Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia Review – Great Foundation, Bad Execution

    Title: Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia
    Developer: Almaz
    Release Date: June 24, 2020
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Fruitbat Factory
    Genre: Visual Novel

A good premise can sometimes be just what a visual novel needs to grab the attention of the reader. However, sometimes that’s not enough to keep them interested. The Almaz-developed Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia is pretty much that with its striking visuals and strong foundation, but poor execution.

Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia introduces us to Nanami Kazuya in a dream-like world of snow. The pain in his knee that he’s grown accustomed to has somehow vanished as he makes his way through the field and finds a naked woman standing in the lake. Captivated by her beauty, he speaks to her only to be left with more questions as she kisses him.

This dream state that Kazuya finds himself in represents another dimension shared by others facing medical issues. Around town, people have been committing suicide who have pre-existing conditions, and somehow, that is tied to this snowy illusion. Sadly, the game fails to ultimately capitalize on this premise and instead forces the reader to endure long drawn out scenes that don’t do anything for the characters or the plot.

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Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia is played across a timeline that features multiple characters. The whole layout gets pretty messy, but by the end, you may have a good idea about what exactly is going on. Still, this is the first chapter of three visual novels, so don’t expect all your questions to be answered.

There are some excellent moments of storytelling here, but that would require you to be invested in these characters, which is extremely tough to do. The dialogue is presented in a way that feels like everyone is talking in circles, and then major plot points seem to just mentioned in passing.

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The gameplay is linear, with any interaction not affecting the narrative. The themes of death and suicide are touched upon many times, but it also goes into abuse and confronting your past. However, it gets to the point where the story doesn’t know how to handle the issues that it brings up as it unloads on the reader in waves. You have these really great moments of development all to be brought to a halt with an out of place joke or unnecessary scene.

I should note that there are some rather clever moments of writing that make it clear the developers are fans of the genre. Still, I just didn’t need that added layer of comedic interaction to get me to care about these characters. I would have preferred to play as Kazuya throughout the entire game and then unlock the side routes that showed a different perspective. The story tries this in some areas, but it comes off incredibly out of place and jarring.

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Given that the story might not hold your attention, the art illustrations end up making up for it. The character portraits and CGs add a lovely touch to the game’s appeal. Each character has a doujin anime design to them that adds a unique quality to the game’s presentation. However, the UI makes it tough to understand exactly who is talking or what is actually narration.

Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia has a few issues when it comes to playing in full screen. For some reason, the game just starts flashing lights, and I couldn’t figure out what was the cause of this, but it was exceptionally annoying. The sound of the game, in general, isn’t that memorable and will even hurt the game’s tone after a more impactful scene when an out-of-place song just randomly plays.

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Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia has a great first chapter that may be overly wordy, but sets up a gripping mystery. However, it almost immediately turns into a mess due to poor pacing and character building. The timeline feature works to a point but fails to really capitalize on the system, which ends up doing nothing for the narrative. Hopefully, the sequel delivers a more promising structure for these characters to grow in.

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

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.