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Gameplay-Guided Amnesia

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On TV, writers love clueless protagonists. They're an easy means to provide blatant exposition. Since they haven't the faintest idea of what's going on, in explaining things to them, the writer simultaneously explains things to the viewer.

Video games work much the same way. However, video games developers are faced with a problem. Giving the player a tutorial or providing them with exposition often entails providing the Player Character with information they already know. To get around this, developers will sometimes strike the player character with amnesia or memory loss. However, more often that not there will be no reasonable explanation for it. Expect lines such as "I shouldn't have to tell you this, but..." or "And just as a reminder..."

It can also result in a character being Overrated and Underleveled, if they're built up as being powerful and experienced but are really no stronger than any other player character.

Common in RPGs, although it's becoming a Discredited Trope these days.

Contrast Justified Tutorial. Also see Selective Memory, Tell Me Again, As You Know. For a more permanent version, see Amnesiac Hero.


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    Action-Adventure Games 
  • Happens in Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain after Kain awakens from a centuries-long coma. While his memory may be fuzzy his personality hasn't dulled, and he doesn't take too kindly to the offer of training ("Train me? Do you take me for a dog?") or information on the dangers he may face ("I care not for any dangers. They will fear me, do you hear?").
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link teaches the village children how to use a sword and slingshot as an excuse for teaching the player. The children seem to already know however, as they seem end up teaching Link.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: Link has to be retaught Epona's Song and the Song of Storms by other characters, even though he already learned them in his previous adventure.

    Adventure Games 
  • The tutorial in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney consists entirely of an NPC giving the player (controlling the titular, fully qualified attorney) a walkthrough of the legal system of the gameworld. In the first sequel, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All, though, the same procedure was justified with Phoenix suffering from amnesia due to injury.
    • In the first game, it's his very first time actually defending instead of merely observing or studying proceedings. And the second game has, well, an Easy Amnesia plot.
    • And in the third game, Trials and Tribulations, your first case has the aforementioned NPC being told the legal system by her actual mentor. Even though it's her second trial. Even though everyone was perfectly content to let her go tutorial-less in her first trial, which you get to play later.
      • This one's Handwaved - apparently said NPC stayed up all night watching court procedure videos before the first trial. Presumably, no such videos were watched in the second one.
      • And to be fair, she probably spent a lot of time preparing for her first case whereas her second case was a full year later, and she'd taken the case on only the night before. She hadn't even read all the relevant files.
    • Even though the fourth game opens with another rookie, it finally averts the trope by assuming Apollo knows how the system works but at the same time simply asks if he wants to go over a refresher of the basics before getting into the first cross-examination.
    • Similar to the Trials and Tribulations example, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth has the 4th case being Edgeworth's first time doing an investigation, but it's the first case in the game that acts as a tutorial. Just like in Apollo Justice, you can have the basics explained to you if you want and if you choose to do so, it is Edgeworth himself who explains the basics. It is justified since he tells Gumshoe how he does his investigations.
    • In Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, the tutorial in the first trial is hand waved as Phoenix suffering from jet lag as well as the English court system working differently from the American/Japanese court system Phoenix is used to (even though they're identical when you get to actual gameplay).
    • Many authors of Fan Games are opting to go with the Apollo Justice/Miles Edgeworth style of tutorial, because the players already know how to play. This and combined with the fact that there are many first cases of series running about.
      • Of note, Mia Fey: Ace Spirit Attorney does a pretty unique variation of the aversion: It's not Mia who's being taught but Maya (the co-council) who's being shown the ropes. Justified that Mia is bringing Maya to the defense bench for the first time in court. This serves to show how Maya already knew about the court proceedings come "Turnabout Sisters", and thus shows Phoenix what to do when he's stuck.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Xbox. By season three, when the game happened, she's already an accomplished Slayer. The training level happens as part of yet another training test done by the Watcher's Council. Which makes sense in context, as the Council is canonically known for not being in touch with reality.
    • And said level is All Just a Dream, too, so you could liken it to Buffy flashing back to an early session with Giles.

    Driving Games 
  • Justified in the original Driver, in which the main character must pull off a series of driving moves in a parking garage before the criminals will hire him.
    • Though you never actually need to use your newly mastered fancy parking skills in a game concerned with running from the cops across an entire city.

