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Recollection Sidequest

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A variant of the Collection Sidequest particular to the Amnesiac Hero, where they don't recover all of their memories at once at the climax of the story (that would be The Reveal or even a Tomato in the Mirror), but rather must find small flashbacks scattered throughout the game world and puzzle them together to discover what happened to them. In other words, the collectables are story snippets — usually cutscene flashbacks, but sometimes it's just text or dialogue, or, on the other extreme, entire self-contained game levels.

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The big advantage of this approach to storytelling is that it allows the developers both to tell a strictly linear, tightly-scripted story and to give the player complete freedom of exploration — because all plot events have already happened in-universe, nothing the player does in gameplay can affect them, so there is no clash between plot and gameplay, and players are in full control of how often (and even in which order) they engage with the embedded plot.

A subtrope of both Collection Sidequest and Story Breadcrumbs. Because Tropes Are Flexible, examples where the player collects the memories of a non-playable character also count, as long as they are presented in a similar way. Compare Apocalyptic Log, which, in games, also rewards environment exploration with morsels of retroactive storytelling, though usually narrating the backstory of the world itself, rather than of the protagonist.

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Examples:

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    Action-Adventure 
  • At the start of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Link comes back to life (a hundred years after he had died fighting Ganon) with a massive case of retrograde amnesia. When the camera function on his Sheikah slate is restored, he finds some old pictures snapped by Princess Zelda herself shortly before Ganon's return, and is prompted to visit the places where they were taken. Doing so unlocks cinematic flashbacks of Zelda and Link's time together, allowing a glimpse into their relationship and the princess' personality. Finding all memories unlocks a secret post-credits epilogue scene with Link and Zelda.
  • Downplayed in Cave Story, where you play as the Amnesiac Hero and reconstruct his backstory as you complete the game — but you're just learning about it through dialogue with various NPC, and there are no flashbacks or other implications that he's regaining any memories from it.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood: A series of sidequests in the "Bonfires of Vanity" DLC has Ezio recover his suppressed memories of Christina, his former fiancee.
    • Assassin's Creed III: In the "Tyranny of King Washington" DLC, Connor can find various fragments which display events from the main game, in which he is the protagonist. It is implied in the DLC that being Trapped in Another World has messed with his memories.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • Project Altered Beast: The hero Luke gets amnesiac at the start of the story after the helicopter crash. As he collects more Genome Chips from certain bosses, assimilating them into his body makes him remember parts of his memories.

    Shooter Games 
  • Throughout Warframe you can find "cephalon fragments" and scan them to create entries in your codex containing not just information about the game's world but also containing a secret recording in which your ship's cephalon talks about his past that he has removed from his own memory.
  • Played With in Halo 3: ODST, which starts off with the Rookie roaming a semi-open world while looking for clues of what happened to his teammates in the six hours he was out cold, with each clue triggering a flashback sequence. The two unusual aspects are that the flashbacks are actually interactive, self-contained combat levels and that, somehow, the Rookie witnesses the flashbacks from his teammates' respective points of view (i.e. you play through other teammates' flashbacks).
  • Downplayed in Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion. Each level cleared awards a "mem cake", which is stated to be a physical manifestation of Agent 8's lost memories. However, there are no flashbacks; each cake simply has a poem attached that gives a glimpse into Eight's psyche.
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    RPG — Eastern 
  • In NieR: Automata, you unlock not the protagonists' memories, but those of Emil, a returning Non-Player Companion from NieR. Emil asks you to find Lunar Tear flowers scattered throughout the world, and doing so unlocks parts of his memories, revealing how he ended up in his current state after the events of the previous game.
  • Lost Odyssey has the "Thousand Years of Dreams". The immortal playable characters are all amnesiac at the start of the game, and seeing certain events or visiting certain locations will jog memories and unlock short stories about their pasts. Some are earned automatically as one progresses through the story, but the vast majority are optional.

    RPG — Western 
  • In Divinity: Original Sin, discovering your first Star Stone transports the Source Hunters to their Homestead, while additional Star Stones gradually unlock flashbacks about their past incarnations, revealing how intricately the two of them are tied to the Source. Towards the end of the game, this objective gets promoted from a side quest to a main one, as you need to find all Star Stones in the game world to discover the entrance to The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
    • Downplayed with the "side quest" to restore the Inquisitor's memories of how exactly they gained the Anchor, as it is the main objective early in the Fade section. Still, the formula is the same, as several snippets of this flashback are hidden out of order in different corners of the Fade level.
    • Late in the Jaws of Hakkon DLC, they do the same thing, except that the memories being collected are those of their predecessor, Inquisitor Ameridan.
  • Downplayed in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where a game-spanning Sidequest Sidestory lets you gradually recover the Awful Truth behind Adam's perfect compatibility with mechanical augmentations — some of which he has suppressed, but mostly just plain never knew.
  • Path of Exile:
    • The primary quest of the endgame involves collecting memory fragments of The Shaper, which tell the story of how he progressed from an ordinary man into a Reality Warper and his battle with The Elder for control of the Atlas of Worlds.
    • Cavas is a spirit who has forgotten almost everything, including his identity as High Templar Venarius. He asks the Exile to enter his memories, which manifest as small additions to the current map, and stabilize them.

    Visual Novel 
  • XBlaze: Lost Memories: The game centers on collecting pieces of the lost memories of "Me" and Nobody, who both forget their identities when they enter a strange dimension called the "Phantom Field". Whenever you collect a memory piece, a flashback scene will play, showing what happens to the cast of the previous game, Code Embryo.
  • This is a big part of the first Another Code game, as going through the mansion and triggering D's memories of his time alive is essential to getting not only the full story of the Edwards family, but also to unlock the good ending of the game.

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