Imperishable Memories

And so, we end Gay Wrath Month with Imperishable Memories, by Jennifer Raye. This was a game that I actually helped kickstart and you can find the name I go by in the credits. Though I’ve put off playing it for years, now was as good a time as any to finally hop right in.

The most notable part of Imperishable Memories out of the gate is its art style, which is a bizarre collage of other styles. Marker and crayon drawings of characters trail along backgrounds constructed of simple 3D models, creating a distinct, diorama look. There’s this surreal fever dream feel to the whole thing, especially the cutscenes, with a few of them ambitiously going further with changing visual styles. The drawn parts of the game feels like stuff that you made in school when you were younger, brought together into a whole that I find fascinating.

It is also an art style that’s very befitting of Imperishable Memories‘ setting. The art style is consistent with the concept of Atherus, which reflects the memories and experiences of the protagonist, Roy. Among the goofy drawings are the darker experiences of his possessive, abusive behavior toward a girl named Mimi. Roy’s world, led by Thanatos, who is essentially if Roy drew an edgy self-insert of himself, have kidnapped Mimi to carry those experiences on. With supposed regrets toward his past behavior, Roy sets out to rescue Mimi from his world.

From a narrative standpoint, Imperishable Memories is an angsty story about a guy coming to terms with how harmful actions affect others and how you can’t simply walk away from the past. It’s easy for him to say that he’s moved on, but his world shows that he truly hasn’t. Thanatos is essentially a version of him that still believes in all this, no matter how much he says otherwise.

In fact, Roy’s quest, in a sense, perpetuates his behavior. At the start at least, his quest is all man pain – he feels more bad about how his actions reflect off of him rather than how those actions hurt Mimi. Mimi’s suffering becomes a quest for him to feel better about himself, a stereotypical straight “hero guy saves the princess” story without truly reconciling with the fact that he’s saving her from himself. Part of his quest involves him realizing that regardless of whether he’s possessive of her or not, he’s still putting himself first.

Waicluse, a woman he imagined that he projected his fantasies onto, makes a sincere effort to free Mimi from Thanatos. Much like Mimi, they both want to break away from Roy, creating their own narrative separate from him. As for him, by the end of the game, it feels ambiguous whether or not he’s truly repented for his past behavior; though, the credits suggests that he kept good on at least one promise.

If you just want to experience the story and aesthetics without seriously engaging in the shmup stuff, the game is accommodating of that. While there’s an Arcade Mode that lets you play in a traditional shmup structure with lives and such, the Story Mode allows you to skip around to whatever chapter you want and gives you unlimited lives for the game segments.

Playing Imperishable Memories, you move this marker boy around on a flying 3D disc, constantly firing at enemies. Gotta say, though: while the game’s aesthetics is befitting of the game’s setting and themes, they don’t carry a sense of intensity to the action, and I personally value game feel when it comes to these kinds of games a lot. I also have to admit that I found it kinda hard to tell where Roy’s hit box was.

Lack of intensity isn’t to say that the game is simple. In front of Roy is a crosshair, and if you try firing when an enemy is in the crosshair, Roy takes them hostage instead. They can either be used as a shield for enemies that deal contact damage (note: they do not block bullets) or you can toss them as one big piercing bullet to clear through a bunch of stuff. Alternatively, holding a few enemies changes bullet spreads, so preferably you’d want to keep them hostage, incentivizing you to keep away from contact damage. Mastering this skill to fight more efficiently is important if you want better scores. Overall, it’s a nice mechanic that adds a little bit of complexity to gameplay.

Imperishable Memories‘ music is one of those things where the soundtrack doesn’t particularly stand out to me, but it does a good job at conveying tone. The first stage starts with what feels like a typical energetic shmup tune – but there’s something just off about it. Progressing through the game, as the story advances, the music becomes more atmospheric and ominous. It feels like a perfect reflection of Roy’s story, in how it progressively becomes clear that he isn’t actually a hero.

Imperishable Memories is an interesting game. It does not feel like an intense shmup, but it trades intense game feel for an intense personal story that you don’t really expect from the genre. That said, it still makes for a fun – yet emotionally uncomfortable – experience, especially if you try pursuing arcade mode.

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