Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia
Nanami Kazuya has had the lifelong dream of becoming a professional soccer player. He worked towards this goal with dogged determination and just as it was almost within his reach it was cruelly snatched away from him by a stroke of bad luck. Faced with the prospect that he would probably never be able to play again, Kazuya sank into a suicidal depression. Forgotten Trace opens with Kazuya finding himself in a mysterious snow-covered forest where he meets a beautiful woman who seemingly knows him. After waking up from this encounter Kazuya chalks it up to just being a dream, but then events begin to happen that make him doubt his theory.
Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia is a visual novel by Almaz that has been published by Fruitbat Factory for western audiences. Although Kazuya is the protagonist of this first chapter, there is also a large cast of supporting characters who all get their own opportunity to shine. In fact, two of them have backstories that are arguably far more tragic than that of Kazuya, which makes it a bit hard to empathize with him. For example, his crush Ibuki is missing out on a lot of schoolwork due to a heart condition that sees her having to constantly go to the hospital. There she meets a girl named Madoka who lost her mother and became confined to a wheelchair due to a very tragic incident. Kazuya also has a womanizing friend named Rei who can’t resist adding more “sweets” to his collection despite dating the richest and most popular girl in school. Finally, there’s Miu who lives next door to Kazuya and clearly has a big crush on him.
One of the things that set Forgotten Trace apart from most other visual novels is that players get to experience the story from the viewpoints of almost all the characters involved, even the villains. To help players keep track of this the game even features a flowchart showing what new segments are available and how much of each character’s story has been seen. As new entries are unlocked players can select the order in which to play them, but apart from a handful of choices Forgotten Trace is basically a kinetic novel. Players will however have to go back and replay sections to make different choices to unlock 100% of the story, which in turn opens up a whole new side story, called Miu’s Sunday. It’s a pity that this side story can be so easily missed, though, as it features a completely different art style and a more lighthearted scenario compared to the main game.
In terms of story Forgotten Trace is a bit of a mixed bag. For the most part, it plays out like a slice of life novel albeit with some darker moments mixed in. The Steam store describes it as an all-ages visual novel, which is a bit strange as it features blood, swearing, some mild nudity, and references to things like suicide. The biggest issue with the story is that it feels like just to introduction to a much larger story. This is understandable as apparently there were two more chapters planned for the series, but rather worryingly the other two have yet to make an appearance. This fact alone makes it very hard for us to recommend Forgotten Trace as there is no guarantee that the story will ever receive a conclusion.
Visually, Forgotten Trace doesn’t look too bad and features a lot of different CGs. The character sprites also look fairly decent and the backgrounds, while limited, are detailed. Along with the usual CG and background viewer, players can also unlock additional illustrations from the game while playing. Unfortunately, the resolution is set at 1024×768, which means even in full-screen mode you get large black borders on either side. Even worse, playing this way seems to result in weird issues, such as flickering. This means the game has to be played in windowed mode, which is hardly ideal for players with high-resolution monitors.
Most of the spoken dialog in Forgotten Trace is voiced by Japanese voice actors, while the internal thoughts are silent. The music is decent, but for many songs, the tunes do not loop, which means everything just becomes quiet. The controls are standard visual novel fare, so players can either click through the dialog or set the text to auto.
Overall, Forgotten Trace features a lot of interesting elements, such as the mysterious suicides of people who, thanks to their medical conditions, should not have been able to take their lives at all. The slice of life drama also takes an unexpected turn into almost Highlander territory later in the game. Unfortunately, this is all overshadowed by the cliffhanger ending and uncertainty about further installments of the game. Sadly, some of the dialogs in this game are also a slog to get through and we found are attention drifting during scenes that dragged on needlessly. Being able to view certain scenes from multiple viewpoints is nice, but not when 90% of it is just a repeat of the same text.
Forgotten Trace: Thanatos in Nostalgia is not a bad visual novel, but due to the issues mentioned in this review it is one that is hard to recommend. There are so many other good visual novels currently available that there is no need to read one that might never get a proper conclusion. This will obviously change if the other three installments are released, but when that if or when that will happen is anyone’s guess.
- OS: Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 10
- Processor: Intel Pentium III 800MHz or higher
- Graphics: 1280×720 Display or higher
- DirectX: Version 9.0
- Storage: 2 GB available space
- Sound Card: DirectSound compatible sound card