has a crapload of bad ends where you randomly die. Almost all of these are blatantly avoidable, since Ukyo will say something like “OMG NO MATTER WHAT DON’T GO TO YOUR SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!111111one”. This is going to be a spoiler, but if you go to the school you die. Also this is like 30 seconds into the route, to give you a taste of how often these sort of things happen.
And because of this, I got the bad end (unlike the other routes, the normal end is based on the very last dialogue choice rather than the result of your prior choices). There ends up being a few instances where welp, guess you actually should do what he doesn’t tell you to do, and not even in a NO THE POWER OF LOVE WILL SAVE us sort of way, but in a “okay this time I will go the school and for some reason I won’t asplode this time”. Similarly, in another part Ukyo tells you that you should go watch the fireworks with THE IKSTER and I figure well I guess I should then because if I stay home I bet my apartment will collapse or something. Nope! You’ve gotta stay home, which then leads to you deciding “Hmm, I should look for Ukyo” and then looking for (and finding him).
I did get the feeling though that the game sort of expected you to get a bad ending with Ukyo the first time because unlike with many of the other routes you get pretty much the full backstory for Ukyo even with a bad end. In the other routes, bad ends resulted in you both not seeing lots of scenes with important details combined with you never getting your memories back and therefore never solving the mysteries in those routes. With Ukyo, the bad end (the real one I mean, not the million OOPS YOU DIED LOL ones) is still pretty conclusive.
PS: Seriously though visual novels, enough with the parallel worlds/multiple dimensions premises already. It’s been what, like 20 years since YU-NO came out? You can just have a bunch of different storylines in your game. It’s okay, nobody will get hurt.
Final Verdict: I will allow you, dear reader to choose the conclusion that you like best:
- “Women can die in this game 0/10”
- “This game passes the Bechdel Test 11/10 GOTYAY”
I have also been told that I need to provide rankings. In that case:
- Mr. Bug is the best husbando
- The best route out of the actual husbandos is mine, followed by Ukyo
- The best endings are BDSM Porno Bondage Cage Fetish “bad” end followed by the two killing all the fangirls ends
- Uguu Waifu has the best actual character in THE IKSTER’s route and the worst by far in Toma’s route.