XBlaze Lost: Memories isn’t as much a sequel as it is something else entirely; while you’ll definitely want to have played Code: Embryo before it, it’s not so much “more” as it is “the big picture” in scope.
First, let’s take a look at Lost: Memories’ premise; as it starts not with the familiar or a recap of past events, but somewhere else fresh and never before seen.
At the start of the game you’re introduced to a young girl whose mother is dying and father is mostly absent doing experiments for work. As things progress the mother dies, the father ends up leaving, and the then teenage girl is left alone with her little sister to raise her. One day however, the little sister disappears after entering her father’s workshop… and the girl follows after her, unknowingly stumbling into the abyss.
In this abyss, the girl meets yet another girl – one who calls herself Nobody and names the girl Suki (though in actuality you get to pick). Nobody explains that not only has she already met with Suki’s little sister, but she knows where she is; safe on the bottom layer of the Phantom Field. Nobody then adds that she would like to help Suki get to her, and after some questions Suki relents and follows Nobody’s lead.
To get down to the next floor (and each subsequent floor), Suki must collect memory fragments that are scattered around – three getting her clearance to jump to the next level, and four being the total located on each floor. Fragments usually require a bit of looking to find, but they’re very obvious and if you actually look around everywhere they’re hard to miss – so you shouldn’t have too much trouble with this task.
Each time (or nearly each time actually) you collect a fragment you’ll trigger a cutscene with Nobody. In these short back-and-forth moments she usually prods Suki to be her friend, and also comments on the contents of the memory fragment collection.
Oh, I didn’t mention? You’ll be able to see the memories you collect when you jump between floors. That’s important; I can’t really tell you why exactly, but it’s integral to the story so don’t skip them.
Once you’ve collected enough fragments to jump levels, you simply find the portal (the thing with four pillars) and press “X”. You’ll be treated to a small gameshow style quiz game with a few questions about things that have happened so far, and on completion you’ll dive and get a cutscene which depicts a part of the “true story” behind Code: Embryo.
These cutscenes are actually sourced memories from the fragments you’ve collected, and are memories from people other than Touya Kagami – so don’t be surprised to see perspectives and scenes you might not have experienced in the first XBlaze title.
Jumping from floor to floor will eventually lead to Suki’s sister, and gathering the memories will eventually recap the story from Code: Embryo entirely as well as lead somewhere interesting and new. Where exactly is for you to find out, and telling you that would ruin one of the best things about this game – so just trust me that it’s both amazing in nature and unique in execution.
One other thing I should mention – not something necessarily vital to the game, but something of possible interest to the perspective player – is the collection of readable tips you can amass. Tips can be found just like memory fragments; out in the world, though you also gain tips from viewing memory fragments and talking to Nobody as well (among other random instances). The tips you collect however give access to new vocabulary and information in the menu (across a wide variety of subjects), so if there’s something you don’t understand then tips are the best place to check for an answer. They also count towards a trophy you need for the platinum, if that’s your thing.
Looking to the graphics in the title, they’re mostly very clean – however there are a few instances where the camera “zooms” and you see pixelation. Aside from that though, there’s a lot of really good looking art and even an animated voice-over to be seen; so I’d have to say it’s above average even with that tiny pixelation issue counting as a negative.
The audio is very clear, with a recognizable soundtrack at least partly sourced from the first game (though I didn’t mind at all, especially with how it was presented). The voice-over is Japanese only due to the inclusion of the animated voice-over effect however, so if you’re looking for an English dub you won’t find one here; though some perfectly serviceable subtitles have been included. The subtitles aren’t a 100% accurate translation as they’ve taken a few liberties, but the story is intact and more than enjoyable with what they’ve given us – so it’s not a big deal in my opinion.
As for the story (the meat of any visual novel), it’s a good one. It’s filled with little twists, left turns, clues, tidbits, and emotion… everything you need to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. While I didn’t start into it with the intention of finishing it in two days, that’s exactly what happened and it wasn’t because I was pushing myself or it was overly short. Once you get past the introduction and realize that something big is going on here, the hook digs in and you’re on the line right ’til the end.
Speaking of the end, while there are a few “variables” present in the main story there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of multiple endings; Lost: Memories isn’t built to be as far branching as Code: Embryo was and is instead meant to solidify the story and draw you the big picture. As such, it’s quite possible to get the platinum in one 15-20 hour playthrough… though you won’t technically have played all the content as there are multiple side stories included (and coming as DLC).
I’d really suggest you check out those side stories I mentioned, as they offer some laughs and an additional short look at characters we didn’t get to see as much of this time ’round. Though the stock unlockable ones aren’t really relevant to the main story and are just for laughs, the Sechs DLC available at launch will include a little backstory that I believe to be quite relevant if canon.
Now to the final verdict; while it’s certainly not often that you see a story expanded in such a way that it enhances the original experience, XBlaze Lost: Memories has done just that. The storyline is well woven into the original, the new characters grow on you quickly while the old ones are up to familiar tricks, and the entire presentation is both unique and entertaining right to the last moment.
While the first XBlaze title is a solid introduction, this one is clearly what they were setting the stage for – and frankly I recommend you experience the whole wonderful thing.