I was first introduced to indie developer Mikomi Kisomi through her urban fantasy visual novel, That Which Binds Us. Its been a little over a year since that release and Mikomi Games, now re-branded as Crystal Game Works just released their newest title, Memories on the Shoreline—a supernatural romance. I’m a sucker for supernatural fantasy, and the prospect of dating a hot merman was just too good to pass up, so when Mikomi sent me a review copy of the game… I made time to play it.
Melody wanted a break from her stressful med classes— so when spring break came around, she dragged her best friend Shion with her to the beach. However, things don’t go quite so smoothly when they meet Brennan, a local fisherman, and Crylis… a mermaid?!
– Official Summary
The premise is simple, Melody and her best friend Shion are spending their spring break in sunny Florida, in hopes of getting some much needed down time before falling back into the academic grind. While there Melody meets a handsome fisherman named Brennan, who hints that all is not as it seems in the quiet beach-side town. Later that night, Melody discovers that sirens exist, when she encounters a runaway merman, Crylis. What should have been a normal relaxing vacation is soon made much more exciting with two handsome men vying for Melody’s affections.
Initially, Memories on the Shoreline reminded me a lot of the webtoon, Siren’s Lament—the softer art style, seaside setting, and of course the fact that one of the love interests is a merman/siren are all very similar to the comic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since despite there being a lot of supernatural fantasy otome games, not many focus on sirens or mermen, so I was definitely eager to see something different. I applaud Crystal Game Works for thinking outside the box with this premise, when you play as many games as I do you get tired of the same old same old. However, Memories on the Shoreline is a game that has a bit of an identity crisis, it’s billed as an urban fantasy romance, but there’s a distinct slice-of-life feel to the story that seems to eclipse some of the more supernatural elements of the game. It’s not a perfect marriage of the two genres, and it isn’t helped by the disjointed storytelling and writing.
The foundation of the story and the characters are there, but it just fails to live up to expectations, relying more on players familiar with the “usual” otome tropes to just accept or even overlook awkward plot points that are clearly there to facilitate the characters getting from point A to point B, without any regard for seamless storytelling. One of the most noteworthy instances of this is how the supernatural story elements are introduced. Melody meets Brennan, and the two spend the day flirting as he shows her around the town, and you can really feel a spark of romance between them. It starts getting late, but Melody wants to continue hanging out with Brennan, and she says as much, however Brennan refuses, explaining that the town isn’t safe after dark because “weird” things happen after sunset. But there is no prior indication that there is anything unusual about the town, there is just no lead up to this comment. It’s clear the writer of Memories of the Shoreline is intending for this moment to kickstart the plot so that Melody can have her fateful encounter with Crylis and learn of the existence of sirens… However, it makes no sense storywise for Brennan to be the one to introduce this story element, it would have made more sense for Melody to just go exploring the beach at night without any vague prompting from Brennan and then discover Crylis washed up on the beach and that being how she finds out about the supernatural world. And what’s worse is that’s not the only scene like that, there were several key moments in the game that just felt like a means to an end and not a part of a cohesive narrative, which is a shame because the premise would have allowed for some really interesting storytelling.
The characters follow much the same thread as the story, which again is a bit of a disappointment since there was the potential for some great personalities among the cast. Melody is a heroine with much more agency than most otome leads— she’s smart, outgoing, and not afraid to strike out on her own. When her travel buddy Shion decides she’d rather not go exploring, Melody goes out on her own to take in the sights. And she’s a pre med student, so she’s at least marginally intelligent. But, there was just something off about how easily she gets swept up in the events of the story. She’s just a bit too accepting of the fact that Mermen exist, I would have liked to see more shock… caution… something. In fact none of the characters react the way they should. Upon discovering sirens exist Shion gets fed up and leaves Melody alone with Brennan and Crylis—two complete strangers, one of which is a supernatural being of questionable origins. I would never leave my best friend with two strangers, I don’t care how ticked off I was and having Shion just ditch her friend with no explanation is just so fundamentally wrong. Honestly, that pretty much sums up Shion’s entire contribution to the plot… she’s there and then she just isn’t, and she doesn’t add anything meaningful to the story except for the occasional reigning in of the male love interests.
