My Thoughts on Another Code Recollection

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Bowl-of-Lentils

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SPOILER WARNING! I Don't get into too many specifics but I do spoil some things about both games.

I’ve been a longtime fan of the adventure games developed by Cing, specifically the titles created by Rika Suzuki and Taisuke Kanasaki (even more specifically Hotel Dusk and Another Code R). So it was pretty heartbreaking when the studio closed in 2010 and the developers were scattered to the wind. Sure, titles like CHASE have been released in the time since then, which Taisuke Kanasaki worked on along with a few other CING alumni, but it seemed like the entire band would never truly get back together for a new song. So when Another Code Recollection was announced back in September 2023, I couldn’t have been more excited. Not only was a Cing franchise being resurrected but, as I would later find out, basically all of the key developers from the original games were returning to contribute to the title. Taisuke Kanasaki as art director, Rika Suzuki writing the story, Satoshi Okubo contributing to the soundtrack, and former Cing producer Takuya Miyagawa supervising the title. It really felt like the old band was coming back for another tour.

Now that I’ve finished both remakes in the collection, I’ve come away from the experience both happy and a little mixed on certain elements.

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First off, I think the remakes make a lot of small story changes that feel smart. An example of this is how Ashley’s bag was stolen by Matthew in the remake instead of a shadowy figure leaving the bus. This little change helped Ashley have a more tangible thief to pursue while also allowing Matthew to be introduced into the story far sooner. Both games are full of rewrites like this and the narrative in general just feels like it was given a fresh editing pass by the developers. I also particularly liked the addition of the origami notes that you can find in both games. They helped give Ashely’s father more of a presence in the story while also offering some fun information about his character.

However, out of both games, Another Code R saw the most changes to its story, with some of the characters being completely rewritten and redesigned into basically new people. R’s ending in particular sees some extensive changes. In fact, it was so wildly different from the original game that it kind of threw me for a loop at first but I think I ended up enjoying it overall. One change that didn’t really land with me, however, was how Matthew’s story arc was concluded. Another Code R on the Wii did not resolve the plot thread about the whereabouts of Matthew’s father. In interviews, Rika Suzuki stated that this was a mystery that would have been explored in a third game that was unfortunately never made due to the studio’s closure. However, the remake does its best to resolve this mystery within R itself, but I found it to be very unsatisfying.

Ashley and Matthew slowly develop a friendship over the course of the game, with Matthew’s role in the story mirroring D from the first game. However, during the remake’s final hours, every lingering mystery and plot thread surrounding Matthew is suddenly resolved so quickly it made my head spin. He confronts the trauma of his past, resolves all of his issues, finds out what happened to his dad, discovers he’s in a coma, and then finds out his dad has made a miraculous recovery in the span of what felt like 10 minutes. And then, before I could even digest what had just happened, Matthew walks off into the sunset and is never spoken to again. Even during the game’s epilogue, where Ashley says goodbye to everyone, you don’t get to say any final goodbyes to Matthew (unlike the original). It just felt weird to have the character brushed aside like that after he had played such an important role in the game up to that point. It would be like if D just disappeared from the story completely right before Ashley confronts Bill. Matthew’s story clearly needed more time to conclude cleanly but there just wasn’t enough room for it to breathe within the narrative space of Another Code R. I suppose the dev team didn't want to risk having his storyline remain unresolved for a future game that might not happen, which is understandable, but it was still pretty disappointing regardless.

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Back to something more positive, I thought the visuals in Recollection were really well done. The remakes clearly didn’t have a huge budget behind them, and you definitely see that in the low resolution textures and simple geometry of the backgrounds, but the character models are an obvious standout in the presentation. While I do miss the original’s 2000s-as-heck character designs (thinking of Tommy) and the slightly more realistic art-style, I think Taisuke Kanasaki and the team at Arc System Works did a good job reimagining the cast of the Another Code series. However, one aspect of the presentation that took a little bit of getting used to was the voice acting. After spending so many years imagining how each of these characters sounded, it was a bit jarring to actually hear them speak. Plus, there were some odd line deliveries here and there, like the performers didn’t really know what was happening in the game when they spoke their dialogue. One instance of this that stood out to me is an emotional scene where Ashley says D’s name in a deadpan tone of voice when she is supposed to be in tears offscreen. Also, whenever characters made random gasps or mouth sounds, the actors sounded like they were standing way too close to their mics, making the audio way too loud (which wasn’t a problem in the JP dub). However, over time I did grow to like the English dub and thought that Ashley’s actress (Kaitlyn Yott) actually did a fine job with the character, especially in how she slightly changed her performance between Ashley as a 13 year old and Ashley as a 16 year old. Cameron Macleod’s performance as the Captain and Bob was also a standout for me, who portrayed each character very well.

Gameplay was another element of Recollection that I felt a little mixed on. Besides some slightly stiff feeling movement and an incredibly slow camera (which you can thankfully adjust in the settings) I thought the gameplay was overall well done. Puzzles were often just complicated enough that I was able to chew on them for a bit but they were never overly complicated or cumbersome (although sometimes it felt like there were far fewer puzzles than there were in the originals). But I’m still not sure how I feel about how both games have been unified in terms of design. Part of the fun of Another Code as a series, even if it was only two games, was how each title was very specifically designed around its hardware. This is visualized in-game with the DAS and RAS originally designed to look like the DS and Wiimote respectively. The first game could be controlled completely with the DS’s touch screen and there were many puzzles that took advantage of the portable’s unique features, with one of the most memorable requiring the player to close their DS in order to solve it. This bled into the storytelling as well with these features being used to immerse the player into certain scenes, such as the ending of the first game where the player has to actually touch D’s hand with the touch screen instead of just watching it happen in a cutscene. Another Code R carried on this tradition with every aspect of the game being designed around the player using the Wiimote, from navigation to puzzle solving. Obviously some changes had to be made for the remakes since they are made for very different hardware but I was a bit disappointed that the developers didn’t try to take more advantage of the Switch’s unique features, instead opting to use the standard control scheme and puzzle design you often see in most modern 3D adventure games. And since both remakes are included in one package, it means that they both play and look pretty much the same. This is nice in some ways, the first game in particular received a nice glow-up in terms of presentation and both games are now more directly connected in terms of story. But it also means that both titles have become a lot more homogenized and many of the elements that made each of the originals so unique have kind of been lost.

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Despite the gripes I’ve shared about the remake, the collection overall was really fun to experience. Besides my issues with how Matthew’s ending was handled, I don’t think you could have realistically asked for better reimaginings of these games. As I played Recollection, I kept thinking about how surreal it was that I was even playing a new Another Code game. I was just amazed the game even existed at all, and that it was so polished in most regards. It seriously felt like someone made a game specifically aimed at me and I couldn’t have been happier. However, I feel like this remake should stand alongside the originals, rather than replace them, because there is still so much that made those original games special that isn’t represented in Recollection.

When Recollection was first announced, it made me think, “Nice! The franchise is back! Maybe now we’ll get a third game if this is successful.” That may still happen but, as I thought about it, I realized that these remakes felt less like the band coming back and more like the ghost of an old friend had paid me a visit to remind me of all the good memories we had together and to resolve any lingering regrets. The whole experience of playing Recollection gave me a surprising feeling of closure, like I was able to finally give Another Code a proper goodbye after it had died so suddenly with the closing of Cing. I don’t know if the Cing band is back to stay but I really appreciate them giving me the chance to revisit this song at least one more time in a new way.

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sparky_buzzsaw

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Neat. I didn't know these were being remade. And a great write-up too.