Another Code: Recollection Review – Sifting Through Memories

In 2005, during the early life of the Nintendo DS, the developer known as Cing brought a unique adventure to the handheld and did some inventive things with its iconic features. After a sequel launched on the Wii in 2009, the series has laid dormant aside from a few references to Nintendo, who were both games’ publishers. As someone who had never played either game around their release, they had always stuck out to me as interesting curios in their respective libraries, especially as someone who enjoys a good mystery.

Seeing Nintendo work with Arc System Works to bring the duology to the Switch for a new generation with Another Code: Recollection was a surprise to me and many others. This release remakes both Another Code: Two Memories (otherwise known as Trace Memory in America) and its sequel, Another Code R (which until now had only seen a release in Europe and Japan). The treatment these two titles have received is pretty staggering; everything from the visuals, music, gameplay, and even some portions of the story have been updated. But that questions whether these changes have altered too much and if something important has been lost.

Two Games, Two Stories: The Duality of Another Code

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Both games star Ashley Mizuki Robins, a young teen who in the first game receives a letter from her estranged father days before her fourteenth birthday. Her father asks her to come to Blood Edward Island to meet him for the first time in eleven years. Along with this letter, Ashley is given a strange device known as the DAS that reacts only to her biometrics and seems to have several unique features built into it. After meeting an amnesiac ghost boy named D in a graveyard, Mizuki must explore the mysterious Edward Mansion to discover just why her father called her to the island, as well as uncover the truth behind D’s lost memories and how they connect to the many tragedies of the Edward lineage.

In the second game, Another Code R, Ashley (now sixteen) visits Lake Juliet to meet with her father again. Her journey into Lake Juliet brings fragments of her memories rushing back as she recalls visiting the lake with her late mother as a child. Along with uncovering her memories, she helps a young boy named Matthew search for his missing father.

The vibes of both stories are very distinct, making them engaging for different reasons. Two Memories’ abandoned island setting leads to a sense of isolation and can even feel quite eerie as you explore shadowy halls and desolated bedrooms within the Edward Mansion. It is also decidedly more melancholy and somber, although not suffocatingly so; the friendly bond between Ashley and D brings about some moments of joy, and as the two of them spend a lot of time with one another, it’s very heartwarming seeing them interact and grow closer. But essentially, the atmosphere is laden with tragedy and regret, although this doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable. It’s paced very well, with each additional step into the mansion revealing further details of the Edward family. Despite them mostly only appearing as part of flashbacks, faded portraits, and letters, I found myself eager to find out just what happened to cause the island to lay abandoned for so many years.

 

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Another Code R feels very different from Two Memories, as it feels much more lighthearted, and the stakes are considerably lowered. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of tension, as the mystery surrounding Lake Juliet is an interesting one, but in the same breath, the mood is so relaxed and comfortable. Because of this, the pacing feels a little slower, too, as Another Code R takes its time and holds its cards to its chest for much of the runtime. It still teases you along effectively, though, and no story beat feels wasted as you learn more about the cast. There are a plethora of side characters in Another Code R that are all very likable as well, from the quirky agent John Smith to the wholesome and welcoming Bob Fox. While they don’t all have hidden depths, they complement the vibes of Another Code R and are very down-to-earth in their characterization.

Of course, speaking about characters, we need to talk about Ashley herself, as she’s easily one of the game’s highlights. In both games, she can be defined as a melancholic teen, although in Two Memories, she feels a lot more unsure of herself, while in Another Code R, she has a bit more of an attitude now that she has grown a little since the original game. There’s a good balance between showing her positives and flaws, as while she is good-natured, she often lets her emotions drive her perception of others. She’s one of the more grounded heroines in Nintendo’s history, but she deserves to sit up with the best of them.

Overall, I think that the narrative and characters of these two titles, despite being so distinct, complement each other very well. They lack a little in their emotional highs and lows but make up for it and still manage to engage the player with a good sense of atmosphere and amiable characters. By the time the story wrapped itself up, I couldn’t help but feel sad that it was all over.

Puzzling Memories: Unraveling the Mysteries of Another Code

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Mainly focusing on talking to NPCs, exploration, and puzzle solving, Another Code: Recollection’s gameplay is as soothingly sedate as its story. While gameplay styles differed slightly between the initial releases of both games, they are primarily brought together to feel like a cohesive whole. There’s not much of an opportunity in either game to stray from the beaten path, but Another Code R feels more open, with more space to run around. Even then, both games feel linear and more interested in sharing new story beats with you than anything else.

