Bring it Back | Remember Me
Part two of our double dose of Bring it Back features gives us another Capcom franchise with lots of potential. After Asura’s Wrath, we now take a look at Dontnod Entertainment’s Remember Me. Dontnod is mostly known for their successful Life is Strange franchise, but their first project has a very different story behind it. While it’s unlikely, we still want to take the time to look back at this story.
Back in 2008, several game developers from various studios formed French studio Dontnod Entertainment. The team began working on a game with Sony Interactive Entertainment, a roleplaying game by the name of Adrift. This game put players in a world that was suffering from the after effects of global warming; a flooded world where travel was handled via jetskis and wakeboards. Water was a much more central theme of the game, even apparently being a part of combat. While the setting was originally a coastal city, over time, the team shifted directions to a plot focusing on memories. This prompted the setting to change to a futuristic version of Paris, even though creative director Jean-Maxime Moris was opposed to making a game where their studio was founded.
With the new direction in place, development officially started on Adrift in 2010 to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Unfortunately, due to creative differences between Dontnod and Sony, and several budget cuts, Sony dropped the project. Dontnod was left to present their project to a new publisher. After presenting their game at Gamescom 2011, Capcom approached the team and expressed their own interest, purchasing the IP in 2012. Despite their interest, Capcom had Dontnod shift the game to an action-adventure title like the Devil May Cry franchise. This was likely a setback, but the funding from Capcom did allow Dontnod to continue working on the game, now known as Remember Me.
As Adrift became Remember Me, the shift in themes would change. The effects of pollution and climate change, the rise in social media, and the concept of memories as a physical construct would make for something that was grounded and relatable, yet still fantastic. Set in Neo-Paris in the year 2084, the game took science fiction and cyberpunk aesthetics to create a gritty yet wonderful setting. Art Directors Aleksi Briclot and Michel Koch really made a memorable look to this game, utilizing modern architecture with futuristic aesthetics for a gorgeous rendition of the City of Lights. They worked through thousands of pieces of concept art and used that to push themselves toward this vision.
The game would focus on its protagonist Nilin, a mixed woman of color that would be Dontnod’s first strong female lead character. This presented some problems, as marketing a mixed race woman for a game protagonist wasn’t easily accepted by publishers. Luckily, Capcom took interest, giving Dontnod a chance to bring Nilin to players around the world. Her story would start off with her as a wanted fugitive, with no memories and no clue who to trust. Eventually, she would take direction from a mysterious benefactor known as Edge, an “errorist” against a corporation called Memorize. Using a technology known as the Sensation Engine (or Sensen), Memorize gave consumers access to their brain interface via a device on the neck. This not only allowed for memory remixing, but also memory wiping, and even constructing new memories.
Edge would guide Nilin to recovering her memories while also enlisting her in the errorist movement to take down Memorize. Unbeknownst to Nilin, before she lost her memories, she was already an accomplished memory hunter. Evidently, her history goes even further back, revealing a huge plot point for the game that we won’t spoil here. Memorize being a powerful corporation, they wouldn’t be easy to stop. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t account for Nilin.
Combat in the game put a heavy focus on using combos. A unique aspect of the game was that players would unlock attacks known as Pressens by spending points dropped from enemies. The longer you kept an enemy in a combo, the more points you would earn. This would allow players to customize their attacks by stringing Pressens together into unique combos. Being a Capcom title, there was even a pre-order bonus that would give players Street Fighter Pressens. Eventually, Nilin could activate one of five S-Pressens, which gives her access to powerful abilities. Nilin would end up fighting mercenaries and a private police force known as S.A.B.R.E., all enlisted by Memorize. She would even occasionally fight off “Leapers,” those that suffered from Sensen addiction, disfiguring their bodies and minds.
Working with the memory theme, players would even be able to finish off foes by overloading their memories. In one case, she even takes a cue from Mega Man and steals a boss’s weapon. Another instance of the memory theme is entering a reconstruction of a memory to remix it. This allows players to enter a memory to solve puzzles, progressing the plot and even finding out new information. By rewinding through a memory, Nilin can make use of glitches to make alterations, changing the memory entirely.
Nilin could also access “Remembranes,” which lets her visualize memories before her in real-time. It’s like watching a video, even allowing for resetting the memory to catch a key detail. Some parts of the game would have Nilin steal memories to progress the gameplay. It can even be granted by someone willingly. On top of combat, the game also offers various platforming segments, reminiscent of games like Uncharted. This is necessary for some of the exploration to find collectibles and upgrades. It’s likely a far cry from the original RPG roots the game started with. Either way, I appreciated the game for everything it had to offer.
Part of the presentation was the score by game composer Olivier Deriviere. Using a full orchestra, Deriviere altered the music electronically to help match the tone and visual aesthetic. He also wanted to push the idea of confusion and realization in the music, especially using the main theme. Players would hear parts of the theme sprinkled throughout the game, but Nilin’s theme wouldn’t emerge until the end. It’s an interesting choice, but it makes sense in the grand scheme of the project.
Another element is the visual presentation. Obviously, Briclot and Koch’s art direction did wonders, but other pieces would help to complete the puzzle. Using Unreal Engine 3, the game would offer fantastic visuals in both characters and environments. The interface would also use a lot of white and black, representing nostalgia and old memories like photographs. There would also be sprinkles of orange to represent new memories, warm and inviting for the player. These colors would be present all throughout the game, not just through interactions, but even the environments and lighting. This of course was also necessary for Nilin’s design, giving her a lot of the same colors in her clothing.
What started with a handful of employees soon would turn to 100 strong during the development of Remember Me. The game would take five years to develop, going through several concepts and iterations throughout the process. Remember Me would eventually release in the summer of 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC to mixed reception. For every positive review came a more negative or mediocre one. Sadly, the game didn’t sell very well, and caused some financial trouble for the studio, almost moving toward bankruptcy. While Remember Me didn’t perform to Capcom’s expectations, it’s clear that Dontnod put a lot of passion into the project. The world is truly fantastic and while it’s not perfect, there’s a ton of potential. That’s why we think it deserves a second chance, and Capcom should Bring it Back!
Interestingly enough, a sequel was already in the works for Remember Me. While Nilin’s story could continue, it’s possible a sequel would’ve made use of a new character. Jean-Maxime Moris says that they’re ready to make the game, but it would be Capcom’s call. The team already wrote a story and they know what they would want to fix and adjust. Unfortunately, it seems that Capcom doesn’t want to take the risk. Perhaps this could change if the game gets a remaster for current gen systems? The game is still readily available on PC, and the visuals hold up really well. Unfortunately, the game was never part of the Xbox backward compatibility program, so none of the current Xbox platforms can play the game. It’s not even available with PlayStation Now, basically stuck in another generation.
Putting the original game on current consoles would be a good idea, especially the Nintendo Switch. Audiences are more inclusive than ever, and they would be much more accepting of a mixed ethnicity female protagonist. Capcom could make a small investment to make this happen, and the potential payoff could be big. With some new life, this franchise could come back and continue with Dontnod’s vision. Life is Strange is doing very well for them and continues to be a big franchise, but it would be great to see what Dontnod’s ideas for a sequel would be. Even just to have Nilin in a crossover fighter would be a good start.
I’ll always be thankful for Remember Me, because it introduced me to one of my favorite developers. I would love to sequel, and I’m sure there are others that recognize this game as a lost gem. Any of our readers agree? Let us know in the comments below if you would love to see this game get a revival. Also stay tuned for next week as we look back at another surprise game franchise in need of a comeback.