Today’s busy Nintendo Direct included one smaller announcement that took us by surprise: a remastering of niche classic, Another Code: Two Memories. It’s very welcome surprise, but a somewhat confusing one, given that Trace Memory (as it was called in the United States alone) is such a specifically Nintendo DS game.
Originally released in 2005, Another Code: Two Memories came out in Japan just two months after the December launch of the DS. This was during a golden era for bizarre, experimental gaming, as developers found themselves freed by the outright weirdness of the two-screened Nintendo handheld. Independent Japanese developers Cing were no exception, who with just a PS2 adventure called Glass Rose, on their resumé, burst out with this thoughtful, bizarre, and touching story that took advantage of the DS’s unique features.
In ACTM, you played as Ashley Robbins, the daugther of a couple who had worked on pioneering research regarding human memory. Ashley mysteriously receives a 14th birthday present from her father who was, until that point, missing and presumed dead. The message contained something called a DAS, a clamshell computer device, oddly prescient of the DSi (that wouldn’t come out for another four years), which contains a video recording from her father, saying he’s alive and on Blood Edward Island.
So yes, you head there, explore the island, make friends with a ghost boy called D, and attempt to solve the mystery of your missing parents. The result is an emotional tale that all takes place within a single day and subtly explores subjects like Alzheimer’s and the nature of memory.
Obviously, Nintendo re-releasing classic games in a remastered form is par for the course, so the reappearance of ACTM wasn’t what caused splutters of confusion in the Kotaku Slack this morning. Rather, it was how exactly this game could possibly play on a Nintendo Switch. To explain why, I’m going to have to spoil a couple of puzzles from a 20-year-old game that can’t possibly be in the new version.
There are two stand-out puzzles from Another Code, in amongst what I should probably point out are some pretty awful companions (the game has highs and lows, and some of those lows are sodding sliding tile puzzles). But the highs are so amazing that in 18 years, I’ve never forgotten them. The first involves reflections.
The game let you put two different images onto the two different screens of the DS, but gave you no further hints. It took a moment of sheer inspiration to wonder what might happen if you held the DS up, the screens at a right-angle, and looked to see what happens if one reflects in the other.
The second puzzle, and the one that most struck me at the time, required you tto get an impression of a woodprint on a piece of paper. You have this incomplete image, you have the wood carving, and you have ink. You can combine the latter two, and put them on the top screen. You can put the paper on the bottom screen. Have you solved the puzzle yet?
I remember being embarrassed to try it, even though I was in a room on my own at the time. How stupid would I feel if I just put my DS into sleep mode? But no, it really worked. I pressed the top image onto the bottom image, and when I opened it up, there it was—a completed imprint. It was magical.
It’s also completely impossible on a Switch.
This leaves us with the question: what are we going to get instead? The worst outcome would be some sort of botched “fix” of the puzzle, just having the cursor let you “use” one on the other, and one of the game’s few decent puzzles becoming entirely perfunctory. The best would be some brilliant new conceit that takes advantage of the Switch’s own suite of unique mechanical oddities.
Of course, the latter gets trickier given than Cing no longer exists. The company officially closed in 2010, after also releasing the excellent Hotel Dusk for DS, a few other interesting DS titles, and an Another Code sequel that never made it to the U.S. (We’re also getting an updated version of that, Another Code - R, which is wonderful news.) So, given this, and CEO Takuya Miyagawa not having worked on a game since 2016, we just don’t yet know how these remasters are being created.
Still though, Another Code Recollection is an excellent pun name, and we need to give credit for that immediately. We have, of course, reached out to Nintendo to ask questions about everything else.