It’s games like Forgotton Anne that make me really glad that initiatives like Square Enix Collective exist.
For the uninitiated, Square Enix Collective is Square Enix’s ‘indie’ arm; it publishes a range of titles from otherwise unrepresented indie developers. There’ve been some great titles since the project started, but Forgotton Anne might be my favourite yet. Forgotton Anne is something really special.
Forgotton Anne places you in the shoes of the titular Anne, the Enforcer of the Forgotten Lands. Set in a realm where all forgotten items end up, it’s a magical tale where inanimate objects come to life. It’s Anne’s job to keep order across the Forgotten Lands, but she’s got her work cut out; a rebellion uprising is kicking off, throwing the realm into uncertainty. It’s a 2D puzzle-platformer at its core, but it’s in its visuals and storytelling where Forgotton Anne really shines.
Developed by Throughline Games, Forgotton Anne is the first title from the studio. You wouldn’t know from looking at it. The gorgeous artwork is at the forefront of the experience, and it’ll instantly grab you. Forgotton Anne has the look and feel of a 1990s Studio Ghibli animation; characters and environments are brought to life with an exquisite level of detail that’s rarely seen in video games from any studio. It’s a real treat to experience.
The narrative is fairly simple, but it’s beautifully delivered, thanks in part to a talented cast of voice actors. Anne, and every character she meets along her journey, is brought to life with an abundance of personality. The ‘forgotlings’ – the items that end up in the Forgotten Lands – will undoubtedly bring a smile to your face with their wide range of regional accents. Never before will you have enjoyed conversing with a scarf so much.
There’s a good balance between gameplay and storytelling throughout the game. But while the story feels constantly fresh and engaging, the gameplay sometimes outstays its welcome. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s clear that the game’s mechanics have always been secondary to its stellar visuals and storytelling. Forgotton Anne is a 2D platformer first and foremost. You’ll be expected to do a lot of environmental traversal by jumping across platforms. Anne’s got a few moves at her disposal: a regular jump, a running jump, and a wing-powered jump that can only be used when your anima – a source of power that Anne can control – is full. The trouble is, her moveset feels clunky. Your input is a little delayed, which makes timing those harder-to-reach jumps rather woeful.
It’s an unfortunate downside to Forgotton Anne’s animated movie-like visuals. Platform games should feel fluid and responsive, and the gameplay really suffers as a result. Thankfully, jumping through the environment isn’t all that Forgotton Anne is; the game also offers up a wealth of puzzles. You’ll make use of Anne’s anima power – which allows her to drain and charge electricity from certain items – in order to turn switches, open doors and otherwise pass from area to area. There’s nothing that will stump you for too long, and while there isn’t anything particularly remarkable, the puzzles are at least enjoyable to solve.
One to remember
Forgotton Anne’s gameplay, then, is fairly standard. But coupled with the gorgeous visuals and storytelling, it becomes something worth remembering. Forgotton Anne’s cutscenes make you feel like you’re watching an animated movie, and getting to watch the story unfold is reward enough for progressing through each segment of gameplay. The game kept me enthralled; even if missing the odd jump was a little frustrating.
I don’t want to spoil the story, as unravelling it is surely the draw of Forgotton Anne, but it’s sufficiently captivating without ever being too over the top; it really is the sort of narrative you can imagine playing out in a Ghibli film. Throughline Games really ought to be applauded; Forgotton Anne is something rather special. If this is the calibre of the studio’s first game, I really can’t wait to see what else it comes up with.