Forgotton Anne’s hand-drawn backgrounds and animations are beautiful. There’s no disputing that. And it’s easy to see the inspiration behind the style: anime greats like Sprited Away’s Studio Ghibli, and Tokyo Godfathers‘ Satoshi Kon.
Forgotton Anne’s art director, Anders Bierbelg Hald, told PC Gamer, “Ever since I started working as a digital background painter, I have been looking at the backgrounds of Studio Ghibli and Studio 4C, so a lot of my artistic education was through looking at how they solved visual challenges and then adapting that to a digital medium, and most of the time, a western environment.”
Further bringing the style to life are animators Debbie Ekberg and Sebastian Ljungdahl, who both studied animation in Tokyo under The Cat Return’s director Hiroyuki Morita and other animators active at the time.
The character animation lacks a buttery-smooth frame rate, but with purpose. The movement better emulates the painstakingly hand-drawn style of old-school anime.
Its cinematic animation style make it unique and charming, declaring what kind of experience can be expected off the bat. Forgotton Anne’s trailer even plays like a movie trailer, going so far as to start with the “in a world…” cliche.
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Forgotton Anne’s story premise is something to be expected of the whimsical, anime-inspired style, too, creating a cohesive aesthetic. Anne, the main character, is stuck in a mysterious place dubbed the Forgotten Lands with Master Boku, where objects long forgotten also inhabit.
These Forgotlings can be friends or foe to Anne and Master Boku, either as workers building an Ether Bridge back to the human realm, or as rebels rising up against something yet to be made clear – perhaps Anne and Master Boku’s escape. Anne is the Enforcer, tasked with keeping order, and Master Boku the mastermind behind the operation meant to get them home.
The world is fueled by a magical energy called anima, an energy Anne can manipulate with a device on her wrist, the Arca, to overcome obstacles in the 2D world.
Forgotton Anne is certainly beautiful, the story mystical, but how’s the gameplay?
True to the developer’s goals, Forgotton Anne is a seamless experience with no loading screens between the ever-important dialogue, and light platforming and puzzles, retaining the feel of an ongoing animated feature.
The puzzle solving didn’t require much thought or experimentation, nor did the platforming, but it broke up the dialogue enough to keep up the momentum. As I only have access to the first 20 minutes, I assume the puzzles’ difficulty will ramp in accordance with progression, and more items, like Anne’s wings, will be found that alter the platforming.
Regardless, as a narrative-heavy adventure game, it’s obvious Forgotton Anne’s bread-and-butter will be the weight of the choices the player makes. Even though domino-effect consequences didn’t reveal themselves in this short demo, my first major decision left me second-guessing myself, and questioning Anne’s assumedly good nature.
At the prompting of the tutorial, I used the Arca on an alleged fugitive red scarf Forgotling, only to watch it fall to an unceremonious heap on the floor accompanied with a “this outcome could have been different” memo.
I suppose I assumed Forgotton Anne would tell me beforehand if distilling a Forgotling’s anima was akin to using a gun on it, but it didn’t. And to my horror, Anne treated the lifeless husk in her home as just a mess to clean up later.
In a second playthrough, I realized the other choice – sparing the little red scarf – isn’t earned by choosing “correct” dialogue options, but, uniquely, by changing my actions during the gameplay.
Maybe the extreme consequence isn’t warned because, to Anne, it isn’t much of a consequence. Maybe the other Forgotlings treat Anne, the Enforcer, with such respect because she can and will erase them at will. Maybe the anima that fuels the building of the Ether Bridge back home, is actually sourced from unlucky Forgotlings that fail to attain a validation sticker.
But, I’m getting way, way ahead of myself. Forgotton Anne’s premise is easy enough to grasp, but it’s just mysterious enough to incite dozens of questions. I look forward to uncovering the truth of Forgotton Anne’s world.
Casey DeFreitas is an Associate Editor at IGN who pressures even non-anime fans into watching Your Name. Catch her on Twitter @ShinyCaseyD.