  • Mega Man Zero has Zero wake up with almost no memory of his past. Since he's been asleep for 100 years, this doesn't make much difference to the plot — the real point is to explain why the "legendary hero" has skill level 1 with his own sword. It also conveniently allows the X games to continue without affecting what Zero should remember later on. Zero 2 and 3 get better mileage out of the amnesia by "revealing" things that Zero was actually around for in the past.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Averted in Fallout. Depending on their stats, the PC may have to ask about things that are glaringly obvious to the player, like what a farmer is doing. However, a player with high intelligence and the right skills can not only tell right off the bat what the farmer is doing, but also suggest him ways to get a higher crop yield from his fields.
  • Fallout: New Vegas zig-zags this: Word of God holds that the Courier does not actually have amnesia despite being shot in the head. It can be assumed that the Courier is oblivious to many things because they are new to the region. Doc Mitchel commenting on various cognitive and motor functions is there for character creation. However, the Lonesome Road DLC establishes that the player character doesn't remember ever going to The Divide despite A: having been there, and B: having unwittingly delivered a package that nuked the entire place, which doesn't make sense without major memory loss. It also explicitly establishes that they are from the NCR, which raises the question of why they need to ask who the NCR is, and when taking a test to prove their NCR citizenship have to guess the answers.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII manages to reverse the trope; the tutorials feature Cloud explaining the game mechanics to NPCs, rather than vice-versa.
    • Final Fantasy VII spin-off game Crisis Core walks headlong into it, however, with 2nd Class SOLDIER Zack needing his friend Kunsel to teach him how to perform basic functions such as taking on missions. In a hidden cutscene Kunsel finally comments on how strange it is that a person who knows absolutely nothing about his job could hold the second-highest rank in the organization.
    • Final Fantasy VIII frames the tutorials mostly as Quistis, as a SeeD instructor, explaining the game mechanics to Squall, her student. Of course, since the game opens on the day of Squall's final exam, he should really know all of this stuff already. It becomes particularly egregious when she tells him, at the beginning of the first battle, how to use his weapon. And then shortly thereafter asks if he remembers how. In a disturbing justification, it's revealed that the mechanics of Summon Magic in the game often result in massive memory loss. One could assume that "You do know that, right?" type questions are a common means of detection for when this happens. Of course, Quistis is just as surprised to learn about the memory problem as everyone else...
  • Planescape: Torment has you literally starting off as an amnesiac, Waking Up at the Morgue with no memory of who or where you are.
  • Knights of the Old Republic:
    • In the first game we're not talking the protagonist not remembering anything like in Planescape: Torment, and there's actually little exposition that would require anything more than the situation that you see. At the very beginning, you can ask what the name of the ship you're on refers to, but even the exposition NPC will think that very odd.
    • Probably due to this trope's ubiquity, and since this was the case in the first game, some reviewers assumed that starting with amnesia would also be the case for the sequel. This prompted lead designer Chris Avellone to explicitly debunk the claim on the official forums, along with an admission that he "doesn't get how this keeps popping up."
  • Mario & Luigi games feature characters giving the Bros. refreshers on combat. The tutor character (usually Toadsworth) says something along the lines of "It's been a while since you last fought. Do you need a reminder on Action Commands?"
  • Mass Effect 2 tries to kind of avoid the trope, so instead of having lost all memories, Shepard gets killed within the first three minutes and then spends the next two years in a secret lab in which the body and brain are restored to their original status. While all memories are restored, you're still back at Level 1. Which makes sense, because you essentially got a whole new body and have been dead/in a coma for two years.
  • Strangely played in Riviera: The Promised Land, Ein, the hero Grim Angel is needed to be told how to fight. This can be quite justified since it's his first battle, but even though he get knocked out and lose his memory later on, he doesn't need any tutorial to help him reminding how to fight or use a Limit Break.
  • An odd variation occurs in Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song: the character Darque has Identity Amnesia; if recruited, he has a subplot where he slowly regains his memories. However, which memories he regains are based on which stats he develops — and with each memory regained, he also gains a free level in one of two different classes. This is because there's somebody else in there, meaning the player can engineer or prevent a Split-Personality Takeover.
  • Every Rune Factory protagonist so far, except for Aden and Sonja, has begun with a case of amnesia. Word of God has it that there is no deep meaning to this other than gameplay convenience.
  • Geralt begins The Witcher with amnesia after an attack, and the implication that he's Back from the Dead. This justifies exposition and eliminates the need for Geralt to know as much about himself as fans of the novels do.
    • Especially good since the game was out in English before the novels were.
  • At the beginning of The World Ends with You, Neku has to be taught the rules of the Reaper's Game by Shiki. This is later justified when it's revealed that his memories were his entry fee to get into the Game in the first place. Given that Kitanji has perfectly good reasons to want Neku erased, said fee including how to play the game makes perfect sense.

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • Part of the reason for the main character switch in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. There's only so many ways you can write "I shouldn't have to tell you this, of course."
    • Considering the fact that the main character is highly trained, if not necessarily experienced, they still had to figure out a new way to write that. And then, lampshaded at one point, when Raiden says, "I've completed over 300 missions in VR. I feel like some sort of legendary mercenary," to which Campbell replies "...okay, we'll skip that part."
    • In all the other Metal Gear games (including the Tanker chapter of 2, where you control Snake), someone explains the controls to Snake. Apparently he needs Otacon to tell him how to fire a gun.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • In Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, protagonist Nick Scryer takes an amnesia-inducing drug in order to infiltrate a terrorist organization, and gradually remembers how to use his many powers as the game progresses.
  • Second Sight has the whole plot revolving around John Vattic's amnesia and slowly remembering past events and relearning his Psychic Powers. Subverted with the twist that he's not remembering the past; the past is the present, and what we assume is the present for him is actually a vision of the future.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • The first few chapters of Advance Wars 2 and Dual Strike serves the function of the Justified Tutorial found in Advance Wars 1. To provide variety, the character 'teaching' and the character being 'taught' varies from level to level.
    • Though this can make seasoned commanders seem like idiots. Justified with a few of the characters like Max (hot-headed and doesn't rely on subtlety) and Andy (The Ditz). One of the more infamous bits in the first game is that, to justify explaining that you can build air units now, Andy has to ask "What's an airport?"
  • In Agarest Senki 2, after Weiss gets flung out of the gods territory, he gets a Laser-Guided Amnesia and thus forgets his skills. He then gets a tutorial from Aina and from the others. There's a good reason for that.
  • The protagonist of the first Disgaea game is out of shape after sleeping for 2 years, has lost all his power, and requires a recap on the basics of combat.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. uses this one to its full extent. It looks like the amnesia is merely gameplay guided. When the character finds out that they are Strelok, the man they thought they were out to kill, the justification is more like The Reveal.