Review: Forgotton Anne (Switch)

More than memorable.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 11/23/2018 11:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Gorgeous graphics and animations; interesting world, story, and characters; brilliant soundtrack and voice acting; fun puzzle mechanics
Poison Mushroom for...
Some animations can be a little slow; jumping feels a little clunky in a few platforming sections

Not long ago, it was the ambition of most developers to make their games more “cinematic,” as though emulating film would somehow elevate the art of video games. While that trend isn’t nearly as prominent as it once was, some studios still apparently have that ambition, and at least one of them has proven incredibly successful. With Forgotton Anne, developer ThroughLine Games has taken obvious inspiration from Hayao Miyazaki’s work with Studio Ghibli, and maybe a pinch of Don Bluth, to create an astonishingly beautiful, side-scrolling adventure that is able to balance its visuals, gameplay, and story.

The game takes place in another world where lost items, forgotten by their owners, eventually wind up and become walking, talking, conscious creatures. However, while the world is primarily made up of shoes, bowling balls, blankets, and various household goods, two human beings forgotten by society have found their way here as well. One of them, an old man named Master Bonku, has become leader of this world as his genius has gifted the world with many technological advances and could even unlock the secrets to returning all the residents back to their original homes. The other is Anne, a young girl raised by Bonku and charged with keeping the peace so he can finish his vital work. When we take control of Anne, the world is already in turmoil as a group of rebels is trying to sabotage Bonku’s plans and she is charged with investigating their most recent attack. That mission leads her on a fantastic journey of discovery and choice that feels like it could have been an all-time classic animated movie were it a film.

While I won’t go into the beats of the story, rest assured it is constantly clever and creative, building up to interesting revelations and resulting in emotionally resonant endings. One key factor to the story’s success are the characters, of which there are dozens of varying levels of importance. But regardless of significance, each character is beautifully realized through spot-on writing and phenomenal voice acting. The main cast, which of course includes Bonku and Anne, receive the most development, but pretty much every single supporting character feels unique and memorable. Furthermore, the story moves seamlessly between tones; it’s hilarious when it wants to be funny and resonates deeply when it wants to be serious. And, coming in at between six and eight hours, it feels sufficiently epic without overstaying its welcome.

The game does feature multiple endings, however the more interesting variation comes in smaller moments spread throughout the game. You are often given a choice between two different dialogue options and while they often adhere to the popular binary of one being nice and the other being mean, you never really know if something will affect future events let alone how. Some games are much more obvious about events that affect the story, but Forgotton Anne gives you one warning at the beginning that some actions have consequences and then sends you on your way. Most of the time, these choices lead to small variations in events and dialogue, but they still feel interesting thanks to the solid characterization of even ancillary individuals. Also, there is one part where your past actions matter that feels quite reminiscent of a particularly memorable moment in Chrono Trigger.

Thankfully the gameplay you partake in throughout the adventure is also quite well executed. At its core, Forgotton Anne is a puzzle platformer built around only a few basic mechanics. The world runs on an energy called Anima, which powers not just the technology throughout the world but also gives life to the world’s inhabitants, and Anne caries a device capable of collecting, storing, and dispersing Anima. Most puzzles are designed around these abilities, as you must figure out how to use limited amounts of Anima to power the machines you need to manipulate in order to clear your path forward. Sometimes this means powering up certain switches, moving platforms, and opening locked doors. The overall number of interactions is actually fairly limited, though that’s not really a bad thing as the developers have done a good job of coming up with clever combinations of these challenges and the actual puzzles are spaced out well enough among moments of platforming, exploration, and story.

The only area where the game stumbles is in the platforming. For the vast majority of the game, running and jumping is fine, partially because the punishment for failure is generally just a lost bit of time. However, the game’s focus on detailed, weighty animations can actually make things feel a little imprecise at times and there are a few moments throughout the adventure where this can be frustrating. These animations result in a slightly slower, more deliberate pace that actually feels at odds with a handful of challenges that emphasize speed or precision. At worst, this results in having to repeat a few steps needed to move on, but it can still be annoying when the failure feels more like a result of the animations and you really want to move on to the next story beat.

Speaking of those animations, it’s worth noting that Forgotton Anne is incredibly, unassailably gorgeous. Every screen looks like a shot from a particularly beautiful cartoon and, despite being a side-scrolling game, it manages to look surprisingly cinematic thanks to how the camera pans back and forth and zooms in and out. There are occasional cut scenes that move the camera off of its usual axis, but I honestly couldn’t tell you if these moments are in-engine, pre-rendered, or hand-drawn, because they are almost completely seamless. Beyond the beautiful quality of the art itself, it’s worth noting the amount of detail poured into each environment and character model, because it all helps bring this wonderful, imaginative world to life.

The soundtrack helps Forgotton Anne achieve its cinematic ambitions just as much as the visuals. The music throughout the game is just about pitch perfect and phenomenally well-produced. Not only are the compositions fantastic, but they are brought to life with a full orchestra, which just further enhances the emotional impact of each piece. This means that when the game needs to sound big and epic, it does with great aplomb, but it also means that the music can just as easily settle down for smaller moments, whether they be comically quirky or emotionally impactful. And, of course, it bears repeating that the voice acting is about as close to perfect as you could hope for.

One potential risk that a developer runs when trying to create a cinematic experience is actually justifying their work’s existence as a game. In other words, sometimes you have to ask if your story would work better if it were actually just a movie. Forgotton Anne doesn’t have this problem. Being a game, it lets you soak in the world more as you spend seven or so hours with it rather than just an hour and a half or two. Furthermore, the actual gameplay is rewarding and only introduces the slightest of stumbles that are negligible compared to the agency and interactivity afforded by being a video game. In terms of gameplay, there are certainly titles that offer greater variety and complexity, but the beautiful visuals, fantastic soundtrack, compelling story and likable characters easily elevate Forgotton Anne to the level of being a truly excellent game.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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