Like the once seemingly niche ‘dungeon crawler’ genre that appears to be going through a resurgence of sorts these days, the visual novel/adventure game genre also seems to be going through a revival of its own, seeing a growth in popularity on mobile and handheld devices in particular. Mobile hardware makes an excellent fit for these style of games because of their novel/book-like format with heavy emphasis on text and reading, focusing on dialog cut-scenes that often require you to make informed decisions based on the events you’ve just experienced or read about in order to progress the narrative further, with the end goal usually being achieving the best possible ending by making the best possible decisions. Some graphic novel games incorporate a lot of interactive and puzzle gameplay elements, like Hotel Dusk (3DS) or Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (3DS), while other more pure graphic novel experiences are usually less game-like, subtracting any form of puzzle or interactive features, or at least limiting them in favor of a more linear story telling experience with little feedback required from the user as possible except for maybe pushing the ‘X’ button to advance the dialog forward. XBlaze Lost: Memories is more of the latter type of game, an anime themed visual novel, or manga, told in a very linear fashion with very little interactive features, and just light exploration and item discovery to break up the story telling.
Aside from the bit of exploration in the game, I would hesitate to call it a game at all. This is due to most of the story being told via very static linear progression with only binary branching paths, or dead end ‘game over’ scenarios appearing in the later part of the game, after the main game scenario has concluded. You’re pretty much watching an anime with no real influence over the story outcome what so ever except for a four question quiz show that you have to win in order to advance each chapter, but this can be redone without penalty and isn’t really that difficult if you pay attention to dialog, which you absolutely have to do because this game does not feature any English voice acting.
XBlaze Lost: Memories is a direct sequel to XBlaze Code: Embryo, which is
a visual novel series based in the BlazBlue fighting game universe. They are self-contained stories separate from the fighting game series except for some locations, events, and characters etc. that are shared. Memories is set in the future after the events of Embryo, and features new characters and story with only a mysterious connection to the first game that requires you to play through to discover.
The story starts off with an unnamed girl protagonist, I call her ‘Me’, who goes searching for her missing sister in her father’s basement workshop, but then gets trapped in a parallel world called ‘The Phantom Field’. Once there she meets a lonely white haired girl named ‘Nobody’ who claims to know where her younger sister is–the deepest level of the world, and she’ll have to collect ‘Memory Crystals’ on each level of the world before diving deeper to the lower level. Collecting crystals unlocks cut-scenes which progresses the story of ‘Me’ and ‘Nobody’ further, while also re-telling the story of the first game via flashbacks. Thus, you have two stories overlapping over each other and the motivation for finding all the crystals throughout each maze-like level is to explore events of the previous game.
Lost: Memories is basically a fan-only excursion. While it does serve up a new story to tell and revisits the first story in segmented fashion, the game is better enjoyed as an add-on to the main game Code:Embryo. In this game, ‘Me’ and ‘Nobody’ are on a very simplistic missing person hunt, while the events explored in Code:Embryo features a much larger cast of characters, antagonists and relationships with a much larger scope in scale, action, and twists and turns to enjoy story wise. Yes, you do get a lot of Code:Embryo story coverage in this game to discover, and there is a new story here with a closure offered to the first game and characters, but the end game content could have been DLC for the first game.
This is the first XBlaze game I’ve played, and I’ve played quite a few visual novel type games with far more depth and interactivity and watched anime that’s far more entertaining, but I really liked this story regardless, although it is full of anime tropes and nomenclature. The game features very nice 2D artwork, and only Japanese voice acting with very basic special effects. I played on the PS3 on a large screen, so it felt like watching an anime on TV. Considering the emphasis on story and dialog cut-scenes it would have been nice to maybe have featured more video since the game is trying hard to be an anime show. If you are seeking a visual novel to play on your gaming system of choice, I could think of better ones to play. This is strictly for anime story lovers.
This review is based on a review copy of XBlaze Lost: Memories published by Arksys Games.
- Casual Friendly
- Extra Content
- Linear Story
- Not much interactivity
- Reuse of assets