I was blown away the first time that I laid hands on the Ni No Kuni franchise. I admired the cel-shaded, anime style game that truly felt like something to be marveled at. Level-5 crafted a 3D adventure that felt like you were commanding the outcome of a traditional animated film.
When I was introduced to Forgotton Anne through a gameplay video, the same feeling of wonderment that I felt for Ni No Kuni came over me as the visuals danced on screen. The same tenderness, attention to detail and quality of animation seen in the Ni No Kuni franchise was now being wielded by ThroughLine Games in order to create that same feel in a 2D puzzle platformer.
After completing Forgotton Anne, I’m a little bit torn with the overall experience. While the visuals are nothing short of remarkable, there is a sense of polish, among a few other critiques, missing from the final product.
The story for Forgotton Anne opens almost like something you’d expect from a Pixar short. We are first introduced to the term “forgotling” through the journey of a disappearing sock, along with our main protagonist, Anne.
You will learn that in the realm where these forgotling’s, and Anne, exist isn’t necessarily the real world. It’s a world where all forgotten items go once they are lost. Single shoes, misplaced scarfs, and lost blankets all have a home in this land of the lost. And, unlike the real-world, these items have personalities, duties, and partake in the joys of inebriation. This world isn’t as dark or seedy as other underworld environments have been depicted in film or animation, though. Anne must still act as the “Enforcer” in order to keep order here along with her master, Bonku.
If it seems like there is a lot of story to digest in Forgotton Anne–you are absolutely correct. Much of the story is revealed as you continue Anne’s adventure, gravitating around many central themes. There are still new details unearthed throughout the game, even up until the last moments of the story. With that, the game really struggles to find its footing, delivering most of the breadth to the story in the latter third of the game.
The studio’s name sprung from the narrative concept of a through-line: the central idea that runs from the beginning to the end of a story.
Without revealing spoilers, Anne wields a device call the Arca. Within the device, Anne can hold a limited amount of anima, a source of power used throughout her world. This powered glove can distill characters, essentially stealing their anima on the spot.
The game introduces many decisions and outcomes on whether or not you choose to enact your power and on whom you use it. Conversation trees are two-sided, often weaving in some sort of comedic value to them. There are puzzle’s and exploration which call upon you to manipulate items with your Arca, creating some brilliant puzzle designs. It’s best to don your cap-o-patience, though. There are no skip buttons for conversation trees and the general pacing of the game is sometimes brutally slow. This is coupled with infrequent checkpoints. You are often left begging to see the save icon start spinning in the upper corner.
The game’s slowness is probably my biggest critique. Although I found it at times necessary to the story’s overall experience, I did find things like 15-second crawls on all fours through a tunnel to be quite tedious. At times, puzzles also suffer from this clunky, slow design, bringing frustrations during moments of attempting to decipher a given room or puzzle.
There’s no doubt that Forgotton Anne attempts to distract you from its faults with the many beautifully drawn landscapes and character models. The anime translation into a 2D platformer not only brought on emotion in many of the sweeping landscapes and detailed environments, but it really portrayed the beauty and art that can be found in video games. With an animated game boasting such finesse in the art style/direction, I was often distracted by some of the voice acting in the game.
Many of the characters are voiced with what seems like seasoned voice actors at the helm. However, in some cases, like one of a bar scene where many characters are interacting at a poker table, the conversation felt jumbled and the overall quality spotty. This was in contrast to the excellent performances of Anne, Fig, Bulb, and Magnum-some of the games most notable and best-voiced characters.
Forgotton Anne is undoubtedly a visually polished game, bringing a hand-drawn tale with emotion, adventure and memorable characters to the 2D puzzle platformer genre. However, its missteps are apparent in the game’s stability (crashing multiple times towards the last hours) and often clunky puzzle system.
I was expecting a little more from Forgotton Anne, particularly after how the trailer portrayed the game. Even with that, there’s a sense of beauty in it all. The puzzles, characters, and design will still manage to stir emotion in Anne’s experience despite the visible blemishes throughout your journey.