|Publisher:||Cyber Front, KID|
Visual novel fans are certainly familiar with Kindle Imagine Develop, or KID for short. Over their history, KID has published and ported many PC love adventures to consoles, but they are best known for their two flagship series: Infinity (which includes Never7 -The End of Infinity-, Ever17 -Out of Infinity-, and Remember11 -The Age of Infinity-) and the prolific Memories Off series with its main titles and various gaiden titles which have seen representation on multiple platforms such as PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, PC, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and WonderSwan Color. The main series includes Memories Off, Memories Off: 2nd, Memories Off: Omoide Ni Kawaru Kimi, Memories Off: Sorekara, Memories Off: Sorekara Again, and Memories Off #5: Togireta Film. The gaidens include Memories Off: Pure, Memories Off: Festa, and Memories Off: After Rain Vol. 1-3. There have been Memories Off remakes such as Memories Off Duet for PlayStation 2 that feature additional side stories as well. Memories Off has even spawned an anime OVA series and countless soundtrack and drama CDs.
With all that said, 2006 was a dark year for KID. Towards the end of that year, this fine company declared bankruptcy and with that, all hopes of their upcoming projects coming to fruition were dashed. Said projects were a new Infinity title (12Riven -The Psycliminal of Integral-) and a new Memories Off title (Memories Off #5: Encore.) 2007, however, brought about the resurrection of KID thanks to CyberFront buying the rights to KID's intellectual properties and producing the current game lineup. In plain language, this means that 12Riven and Memories Off #5: Encore are back on track and series fans can rejoice.
Despite the word "Encore" in this new Memories Off title, this is a new game and a follow-up to Memories Off #5: Togireta Film. It revisits the world and characters established in Togireta Film. The game takes place at Chihaya University, where you once again fill the shoes of Haruto Kawai, a 20 year old male student who is an active member of the school's film club (hence explaining the use of film terms in the Memories Off #5 titles). Making a return will be heroines Asuka Hina and Mahiro Sendou, Asuka being the more playful heroine and Mahiro being the more serious one. The game also introduces a new heroine named Akina Ichijo who appears to be a mysterious girl with a cool exterior and who is really into photography. Also making a return are Haruto's film club friends, such as Shuuji Ozu and Shin Inaho, the latter being a Memories Off stalwart character and ever the good pal to the lead character.
With only three heroines to focus on, the game promises to have compelling stories surrounding each of them. Prior Memories Off titles, save for the handheld ones, have usually featured 4-6 heroines. The downloadable trailer movie from KID's website promises that the game will have plenty of everything that Memories Off fans love: sweet romantic scenes, funny romantic hijinks, conversations with cute anime girls, humor in Japanese wordplay, multiple endings, and all that good stuff. The interface appears to be the classic Choose Your Own Adventure interface that genre fans are familiar with and love.
The graphic style appears to be the tried and true style that love adventurers will be familiar with. Detailed 2D anime character portraits are overlayed atop detailed location backdrops, and important plot points are punctuated by beautifully drawn cutscene still screens. The character designs and character art employ the style used in previous Memories Off titles, but have improved shading and detailing. In terms of sound, if the vocal number accompanying the game's trailer is any indication, the music for this game should be good. Takeshi Abo is back at the helm composing for the game with his synth based pop style. A downloadable sample of Asuka's character theme from KID's official website is quite lively with lots of layered instrumentation as well as layered melodies and countermelodies. The few voice clips in the trailer promise some solid voice work as well from seiyuu who have worked on Memories Off games before and are familiar with the series.
KID's official website projects a July 12, 2007 release date for Memories Off #5: Encore in Japan on the Playstation 2 console. No Memories Off titles have been released Stateside since Japanese love adventures are an esoteric niche genre in the US, so the chances of a US release of this title are slim to none. In addition, this game is a direct follow-up to Memories Off #5: Togireta Film, so it may not work very well as a standalone game. However, with US publishers like Hirameki exposing US gamers to Japanese love adventures (i.e. Hourglass of Summer) and having published English versions of some KID titles (the KID-published Ai Yori Aoshi and the KID-developed Ever17 -Out of Infinity-) there may be a glimmer of hope yet that a Memories Off game just may find its way out of Japan.