There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about RPG Maker games–especially the horror ones–that make them incredibly memorable and impactful, and Pocket Mirror: GoldenerTraum is no exception. This is the definitive remaster of Pocket Mirror, which originally came out in 2016. Like its predecessors, such as The Witch’s House, its retro appearance belies a thoughtful and meaningful message. The execution of it can be hit or miss, depending on how open you are to indirect storytelling.
Pocket Mirror: GoldenerTraum follows the story of an amnesiac girl who wakes up in a bizarre castle. As she wanders through it in search of her name, she meets a plethora of strange and hostile girls and entities. All of them seem to know more about her than she does, though none are willing to explain anything. Through these encounters, the girl discovers more about herself, her past, and just how she came to be. The story very rarely spells things out for you. In fact, some endings and routes never unravel the mystery of the protagonist’s past. This adds to the overall replay value of the game, even if you’re not trying to get all the endings. However, it can make the game a bizarre and surreal experience.
The story starts to become clearer in Lisette and Enjel’s sections, which are in the latter half of the game. This means that, until you’re on your second playthrough, Fleta and Harpae’s areas can feel narratively weak. At just around three hours of playtime, there’s simply not enough time for all the characters and plot points to get as much development as they should. It really rewards players who explore all options and pay close attention to what’s going on. Emotional moments didn’t resonate with me personally, even when I knew the whole story. The protagonist’s reactions to the various girls at the end of their sections made me think I should be feeling something. But it could get so difficult to connect with anyone because I wasn’t always sure what something symbolized.
Even if the story doesn’t vibe with you, the aesthetic probably will. This game is one of the most visually pleasing games I’ve played in 2023. As a Sanrio fan, as well as a former Rozen Maiden and Puella Magi Madoka Magica girl, I really like the overall vibe of it. The cutesy art contrasts with the rampant violence in a super fun fashion. The sprites look amazing. The environments, which were already beautiful in 2016, are absolutely breathtaking in certain scenes. In particular, the moonlit corridor near the end of Harpae’s section sticks out in my mind. In your NG+ (which is new to Pocket Mirror: GoldenerTraum), you can talk to blue pumpkins to read some developer diaries about the remaster. Even though I never played the original, it was still interesting to read about the changes.
Pocket Mirror: GoldenerTraum is a beautiful blast to the past that hearkens back to the glory days of the indie RPG Maker scene. What makes it shine is in its cast of colorful characters and its heartwarming message. Though I commented that its vagueness is detrimental to emotionally connecting with the story, it does linger with you as you ponder upon its meaning. Video games are art, and Pocket Mirror: GoldenerTraum is one of those games that can prove it.