Amnesia: Memories and Later x Crowd bring cheesy otome mystery to the Switch
Before you get carried away with excitement, no, these are not anime boy spinoffs of the iconic first-person horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The Amnesia visual novels are instead some of the earlier mainstream entries in the otome subgenre – a style of romance-focused visual novel where the focus isn’t on a horny high school boy chasing improbable anime women, but on a female protagonist swooning over her cast of strong-jawed and mysterious virtual men. Recent otome visual novels mix the romantic melodrama with gripping mystery narratives or densely developed worlds full of layered lore – but Amnesia is a classic foundational entry in the genre that focuses wholeheartedly on the romance, and this combination of Switch re-releases gives otome fans an opportunity to experience such a defining entry in the genre.
Now, if you’re not inclined toward otome games already, Amnesia: Memories might not be the game to sway you. The full focus here is on the romantic developments and the various pretty-boy archetypes you’re given the option to swoon over – from the loveable nice guy to the smarmy playboy or the standoffish cool guy. These types, plus a couple others, mark the five incredibly distinct story routes you can go down in the first game. Rather than each route branching off from common scenario, your protagonist dives into five very different worlds, thanks to the circumstances she falls into with a strange spirit boy named Orion.
Having these five worlds makes for a really interesting reading experience. On top of the setting changing and the boy you’re chasing changing, the details of your amnesiac protagonists life change as well, giving you some Quantum Leap style catching up as you re-learn the details of your life in each new world. Each route has a few ending variations to pursue, and some endings are a bit less fulfilling than others – your opinion on that will also be swayed by which boys you vibe with and which ones fail to leave a mark. Regardless of husband tier lists, the writing in Amnesia is pretty solid, even if a few scenes suffer from some robotic language. it’s a shame this re-release didn’t attempt to re-translate any of those moments.
If you wrap up your time in Amnesia: Memories and you end up wanting to dive further into the lives of your favorite bachelors, that’s where Later x Crowd comes in. This is a twin-pack of bite-sized Amnesia spinoff games that essentially provide a collection of side-stories and mini-games set around the events of the initial game. The first half of the collection, Later, centers around a sequel story set after the events of the main game’s True Ending. It’s pretty standalone in nature, but plenty of the main cast from the first game returns in it, so you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of it if you’ve already played through Amnesia: Memories. There are also a couple side-stories included in Later that give some side characters the spotlight and highlight events that took place before the start of the first game. There’s a solid mix of romantic shenanigans and lore-focused story adventures that don’t really do anything groundbreaking as standalone stories, but provide plenty of satisfaction if you’re a fan of the original.
Crowd, meanwhile, is a sort of anthology collection of mini-games and micro-stories. The offerings are split between a Suspense mode and a Love mode. Suspense takes the form of a point-and-click adventure, oddly enough, and drops a lot of the romantic focus of the series for a more tense thrill-ride as you help the protagonist escape a sticky situation. If you’re trying to dig deeper into the light-hearted romantic romps, though, Love mode provides a bunch of what-if scenarios focused on giving you the opportunity to go on dates with each of the original games love interests. After putting in the time to get to know your favorite boy and achieve a Good ending with him, it’s a nice bit of fanservice to be able to explore that relationship further and see the protagonist spend some lovey-dovey time with their partner of choice.
Amnesia: Memories isn’t exactly a groundbreaking experience, but it’s nice to be able to check out one of the seminal entries in the otome genre. Nowadays, a lot of otome style visual novels mix action and romance in a way that makes it easier for newbies to dive in and find something they enjoy, but Amnesia is so squarely focused on the romance melodrama that it’s going to be best appreciated by existing otome enthusiasts. If you fall into that category and end up loving Amnesia: Memories, then the Later x Crowd twin-pack is a no-brainer. Made by fans and for fans, it’s a smorgasbord of side-stories and bonus scenarios built to give fans even more of what they enjoyed in the original.
* This article was originally published here