That said, origami cranes can be found hidden away in both games. Scanning each one with the DAS’ photo mode unlocks a journal entry from Ashley’s father for you to read, adding flavor to the already rich story. I had a lot of fun looking around for these, as it encouraged me to spend a little more time in each new location and take the sights in. There is a bit of an imbalance here, though, as Two Memories, despite being the shorter game, has many more of these cranes to find, with fourteen in total, while Another Code R only has nine. In the context of the game, it makes sense since the cranes can only be found in places that Ashley’s dad has visited before, so it wouldn’t make sense for them to be anywhere else. But I can’t help but wish that they had given the player a few more to seek out. Also, certain cranes are completely missable if you don’t spot them on your first playthrough, and there is no way to go back and pick them up, even after completing the game.

Similarly to the cranes, while there are a decent amount of puzzles in both games, I often wanted a few more. None of them are incredibly challenging either, although they aren’t insultingly easy either. I still enjoyed working them out, though; many have creative but realistic solutions. There are no giant leaps of logic here that are so common with mystery titles, just well-constructed brainteasers. The game uses the gyro functionality of the Switch for a few of these puzzles, too, and the controls for these moments work well, although I found it a lot easier to do these puzzles in handheld mode.

I think this game is perfect for handheld mode play as it’s just such a comfortable and cozy game. Switching between the two while playing on the big screen was still enjoyable; treating the game like a good mystery novel felt so much more natural. It’s the sort of game you can get lost in for hours, and it feels like this game was intended to be played the way it was intended to be played.

Visual Memory: The Aesthetics of Another Code

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I’m sure the visuals will divide some people who choose to play this game, and similarly, I find myself split on them. The character models are high-quality, although there’s a big difference in how well Ashley’s facial expressions are animated. The others are pretty basic, but the upgraded design helped make her a lovable protagonist. Many character designs have been redone, and to me, just about all of them are huge improvements.

Outside environments aren’t very visually impressive, though, and it’s easy to spot a lot of low poly models and blurry textures. These can be a bit distracting when you notice them, but they also lend something of a painterly feel to these areas. Regardless, though, it does feel like less work was done on these spots, and it can’t be denied that it’s a bit disappointing. Indoor locations are a little better off, especially within the Edward Mansion in Two Memories. Care and attention have gone into making some of the vintage decor look really nice, but this is still at odds with other portions of the game.

While the visuals themselves are a mixed bag, one place the game delivers is the music. The style of music here perfectly compliments the cozy gameplay, offering a synth and ambient accompaniment to the proceedings. Slower, more melancholic tones suit Two Memories well, and the lighthearted beats of Another Code R work just as well there. Not many tracks stand out; there’s just an overall high standard here. It’s the sort of soundtrack that would be great to listen to outside of the game itself.

Closing Thoughts: Is Another Code a Memory Worth Remembering?

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As a remake, much of Another Code: Recollection differs from the original DS and Wii releases to the point that some of the puzzles have been changed or removed entirely, meaning certain iconic moments are completely absent. Story elements have also been tweaked, although the core plot remains unchanged. It’s hard to say whether it is a total improvement as I believe the versions are so different that they stand apart and are both worthy. Fans of the original will either love or hate the changes here. Still, as someone less familiar with the series, I enjoyed the experience and discovering these games from a fresh perspective.

There isn’t much content here to justify the current price tag, but I would say it would be worth a look for a reduced price. What you get here is a solid story bolstered by some beautiful atmosphere and characters that are enjoyable to hang out with. I certainly wish there had been more puzzles, and the visuals could have used more polish. But what’s here is a pleasant experience from end to end. I can only hope that Nintendo continues this trend of unearthing some of the lesser-known adventures from its back catalog (honestly, a visit to Hotel Dusk would be very welcomed). Until then, Another Code: Recollection will be a pleasant memory to hold onto as we enter a new year for the Nintendo Switch.

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A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Another Code: Recollection (Switch)

Another Code: Recollection is an absorbing experience from start to finish, one that will keep mystery fans comfortably engaged thanks to it's relaxed atmosphere and enjoyable cast. Lacks a little special something, but it's got a lot of heart.

The Good

  • Comfortable Gameplay - The ideal game to play when you're in the mood to relax and just get lost in solving a mystery.
  • Engaging Story - Amiable characters and a focus on atmosphere make the story shine. The pacing is just about perfect and just wanted to keep playing to see what happens next.
  • Creative Puzzles - While not terribly challenging, the puzzles were wonderfully executed.
  • Entrancing Soundtrack - The vibes of the music match both parts of the game perfectly and are great to listen to outside of the game as well.

The Bad

  • Cheap Visuals - While character models look good, certain environments look like they're from several generations ago.
  • Lacks Value - For the current price, the twenty hour runtime is a bit lacking. You could do a lot worse, but you could do better too.
  • Largely Linear - I wish you could explore a little more, as it's genuinely fun to be in these locations. Origami cranes can only do so much.
  • Divisive Changes - While newcomers will likely enjoy themselves, those who played the originals might have difficulty accepting the omissions and changes.
7
Good