Things I Like (TIL) #16: Omori
What is this? I’ve liked many things throughout the years. While some have fallen out of my attention, others remain firmly cemented in my memories and feelings. So, I’ve decided to start a mini-series where each week (hopefully), I pick something random that I like or have liked and discuss it, why I like it, and its impact on me. These things can be varied, and range from more trivial matters such as my favourite animal, to books, games, and movies I’ve liked, to topics that have shaped who I am as a person. The posts, accordingly, will vary in length. See my rating system here.
Introduction and Background
Omori is a game released in 2020 and a member of the “RPGMaker Psychological Horror” genre. It’s a game that deals with themes of friendship, family, loss, and coming of age. The gameplay makes full use of RPG mechanics with a special emotion-based battle system. However, the game is loaded with a heavy story as well.
You play as the titular character Omori and explore a vivid fantasy world full of friends, fun, and adventure. At the same time, darker elements begin to unravel as the plot begins to turn and you approach the truth about the world and why you’re in it.
I’m putting the TIL rating at the beginning this time, since the rest of this post is spoiler territory.
TIL rating: 3. I’m really glad one of my friends recommended this game to me (shout out to Ben). This game is charming, cute, scary, and heartstring-pulling all in one, and one of if not the outright best in its genre. I highly recommend it.
The rest of this post contains heavy spoilers for the entire game. This game is heavily story-driven and if you think you’re interested in playing it, turn back now. Don’t look up anything on the internet until play the game all the way through to the credits for the first time, lest you ruin your experience of the story. You have been warned.
I can’t really do a good job of explaining the story, so if you’d like to spoil the entire thing for yourself, watch this video which does a pretty good job of summarizing the main story. The rest of this post assumes knowledge of the story.
Linking HEADSPACE and REAL WORLD
One of my favorite things in this game is how HEADSPACE, the dream world, is linked to the real world. HEADSPACE is a construction by Sunny as an escape from his guilt and depression in reality, and many of the things Sunny loves are idealized in that world. The game is subtle about this, but after jumping between HEADSPACE and real world several times, you begin to notice that there are subtle connections between the two. For example, Sunny doesn’t like tofu, so TOFU items in HEADSPACE heal an abysmal amount of health. As another example, Sunny had a crush on Aubrey in real life, so in HEADSPACE Aubrey in return has a crush on his dream-world self Omori, representing Sunny’s desires. The music contributes as well, as areas that are related in the two worlds have similar leitmotifs, subtly underscoring their connection without explicitly stating it.
Show, Don’t Tell
This leads me to my next point. This game does a wonderful job of “show, don’t tell”, through building of anticipation and repetition. Players are given the space and time to make their theories, after which the game will reveal the truth. One early example was Mari’s relationship to Sunny/Omori. This is not explicitly stated until well into the prologue, after which the player has already observed that Mari has some special relationship to the group since she isn’t an active member of the party.
The most key contributor to this “show, don’t tell” aspect is the photo album. This item is central to the plot and portrays many of the cast’s happy memories together. It is the centerpiece of the conflict between Aubrey and Basil in the real world, and yet also allows the group to reconnect and make up after Mari’s photos are found and the album made complete. The game repeatedly presents you with opportunities to view the album and the photos’ commentary, reinforcing that these memories are precious to the cast.
It then takes that idea and puts it on its head, where during the “Truth” segment, Sunny must gather photos to build another darker album, showing how he committed his ultimate mistake.
Then finally, as Sunny learns to overcome his guilt, the game, during the Memory Lane segments, finally gives you playable control of the scenes portrayed in those precious memories, satisfying the players’ desire that’s probably lasted the whole game.
The feeling of melancholy and nostalgia, realizing that everything has changed, and no longer is everyone the idealized, youthful, innocent children they were in the past or Sunny’s idealized HEADSPACE, is enough to make my heart ache. Just walking around FARAWAY TOWN on the last day with all four members of the party, with See You Tomorrow playing in the background, was one of the most impactful moments of the game.
This game’s soundtrack, as mentioned above, is a key contributor to its narrative success. I found that while at first the tracks didn’t stick to my head much, after finishing the game some favorites definitely bubbled to the top. In keeping with tradition, I’ll rank my top 6 here.
6: Lost at a Sleepover / Here We Are, Together Again
These two tracks, playing in the dream world and real world respectively, are the space of Sunny’s best memories with his friends, playing in the treehouse. The dream world version, one of the first themes heard by the player, has a childlike innocence to it that is masterfully contrasted to the more mellowed, melancholy real world theme that is played later in the game.
5: Stardust Diving
All of the Otherworld themes are amazing, but this one has stuck in my mind the most. Otherworld is the point when the game truly opens up and hits its stride, and the player knows that they’re playing something truly special.
4: Where We Used to Play
This theme plays in the real world park. It’s a pleasant piano theme, but just beneath the surface you can sense a twinge of melancholy and nostalgia, as if you’re sitting at the park bench looking at younger children play, wondering where that time has gone for yourself.
3: See You Tomorrow
This theme’s atmosphere is perfect. It plays in the evening of the last real world segment, before the plot begins its acceleration to the climax. It’s Sunny’s last day in Faraway Town, and just oozes nostalgia.
2: Bready, Steady, Go
Okay, so this theme isn’t even mandatory to hear in the game’s main track. It belongs to the Unbread Twins, an optional boss in an optional area of HEADSPACE. But it slaps. So. Hard. I had a grin on my face the entire time I was fighting them because this theme was so good. Shoutout to the string solo at 0:42 and the drum break before the loop.
1: Final Duet
This sequence of the game is the climax of the entire plot, showing a flashback of the group’s fun times together and Mari’s death. After this, Sunny accepts his guilt in Mari’s death and is ready to move on and face his friends.
This was most impactful, because after finding out that the title theme of the game was the piece Mari and Sunny were meant to play together, and hearing separate piano-only (title screen) and violin-only (backstage scene) versions, I just knew the game would eventually give us a version with both siblings playing together, and boy did it pay off.