Review: The Art of Remember Me
It’s no surprise among the DualShockers staff that I’m waiting with bated breath for the release of Remember Me. My recent hands-on preview left me hopeful that the game will be a competent new entry in Capcom’s stable of games; I was also largely impressed by how many little details and thoughts went into the overall design and visual aesthetic. So when I got a chance to review The Art of Remember Me, written by DONTNOD Entertainment’s Remember Me art directors Aleksi Briclot and Michel Koch and creative director Jean-Max Moris, I was looking forward to being impressed. Thankfully, they didn’t let me down.
One thing that is apparent with The Art of Remember Me is how much passion the creators have poured into their upcoming game. Not just tons of minute ideas packaged into a larger piece, but a lot of love too. The Art of Remember Me starts off with your typical introductions by both of the art directors, giving you a little background information, and a little “nice to know” information. But the foreword by the creative director, Jean-Max Moris, is a heartfelt and humorous celebration of art, and clearly shows how appreciative Moris feels about his team, citing their collaborative effort as the foundation of Remember Me. They’ve truly built the game from the smallest detail up to the highest skyscraper, and the rest of the book reflects the effort they’ve made to make Remember Me memorable.
The Art of Remember Me is split into eight “Episodes,” with two bookend chapters before and after. These first two introduce “the near future,” of Neo-Paris in 2084 and Nilin, the game’s protagonist, while the last two include “Deleted Memories” and “Inside the Studio.” All of the “Episodes” in between serve their purpose in taking you behind the veil of the design of Remember Me, while the latter two chapters are sort of like the “Extras” featurette found on your latest bluray or DVD collection. One thing that remains consistent throughout is the amount of information that goes along with the art, which helps you understand the effort and thoughts put behind every single color and shade and form depicted in the game.
If you’ve heard any kind of coverage on Remember Me, you probably know that it exists in a world where a mega-coporation named Memorize have created and mass produced a “Sensation Engine” they call the Sensen. This enables the 99% of the population who use it to upload their memories onto the internet to be shared, downloaded, bought and sold, etc. This new form of social networking and social media has pretty much taken over society, allowing Memorize a high degree of control and surveillance; enough that a group of rebels named “the Errorists” are trying to take control back from the corporation. Nilin, a memory hunter who works for the corporation, begins the game with her memory stolen: the newest victim of her former employers. But with the help of the Errorists and their leader Edge, she sets about on a quest to regain her memory and help bring down Memorize before their grip on humanity gets even firmer.
Now if there was anything else you wanted to know about the actual world of Remember Me, The Art of Remember Me offers a ton of neat little anecdotes, especially based on the environments, characters, and technology of Neo-Paris.
The world of Neo-Paris, for example, could have been San Francisco, Sydney, or Neo-Tokyo (if it hadn’t been used several times already in other franchises), but DONTNOD settled on their home of Paris, because they realized that the only time their city gets depicted in movies is when the Eiffel Tower gets destroyed in just about every world-in-peril plot out there. Don’t expect the world of Remember Me to be a completely clean, sexy, neon-cool utopia either; with geopolitical and climatic changes brought on by the rising of the seas, whole neighborhoods were destroyed by dangerous tides, and new slums were created out of the ruins. Paris has been split into three districts, all with their own unique “flavor” and tone. “Deep-Paris” is composed of colorful slums and abandoned areas; “Mid-Paris” has the most recognizable architecture comparable to today’s Paris, with Haussman-era buildings topped off with futuristic plugs thrown in; and “High-Paris” is comprised of the luxurious, autonomous towers that make up the high-end Mnemopolis section.
More importantly is how DONTNOD decided to approach making their very own dystopia. They wanted to avoid the muddy, desaturated designs of most movies, and take a chance with balancing out dark, gritty realism with slightly stylized, colorful elements, like the aforementioned Deep-Paris district. The unexpected color and vibrancy of the slums doesn’t take away from the horrible reality of the poor and deprived, but it adds a sense of life and identity often neglected in most stories. The concept art of the environments also shows off the street art, stencil paintings and advertisements of Neo-Paris, with a few nice touches and nods to other futuristic stories (“Babes in the Shell/BitS,” for one). DONTNOD made a point to avoid the “same cold and overused superficial futures with the same fonts” and concentrate on organically evolving the visual design with classical influences.
The Art of Remember Me also includes a ton of character-specific pages, which include the Nilin chapter I mentioned above, the Errorists Nilin will align herself with during the course of the narrative, the memory hunters she will fight, and the CEO of Memorize herself, a woman named Scylla (who looks remarkably like Angela Bassett in some of the concept art, which I’m convinced is a nod to her role in the similarly-themed sci–fi memory movie Strange Days). Even ordinary citizens were given well-deserved attention, with each district’s inhabitants having specific designs and influences. The females of Mnemopolis, for example, weren’t given the typical space opera-like ornamentation and fancy clothes of some sci-fi stories, instead being given clothes that match the architecture, making use of plain surfaces, diagonals, and straight lines that visually link the citizens to their home and maintains a feeling of uniformity.
Some visual designs also tie into the game’s theme of memory. The Leapers, for example, are memory addicts who have sort of overdosed on Sensen, and have begun to lose themselves. Their health has degenerated their bodies, which can be seen most in their faded and grayed skin, an effect which is meant to represent an old photograph. The team actually researched rare skin diseases to exaggerate their effects and give the Leapers a creepy but legitimate look. This idea also ties into the main communication ports of the game which are black and white, and meant to look like old photos or memories. To balance this, the signature orange of the game is linked to memory, being warm and intense, and attention-grabbing. And these examples are just a few of the many things The Art of Remember Me has to offer, believe me.
It’s clear that there’s a lot going on under the hood of Remember Me: everything about The Art of Remember Me reflects this. In 186 pages of art, this book could easily just be a series of splash pages that distract you with pretty pictures until the end, but instead works as fantastic companion piece to the game. But if you like knowing as much as you can about the upcoming game, if you simply like sci-fi dystopias, or if you want inspiration on how to build your own world from scratch, check out The Art of Remember Me. You won’t be disappointed.