Forgotton Anne (2018)
Developer: ThroughLine Games
First of all: no, I didn't make a typo, it is spelled "Forgotton". Even after playing through the full game I didn't understand why, until I did a little research. It was an artistic choice to fit with themes of the story, you can read more about it in the interview here. Anyway, trust me, you'll forget about this little spelling issue once you start the game. Forgotton Anne is a cinematic platformer in a fantasy world inhabited by forgotten things, or "forgotlings".
Forgotton Anne didn't pop on to my radar until recently when I happened to see it on the Nintendo E-shop sales page. The art style on the cover immediately caught my eye, and I think anyone can understand why. It gave me a combination of Studio Ghibli and Disney vibes. It's a style more reminiscent of animated films, not of any games I've seen, so that was enough to pull me in. The second thing I noticed about this game is that it's published by Square Enix, more specifically Square Enix Collective, an indie publisher that accepts pitches and puts them out to the community for a vote. It's clear that Forgotton Anne has a higher production value that many indies, but still an indie nonetheless.
Narrative-wise, Forgotten Anne very much feels like a Disney film, too. You play as Anne, a human living in a realm otherwise occupied by objects - teapots, televisions, feathers, scarves - who are now alive, walking and talking. They are in this world because they were forgotten in some way by the humans who owned them. Anne, also known as "the Enforcer", seems to hold quite a bit of power in this world and upholds the strict rules set out by Master Bonku, who seems to be the sole leader in the Realm. Early on, Anne learns that these objects have formed themselves a rebellion group and attacked several key locations, so she sets out to resolve the situation and enact justice. Very early in the game you are given important choices to make - choices that impact the later game, as the game notes from your very first choice "this action could have gone differently". I recently learned this Forgotten Anne does actually have alternate endings depending on the choices you make and actions you take (or don't take). It's rare for me to replay a game so soon after finishing it, but I'm very curious to see what ending could come of taking the opposite choices of what I originally did, so I'm already in my second playthrough.
Now, I don't want to ruin anything, but it was only within the first 15 minutes of Forgotten Anne that I began to ask myself, "Wait, am I the villain in this story?" Depending on how you respond to the series of events and the response Anne takes regarding them, you may or may not agree with that sentiment. There's not a lot to off of except tone and setting, but it starts the game off a little mysterious and dark, wondering if there's a different side to this story that you haven't heard yet. As you get closer to rebels and speak to Forgotlings on your path, that story starts to get put together piece by piece. I should mention this is "in essence" a no-combat game, but Anne does wield magical powers that are quite powerful nonetheless.
Voice acting in games can be a big hit or miss, and in my opinion, it's often safer to steer away from it. It doesn't necessarily make a game any better just by having it (I still have mixed feelings about voice acting in Breath of the Wild). However, Forgotten Anne is one of the few examples of stellar in-game voice acting that significantly improves the experience. There's actually a surprisingly large cast of characters, and each has their own tone and personality which is clearly communicated through the voice we hear. I especially enjoyed portions where Anne is simply walking by an area where forgotlings are speaking to each other and you overhear their conversation without actually seeing them in the frame, their voices growing softer as you walk further away. It's cool that some of this dialogue is non-essential and may get cut off but yet it's still there to add to the setting and immerse you in that moment.
The music in Forgotten Anne is powerful, orchestral, and again, very cinematic. It changes and fluctuates smoothly with the story progression and with your location. It's also the type soundtrack that doesn't spoil much about the game by listening it to it beforehand, you can check it out on Spotify here.
As far as platformers go, the movement in this game feels much more human. It does feel slow at first, waiting for Anne to recover from a sprint before she can run again or to pull herself up on to the next platform. Despite this, Forgotten Anne is mechanically interesting and enjoyable through Anne's magical/technological powers. Depending on whether you have "anima" stored or not (essentially an energy source), Anne can control lights, machinery, and even use her mechanical wings to reach much higher locations. You'll often switch between being in the foreground and in the background, since the game allows for the setting and movement to be 3-dimensional at times.
Forgotten Anne stands apart for its all-around quality, its story is fanastical and silly at first, but reveals some darker themes reflecting our own society's relationship to both our environment and to those with less power. As a fan of 2D animation, especially in a hand-drawn, Ghibli-esque style, I'd be first in line if ever a Forgotton Anne movie was released. However, I believe the choice to make a game like this was innovative and I'd love to see more like it, either in this universe or about something different. This game is a slower-paced, no-combat platformer with a rich story that involves some heavy, thought-invoking decision-making. I'd especially recommend it to fans of fantasy and 2D animation, it's not an intense challenge or fast-paced, but still provides challenge in it's magic-based puzzles.
Forgotton Anne is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and App Store.
Played on: Nintendo Switch
Playtime: 8 hrs
How I heard about this game: Nintendo E-shop Sale