Speaking of the love interests, unlike That Which Binds Us, there were two male characters for Melody to romance and they’re okay. They’re not bad per se, just flawed and usually that works since the main focus of the story is helping them work through their issues. But, with Brennan and Crylis, I get the feeling that the devs had all these great ideas for the characters and rather than trimming the fat so to speak, they decided to keep everything from the original draft. Now, if Memories on the Shoreline was a much longer game maybe they could have pulled it all off, but it seems like they tried to cram a LOT of backstory into a very short runtime…
Brennan is a fisherman Melody meets by chance, a little flirty and goofy, but otherwise harmless. He’s a nice normal love interest that serves as a great contrast to siren, Crylis… at first. About midway through Brennan reveals that he’s a secret programmer with a hidden lair full of computers and tech stuff and that he’s laying low because he got on the wrong side of the law a few years ago… and I’m just like… wait… what? Where did this come from? I get it, this reveal is supposed to make Brennan more interesting, since he isn’t magical like Crylis (there was a moment when I thought he was actually going to be a siren too… but alas it was not to be) but, I don’t know, making him a fisherman/programmer just kind of seems unnecessary. I got the sense that Brennan was just supposed to be a normal guy, who like Melody unwittingly stumbles upon the supernatural world, not some super secret hacker with a mysterious past…
Crylis has the opposite problem, he’s a siren… a mythical creature, the premise on which this whole game is based on and he isn’t fleshed out at all! Everything we know about him and his kind is either completely glossed over or vaguely info dumped and then dismissed. There was so much potential for world building here and it’s squandered. I want to know more about sirens. I want to know more about Crylis’s past and why he is the only siren that can walk on land! But, every time the story get’s a little too close to exploring Crylis’s background the story just kind of wanders off to one of the many “fish out of water” scenes where the gang has to teach Crylis about some mundane aspect of human culture. There’s a scene where Crylis takes Melody to his home in the ocean and they’re attacked by the Sea King’s guards, but it goes nowhere. The incident is quickly forgotten and there is no threat of the king or anyone from the ocean, all sense of urgency or danger is lost and the plot just keeps chugging along. If you’re going to have a game about supernatural beings, go all in! Danger, Mystery, Action… anything! There’s even a big reveal about Crylis and his past and you think the story is going to explore it further, maybe give some resolution to all this build up but then the game just kind of ends. Nothing is solved, nothing is explained and I’m left wondering what was the point?!
The romance is a bit hit or miss. It’s cliche and a bit forced and like everything else very rushed. I was just not feeling the chemistry between the characters and a lot of that is due to how short the timeline of the game is, the whole thing takes place over the course of a weekend or week… it’s a bit unclear. So there really isn’t enough time to establish a tangible connection between Melody and the love interests, they just kind of end up together at the end because the plot dictates they should and not because it works from a story standpoint. However, on the flip side, I did feel that the bad ends were very realistic. This is probably one of the few times I’ll ever say I liked the bad ends more than the good endings.
The writing is… rough. It’s unfocused and a bit difficult to follow. The dialogue at times is clunky and very unnatural sounding, especially given these characters are in their late teens to early 20’s and yet they speak so formally. I’m not saying there needs to be outdated slang or anything like that, but the dialogue should feel like something a 20 something would say… and as a 20-something myself, I want to make it clear that I have never in my life used the word whilst in casual conversation. There were also quite a few typos and awkward phrases, but nothing a good bit of cleaning wouldn’t fix, however it is very noticeable and I found myself actively correcting the text in my head as I was playing.
Since I don’t want to end this review on a negative note, I will say that the art is gorgeous, it’s much more polished than the style used in That Which Binds Us. I’ve seen people criticizing the art, but honestly it’s one of the best things about Memories on the Shoreline. The character designs are well done (even if Brennan and Crylis look very similar) and I am in love with the warm colors of the backgrounds. It’s currently Fall/Winter where I live and the beachside setting of the game was a welcome escape from the gloomy grey weather I’ve had to contend with recently.
Right, so final thoughts… It’s clear that the Crystal Game Works put a lot of effort into making Memories on the Shoreline, and I don’t want to undermine all their hard work with this review. It’s not easy for me to sit here and point out all of the shortcomings of a game that I know the developers spent months crafting. I wan’t to stress that this isn’t a bad game, but it is very unpolished. Memories on the Shoreline feels like the first draft of what has the potential to be a phenomenal title. The premise is unique and Crystal Works Games has the foundation for something truly unique, it just needs to be reworked a bit more and given a bit more direction. Like I said at the start of this review, Memories on the Shoreline has a bit of an identity crisis, it tries to juggle too many conflicting elements at once and it’s to the game’s detriment.
I’m not completely writing this game off, since I do feel that the premise is really good and there are quite a few elements of the story I’d like to see explored more fully. Maybe in the near future the team can revisit Memories on the Shoreline and reevaluate concept. Despite my criticisms I do want to know more about the world and these characters and that says a lot about the viability of the developer’s work.
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