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I've so far found two mementos, a Crystal Barrette and a Ragged Hood. Are these items used for any gameplay purpose, or like the statues, are they just used for narrative flavor?

Should I worry about going out of my way to explore and find them? Not that I don't explore obsessively anyway, but still, my collector's impulse compels me to make sure I'm not missing anything I may need later.

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Thought at first this question was asking about "Mentos"; was ready to respond with "Diet Coke" –  Steve V. Jul 16 '12 at 3:06
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

Most of the momentos, when shown to The Stranger or other characters, will trigger some specific dialogue revealing more about the backstory of the game. Some of them, however, create monster pets that you can interact with at the Bastion. These monster pets are useful much later on in the game, when...

...The Bastion comes under attack. There, the monster pets will help you to take out some of the enemies and make the fight much easier.

Other than these, I believe the only other noteworthy momento is the Ceramic Pot, which allows you to access one of the special fragment-farming dungeons (Who Knows Where).

As Shaun notes, you also get a vigil at the Memorial for collecting all 15 momentos, worth 1500 fragments. You don't really need to worry about having to look around for them, as all of them are usually in plain view or down a short sidepath not very far from the main road. If you do miss them, you can buy them later at the Lost & Found.

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Also: There's a vigil (in-game achievement) associated with collecting 15 momentos. As for worrying about going out of your way, the game makes them hard to miss. Any path that doesn't take you toward the end of the level is a short path. It's fairly easy to explore all of each level and collect everything it has to offer. –  Shaun Aug 24 '11 at 17:44
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