Also, potential spoiling warning here because I was bribed very well to do this and I think you should all see my payment!
MEMORY AND MEMENTOS
Now anyone who has seen a Doctor Who episode or Back to the Future is aware of all of this and BCM pretty much kicks this idea in the balls with Natsume’s little invention. The device uses ‘mementos’, which are sometimes negligible personal affects as a sort of waypoint for the traveler. This may seem like a cute little gimmick, and it very well may be, but this entire feature is about looking too deeply at this game and taking educated guesses at stuff that probably means nothing SO I’m going to say if it was just a cute little gimmick it was a completely unnecessary one. The standard time travel device is good enough since the method isn’t really the point: going back in time to stop a murder is the point. The Time Traveler (whose name constantly escapes me and the other nickname probably would’ve earned me scorn) could’ve just said, ‘Here’s the date your brother died Shuuki. Go back and save him and you’ll just owe me later’ like every other science fiction, time travel plot since the 1800s and the characters are good enough to carry it.
So then, what’s up with the mementos? A theory: ‘time’ in BCM is the collective flow of human memory rather than a fix construct. To irk fanboys, let’s just call this version of time the ‘life stream’…yes I am that much of a jerk. Using this idea, time travel is far more complicated because you just can’t jump back in the life stream to any given point. It has to be a determined point that can only be accessed through the traveler’s memory.
Okay, I can see some of your eyes glazing over so let me use an in-game example. In order to save Masaharu from a bloody fate, Shuuki needs an item connected to Masa that he came in contact with on the day of his murder. And even then it can be any item, but an item that has a heavy enough emotional weight attached to it for the device to connect to. And even even then, Shuuki’s time in the past is limited. Why? If time worked as time works in good old-fashioned reality, there shouldn’t be so many constraints to just go back to one date in the past.
The mechanics of the world are extraordinarily complex and while the demo was relatively easy on this front, it also made clear near the end that you’ll have to strategize with different mementos in order to correctly navigate the life stream and fulfill whatever objective is staring you in the face at the time. As much as I like the characters and story potential, special recognition should be given for mending such an interesting idea on how to play the game with its plot. Along with that, it’s a very good story mechanic because it allows you to give each character room to grow outside of the ‘normal’ timeline. It has the potential to be a very deep system with multiple ways to achieve your object from basic detective work to more…er…creative ways of creating mementos.
Shall we shoot this particular elephant in the room now? Yeah…let’s.
THE SCIENCE OF DEATH
I have been tip-toeing around this one for most of this feature, so let’s talk about it now. In a world where time is determined by the strengths of one’s emotions at one particular moment, it stands to reason that the feeling of seeing someone you love not just dead but gruesomely murdered has very few equals. The only task would be creating that scenario…in other words, killing as many bastards as you possibly could to allow you to move through time more simply. This is barbaric of course, but if you could ensure that death has no consequence…then it’s still pretty barbaric. But, it is a strong methodology for a scientific mind.
Allow me to explain.
Consider for a moment Masaharu’s case. The memento Shuuki uses to save him has little face value. Okay, I know I just said they ALL have little face value but this one was different. It was a to-do list that he presumably wrote on his own and left in his room. No strong emotions or any particular moment was attached to it before he was murdered. It was just another list in a long list of list he probably wrote in his life. It literally had zero meaning right up until the minute he died and it had a great deal of meaning…for Shuuki.
The list is literally the last thing Masa wrote before he died, which gives Shuuki a direct personal connection to it with all of the good and bad emotions that entails. THAT is was makes it work (again this is just a theory) and goes to show the shock of someone’s death is a more useful to form a point in the life stream useful to for breaking the barrier of time. And, ultimately, what did this useful bit of inform cost? Because of Shuuki’s actions Masaharu is alive and well: not remembering a second of his gruesome death. It’s the perfect experiment, isn’t it?
I’m not saying ANYONE introduced so far would think that way, I am saying that a scientific mind pushed far enough would. Because you’re not really killing anyone are you? It’s just an honest to goodness test that cause only momentary discomfort.
See, folks, what you need to understand me is that I love a good villain and in my lifetime I’ve plotted out a few good ones. What I’ve learned is that truly great villains will use any justification possible to convince themselves that they’re in the right. Whether it feels good to do it, or morality is on their side, or the ever-popular ‘I didn’t really hurt anyone’. And, while the scene of Masaharu’s death is graphic and tragic again as long as Shuuki succeeds, the serial killer really didn’t hurt anyone.
I believe I’ve created a paradox: a serial killer who doesn’t actually kill anyone.
To someone intelligent enough to pull off this particular murder spree, it’s gold. All they’re doing is an experiment and, thanks to Shuuki’s actions, no harm has come from it; only the knowledge of how to properly travel through the life stream. But you’d have to be a pretty desperate bastard to have this train of thought. We’re talking someone with serious issues who wants for their experiments to succeed so badly that this sort sick logic is an acceptable escape…and so far no one introduced fits that profile.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I can be a cheap bastard. Properly bribed, I can make myself provide content that even Game Informer would’ve stopped me a long time ago over. So as a result of this well-written feature, here’s my reward…Chiaki’s murder scene.
Keeping my outrage at a minimum this sets up a multitude of fronts for the full game. For starters it confirms what the demo hinted at in the end in that pretty much everyone is a target now and there is little Shuuki or anyone can do to actually stop their horrifying deaths. On just a story-writing level this will allow great development for Shuuki who not only has to try and prevent these crimes and find the murderer, but also has the unenviable task of remembering his friends and loved ones being ripped apart. Suffice to say, the snarky whore we have on our hands at the beginning of the game will not be what is left at the end and like another of my favorite protagonists this year, Booker Dewitt, it will be interesting to see what sacrifices he will find himself making by game’s end to make it all stop. Or, on the flip side of the coin, maybe he’ll find he has more in common with the predator rather than the prey?
Another more subtle factor in this little spoiler is a gameplay one. I mentioned earlier the importance the memento system and this small picture hints at its overall significance. The demo gives you an option of who to spend your time before the fecal matters hits the room ventilation device and clearly that will continue on as the game goes forward. It is reasonable to assume that the more time you spend with someone the better chance Shuuki has of finding, or even inadvertently forming, the memento that will save their life. It also opens up the possibility that there will be characters Shuuki won’t be able to save because of the time he spent with someone else. I doubt Cyanide Tea will follow through on this end, but it will make your choices much more costly…and presumably the pain a cut a little deeper.
Finally this spoiler pic shows me that family will play a much larger role in the game than sexuality. On the official forums and what not, Break Chance Memento is listed as a BL (Boys Love) game. However, I rarely mentioned that in this feature…outside of that whole thing of Shuuki’s night a love hotel…because overall it holds little stock in the actual plot. There is no denying most of the cast’s sexuality, but at the same time it isn’t presented as anything worth reader investment. I can say that comfortably because in both murder scenes, so far anyway, it’s a family member that finds the victims. Shuuki finds his brother and Chiaki’s Mother (I pretty sure that’s his Mom’s design anyway) is the one who finds him. I for one am interested in seeing where this goes…and even more interested in the inevitable backlash of the fangirls who expected this title to revolve around whomever Shuuki managers to lure into bed.
So those are my impressions for Break Chance Memento. I was, as you can probably tell, very impressed by the demo. The story caught me immediately, the characters all eventually grew on me and it looks and plays very well. I cannot wait for the full game to be available to us. In the meantime you can support the team by purchasing BCM related products here. And for news and updates as we get closer to Break Chance Memento’s official release, continue to follow this very website.