I'd heard of Winter Wolves before now and seen their games around, but until Always Remember Me, I had yet to play one. But they recently had a back-to-school 50% off sale, and one of my life rules is there's no better time to try something than when it's on sale, so I ended up choosing the game that I'd heard the most of.
Always Remember Me follows Amy (real name Amarantha, because why not), a girl whose life goes drastically wrong after she and her long-time boyfriend, Aaron, are hit by a drunk driver. Aaron develops amnesia from the accident and as a result no longer remembers the last few years of his life, including Amy. To make matters worse, Aaron's manipulative ex-girlfriend Abigail has managed to convince him that she's his girlfriend, and Aaron's father Osher encourages the deception, as he blames Amy for the accident and has never approved of her as a girlfriend for his son. But Amy has other options besides trying to make Aaron remember her, as there are lots of activities to serve as distractions and plenty of eligible bachelors in town...
The largest portion of the game is the life simulation part. Each day you can choose from several activities to perform, and outside of a part-time job five mornings a week and some scripted events here and there you pretty much have the freedom to choose whatever you want. Most activities affect morale and energy, and being low on those can make you more likely to fail at activities or have to take a break. Activities can also raise stats, and each stat is linked to one of the four guys you can romance: Aaron, Lawrence, Eddy, and Hugh. I really enjoy freedom of choice in games, and this one certainly has a lot of it, but since each guy only has one stat and you need that stat up to 99 to get his ending, the only way to complete the game is to grind certain activities for each guy. It can get repetitive after a while.
And since the biggest portion of the game is life simulation, the visual novel part feels a bit underused at times. Amy herself is well-developed, but the potential love interests in the game really only get characterization if you reach their scripted events, which requires the above-mentioned stat-raising in most cases. Aaron ends up with the most by virtue of being the guy you were dating in the backstory; the other three feel very unfamiliar. Without having seen most of those events, I don't have much to say about their characters simply because not much has been given to me, and I'm a bit hard pressed on why I'd want to go for another guy without knowing a bit more about them.
I admit, at first glance it sounded a bit callous to have so much focus on the multiple romance options you have in a game where your long-term boyfriend is in the hospital, but it's actually treated very realistically. Aaron's lack of memory is very hard on Amy, and with Abigail hindering her efforts to rekindle their relationship, it doesn't seem unreasonable that she would consider doing other things with her time. (On a side note, I do find it a bit confusing and irritating that Amy is explicitly told not to tell Aaron that she's his girlfriend, but Abigail does it and somehow it's completely okay. It seems unethical to me for a doctor to be knowingly participating in a lie like that, even if he thinks it would help the patient.) If you progress down an interest's path far enough, you're eventually made to make a decision between that interest and Aaron, and if you choose the new guy you're unable to interact with Aaron at all. There's also an ending where Amy doesn't get with any of the guys, but simply decides that one day she'll find the right person for her. It's sad, but it makes sense that Amy might eventually try to move on with her life.
The romance endings themselves aren't too bad, although they come very abruptly and with pretty much no transition. You do get the option, once you fulfill the normal ending requirements for a guy, to either stop there or continue for the special ending, which is convenient since it means you don't have to play through a guy's whole route again just for the extra ending. Again, though, transitions are nice. It's a bit jarring to go to sleep one night and then wake up pregnant and married, and I'd really like to see some more connectivity between the endings and the game.
I like the game as a whole pretty well, even if the characters feel so underdeveloped. I like being able to choose what to do with my day and how to raise my stats, even if completing a route means a lot of stat grinding. I wouldn't mind seeing a better balance of life sim and visual novel, as well as some more interesting characters, and supposedly the game will soon have a sequel, so maybe there will be improvement in these areas. What it already does well are the number of choices it gives to the player and the realistic treatment of a situation in which one member of a couple can't remember the other. All in all, I'm glad I picked this game up on the sale.
Also, gotta love broken heart icons.
Always Remember Me is available on Steam, the iTunes Store, Google Play, or directly from the developer.
Final verdict: The characters need more development, the grinding needs reduction, and the endings need more connection to the main story, but Always Remember Me still manages to impress with its colorful art, large amount of choices, and realistic portrayal of dealing with a lover's amnesia.
Always Remember Me is developed by Winter Wolves. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.