Developer – LizArts
Translator – Sekai Project
Length – 2-10 Hours
[A review copy was kindly provided by Sekai Project]
[Sekai Project has had no input into the content of this review]
In many of my reviews I talk about the concept of a story as opposed to the story itself. Some productions shine a spotlight on fantastic ideas with huge amounts of potential, and Memory’s Dogma is one of those. Some productions don’t take full advantage of the concepts they’ve started to explore and, unfortunately, Memory’s Dogma is one of those too. However, it’s also the very first visual novel released by LizArts and I think they’ve accomplished enough to keep them on my radar for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, Memory’s Dogma is a well presented, if misguided, title that may well be worth your time for the introduction alone.
Digital Immortality. The ability to record one’s memories in a digital format is one of the most ground-breaking technologies to ever see the light of day…but it was abused, and its use forbidden to all but the government itself, and then only on the recently deceased. From that development, however, came the Connect Centers. These high-tech public facilities allow family members to communicate with their loved ones for a set period of time before they are lost forever. Kusuhara Hiroki’s life hasn’t been as bright since he lost his friend Sorano. He simply can’t see any reason to carry on when someone so brilliant and so innocent can be lost in an instant. He has four days left to go and see her. He’s just not sure he can bring himself to do it.
I’ve intentionally limited my synopsis because, to be honest, it represents my ideal iteration of Memory’s Dogma. The idea of being able to communicate with those you have recently lost, the emotion inherent in even deciding to attend such a meeting, let alone in actually seeing that person, along with the myriad implications of being able to store memories and how that system could be used, are all intensely interesting topics to cover. There was a ludicrous amount of material that could have been mined during the course of Memory’s Dogma, and I am frustrated beyond words that it would choose to ignore just about all of it to instead entertain the same old stuff we see all the time. Apologies, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Memory’s Dogma’s intro sequence is one of the most intriguing I’ve encountered in a long time for many of the reasons I’ve stated above. It’s paced perfectly and despite having known the characters for only a short period of time I could feel the emotion in that fateful meeting in the Connect Center. Without spoiling anything, the promise those scenes held for what was to come was exhilarating. And then…well…it gets pretty Shounen, and that was disappointing. Semi-spoilers here, but after the introduction special abilities, deeper pseudo-science and a completely illogical villain just about obliterated my expectations. The number of concepts mixed in together becomes so crowded that none of them end up being truly satisfying, and the one idea that the introduction used so well is barely referenced for the remainder of the novel.
Now that I’ve had my rant, it’s time to put things in perspective. Most of the main characters are well written and entertaining; the protagonist especially feels real, at least in the beginning, and his having a voice actor gives that impression a major boost. I enjoyed spending time with the heroines and best friend, though side characters introduced later on have practically no explanation behind their involvement or background. Despite devolving to a degree, the story is never boring and the high of the earlier scenes alone almost earns my recommendation. Other nitpicks I have stem from my academic background, and may not bother everyone as much as they bothered me. The villain’s actions are borderline incomprehensible given his goal and his profession; he makes basic mistakes that don’t make any sense resulting in it being difficult to take him seriously. Additionally, the medical and biological concepts explored by the novel are poorly implemented and show a meagre understanding of the subject material. As I’ve said, however, that may only be a problem for me.
From a production standpoint Memory’s Dogma is very enjoyable. The art is pleasantly stylized and the character designs are memorable, though one or two of the less important sprites could have done with some touch-ups. The BGM is pleasant and fits the scenes it is paired to well. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, the inclusion of a voiced protagonist was an excellent decision. One complaint I have to make, however, is the inclusion of a choice timer. I can understand that kind of mechanic in time-sensitive gameplay like Telltale uses, but in this case it made the choices seem like unnecessarily rushed experiences. Strangely enough I don’t think there are multiple routes, so the choices don’t mean much apart from avoiding bad ends anyway.
Summary – In case it didn’t get through in the main review, Memory’s Dogma is pretty good for a premiere foray into the visual novel world. It has an excellent concept and fun characters, and it’s easy to appreciate its high production value. Unfortunately, because of the sheer number of ideas it tries to include there isn’t any one aspect the story does well in the end and that’s disappointing. I can’t recommend Memory’s Dogma for anything other than its fantastic introductory scenes, but I’ll be keeping an eye on LizArts to see what they release in the future.
Score: 7/10 – Enjoyable