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Geek Time | July 28, 2014

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It’s Not a Review | Remember Me

It’s Not a Review | Remember Me
Sam Wright

I’m a fan of interesting concepts. I like playing games that contain them, even if the game isn’t the best, because I like to imagine how great the idea *could* be implemented. The reason why I start this article in such a way is because I’m not 100% sure if Remember Me does as good of a job with its concept as it could have.

To its credit, Remember Me has one of the most unique and interesting concepts I’ve seen in quite a while. The year is 2084 and a company called Memorize has a monopoly on memory. They can be digitized and traded among people. Memory infusions help comatose patients regain their lives. Memory is everything, but the monopoly over them has caused a split in the class structure of Neo-Paris. The Errorists (not making this up, I promise) are a group of freedom fighters that are trying to topple Memorize and end their reign over Neo-Paris. You play as Nilin, the most important member of that group.

From here on the concept gets pretty fun. The levels of which the three main elements are fun vary, but I’ll list my personal preferences in increasing order…of funness…which is totally a word.

First and foremost, the platforming in this game is rather nice. It’s essentially a lot of Uncharted-esque climbing sections with a few extra jumping puzzles thrown in for kicks. The system isn’t too hateful and there’s helpful little “climb over here you idiot” icons lining all of the ledges so you don’t get lost. As I look at a lot of the detail of this world, I almost wish the entire game was more open (ala inFamous) for the simple reason that Neo-Paris is such a weird and interesting world to be in. There’s a lot of back story just sitting behind the billboards and the servant robots and everything else. At the same time, I’m kind of glad they kept it reigned in. The climbing got a little jittery every so often. The game wouldn’t let me climb to particular edges of wall or it wouldn’t let me jump up onto a clearly labeled pole until I completed some sort of arbitrary shimmying ritual. It also doesn’t help that this game’s camera has some fight in it. It’s not as pronounced here as it is in the fighting segments, but it does cause occasional issues.

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However, for every problem I have with the platforming (it’s all mostly not a big deal until it gets annoying) I get glimpses of things that would make this a great open world game. Every so often, you’ll run across collectible memory packs. Every so often, you’ll run across panels that show you the location of a hidden cache somewhere in your area using visual clues. It’s all very clever and adds a real open world feel to the game, even if it is suffocatingly linear.

More fun than the climbing is the combat, which isn’t much to write home about until you really dig deep into it. At the end of the day, Remember Me is a brawler. You are one person and you input combos to defeat large groups of enemies. You get several special abilities, such as the ability to stun all the enemies in an area for a certain period of time or a free flow ability that lets you mash the attack buttons to crowd source if you’re feeling overwhelmed (admittedly, a really cool power.) Of itself, however, this isn’t news to anyone that’s played a Capcom brawler before. Heck…it’s expected.

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Unfortunately, the combat can be just as fiddly as the platforming, if not more so. The dodge system is great, but unless you have lightning fast reflexes, your combos get broken by strikes more often than should be so. The camera also turns into a big problem sometimes. I would often mash buttons blindly when the camera would spin in such a way that blocked me and most of the enemies from view. This happened often in smaller, restricted combat areas if I got close to a wall or some sort of corner. This being said, if the camera isn’t hindering you and you time your presses right, the combat system is pretty neat.

The real nifty part of the combat is the combo lab. Over the course of the game, you unlock combo slots and Pressens. The Pressens are attack types that you can insert into your combo slots to build your own combos. The are a few different types of Pressens. For instant, you can load Pressens into your combos that heal you or speed up the cool down of your powers. As you play, you can unlock crazy long combos that really help you out in the heat of the moment. The way they work is pretty interesting and mildly helpful too. You press them in a sort of rhythm, only pressing the next button in sequence when you’ve officially struck the enemy. If you’re being attacked, potentially breaking your combo, you can dodge over an enemy and continue your combo where you left off. This is assuming you press the button in time and don’t flip too far away from your target.

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The thing that I wish about this system the most is that it was more open for creativity. I can understand the reasoning behind restricting the first hit in a combo. I also get restricting the number of a certain type of Pressens in a row together (an entire combo of healing Pressens? Can you say broken?) Beyond that, I wouldn’t mind more control. X/Y or Square/Triangle (depending on the console, clearly) are the only two symbol Pressens in the bunch. What if they added more combat functionality with other buttons and let us throw in a few of those? What if I could end my combo with a special move for maximum damage? What if they played with the timing of certain button presses to make certain combos more challenging? All of these things could have made for an even deeper, rich combat system. It could have even made for one of the best combat systems in a video game period. This being said, I take nothing away from this game and its combat system. The idea of the combo lab is fantastic and the system works (when the camera isn’t being the most challenging enemy.)

*Allow me to make note of this one fact. I don’t know if it’s the game or the console, but several times while playing this game, it froze up on me. I mean frozen to the point where I had to reset my PS3. I only mention it here because (out of the the handful of times it occurred) it happened while in combat. Never saw problems anywhere else.

The best part about this game, and the reason why it could have (yes. I said could have) broken through to the masses is the memory remix segments. Nilin is a special Memory Hunter in that she is the only one who can get into the heads of others and alter their memories. This can serve to turn foes into allies and even more sinister things. Aside from some slight tweaking with the controls (strangely enough, the d-pad would have worked better for this than the analog stick,) these segments are absolutely great. They act as little puzzle segments to break up the story. You go into someone’s memory and change aspects about a specific memory to fundamentally alter that person’s life. You spin the analog stick to rewind or fast forward a memory and can take advantage of “glitches” in the person’s memory of the event to alter it. You may not think something as insignificant as knocking over a bottle would drastically change a person’s memory, but the fun is in finding which combination of changes does the job for you.

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There’s been a trend with this INAR that I just noticed. Every time there’s a picture, there’s always a big “BUT” after it. Not this time. This time, I can simply say that the memory remixes are absolutely great. I wish there were MORE of them. They are so few and far between that it almost seems dishonest to sell the game on them. Of course, too many would be annoying, but a nice balance of regular game play and memory tweakery would have been wonderful. They give a lot of insight into both Nilin and the characters she’s fighting against.

On that note, I should at least briefly make mention of the story. It’s great. There’s no real bones about that one. Nilin’s search for answers about her missing memories is compelling and the characters surrounding her are enigmatic and interesting. The collection of Pressens and special abilities work, in part, because of Nilin’s amnesiac state. Where other games would simply have a character learn an ability, or just give it to them with no explanation, Nilin already has these abilities and is remembering them as she goes. It’s a key demonstration of the story working in favor of the mechanics, and I love that wholeheartedly. It also helps that Nilin is a strong character herself, giving another fighter in that whole “cool female lead characters in games” thing that exists.

Remember Me isn’t a failure by any means. It’s a fun game with a great story and a great concept behind it. Where the game falls is how it manages to implement several interesting elements and then proceeds to not capitalize on them completely. Put this game in an open world, reign in the camera, give even more combo customization options, and give a whole lot more love to the memory alteration segments and you might have had yourself a game of the year contender.

Instead, you have a decent game that’s not going to get much of a passing glance in a few months. I just hope that the developers don’t forget Remember Me. I hope they do so much more with it in the future. It is an idea worth exploring further, no doubt about it.

 

 

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