Remember Me – PS3
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release Date (NA): June 4, 2013
Nerd Rating: 4 out of 10
Reviewed by: Greg Mustache
Remember Me made an impression on me when I saw the Memory Remix gameplay demo released in 2011. It represented a new bucket of fresh, piping-hot water being dumped into the tepid bath of boredom I was pruning in at the time. Being the sort of gamer that prioritizes story and character over the ever-fattening golden calf of graphics, this was something I could get behind: editing someone’s memory, changing what they know, and what they believe, has a world of creative possibilities attached to it; without anything else to go on, save that it would be a Capcom product and have a female lead, I let my expectations get a little too high.
Let me say first that Remember Me is gorgeous. The gritty, nasty underworld is full of murky water and broken neon, the palatial upper crust gleams with a smooth, glossy finish that gives a clear impression of a high-tech society trying and failing to replicate the charm of a classical promenade with state-of-the-art technology. That’s not to say it’s an especially original vision of the concept (there’s nothing here that wasn’t done in Final Fantasy in the late 90’s) but it is a remarkably slick aesthetic that gives the impression not that people ever lived in Neo-Paris, but that they shopped here, that they were marketed to here. It would be wrong to call it subtle, but it fits the classist and capitalist themes like a fingerless glove (available now for $29.99).
The problems everyone seems to have with this game are the combat (which is poorly executed) and the memory remixing (which is brilliant but cripplingly limited), and I can see why: the customized combo concept isn’t a terrible one, but where the game wants to force the player to maintain a balance between offensive and defensive combos and learn to switch between them, there’s no real reason to do that; I found myself choosing less often between attacks and healing, and more often between being frustrated at having to restart battles over and over and being bored with the battles dragging on long after the fun had waned. The memory remixes can result in different outcomes for the player to earn trophies, but because there are no branching story paths, there is only one acceptable outcome for each remix, rendering a genius storytelling idea down to its barest, tritest, puzzle-solving bones.
Gameplay aside, I was pleased to see a main character who was not a grizzled, tanned-but-ostensibly-white guy out to rescue Important Girl A after the death of Important Girl B, and even more pleased that she didn’t have a romance subplot. I was perhaps less enthused that Nilin’s buttcheeks deserved supporting cast credits (despite the director denouncing the idea that female characters in games must be overtly sexualized) and that the only reason she didn’t have a romance subplot was the fear of male players contracting gay cooties from playing the woman in a heterosexual relationship.
Ultimately, though, what I found to be the most disconcerting element of the game was Nilin herself: her actions paint her as almost completely amoral, while her dialogue (and endless monologs) and the story itself make her the moral compass by which the rest of the world must navigate. Her uses of the memory remix system are often flagrantly abusive and end in an unknowable number of innocent casualties, particularly in one instance where a woman attacks a hospital to avenge the husband she wrongly remembers as being dead. Nilin also allows an untrustworthy figure to drown the most badly victimized members of Neo-Paris’ proletariat, but she continues following his orders even after she realizes what she’s done. Her only apparent regret comes from the scene featured in the demo, where she alters a man’s memory to drive him to suicide; the moral weight of this is quickly forgotten once it serves to tell us why she begins the game as an amnesiac prisoner.
Director Jean-Max Moris has said that Remember Me was not intended to have an overarching message, but by the end of a story about the abuse of the social-media-saturated poor by the ultra-rich, our heroine is the sole heiress to an unbelievably vast fortune who openly acknowledges that she has the power to make anyone believe anything she wants. Nilin seems burdened less by the weight of her sins and more by her newfound noblesse oblige, even while she casually ignores all the bodies in her own wake and evades almost all the negative consequences of her actions.
It’s not a story that can go down smoothly, especially not after dropping sixty bucks on it new.
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