Forgotton Anne Preview

A beautifully crafted fantasy realm

The Square Enix Collective is a fantastic platform for burgeoning indie developers to show off their talent in ways triple A titles just can’t. One of the games on show at this year’s EGX Rezzed in London was Forgotton Anne. Developed by Copenhagen-based ThroughLine Games, Forgotton Anne will be the first game to be released by the studio, who also developed the charming yet regrettably unreleased, Look at my Drawing, a game born out of the Nordic Game Jam 2015, taking 2nd place! If our first impressions of Forgotton Anne are anything to go by, it looks to be something just a little bit special.

The Forgotton Realm

Forgotton Anne wasn’t giving anything away in its brief demo on the show floor, but what was clear is the care and passion that has gone into crafting the game’s world. Forgotton Anne transports players to the Forgotton Realm. Ethereal, mysterious and fantastical, the Forgotton Realm is a plain of existence where all mislaid and forgotten items go – odd socks, discarded toys etc. – and are imbued with Anima, bringing them to life as Forgotlings. Almost like the magic carpet from Aladdin, these Forgotlings have their own personalities and purpose in the Forgotton Realm.

There are two other occupants of the Forgotton Realm living alongside the Forgotlings: Master Bonku, and Anne. Master Bonku is trying to find a way to liberate himself and Anne from the Forgotton Realm. Players take the role his enforcer, the eponymous Anne, who’s tasked with keeping the Forgotlings in line and fighting against the rebellion which threatens her and Master Bonku’s chances of freedom.

Being a place for all things forgotten by the world, Master Bonku and Anne’s presence in the Forgotton Realm carries with it some very heavy questions. Most pertinently, the painfully distressing reality of what it would take for a person to end up there and why.

Anime, art and design

Further drawing us into the world is the beautiful art style adopted by Forgotton Anne. Blues and greys highlight the dark areas of the Forgotton Realm with an other-worldly glow, whereas vivid reds and deep oranges make up the colour palette of the game’s brighter environments.

There is wonderful hand drawn quality to the characters and the ways in which they move through the Forgotton Realm, instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with the works of Studio Ghibli. The attention to detail on both character and environment is stunning, the handcrafted quality extends all the way from the foreground to the background and you would be forgiven for mistaking it for a Hayao Miyazaki film in passing. Invoking such comparisons is all well and good, but ThroughLine Games have succeeded in crafting a world entirely of their own creation. The care and attention poured into every detail, from the facial expressions and animations of Anne and Master Bonku, to the lighting and detailing of the environment, serve to make the game’s world one of a kind.

Alfred Nguyen, Creative Director for Forgotton Anne and CEO of ThrougLine Games, had the following to say on the game’s visual design:

“It came about through a collaboration with the team’s lead artists with the aim of immersing the player in a detailed world featuring a cinematic presentation inspired by a diverse range of movies and animated features. With Forgotton Anne, everything starts with story first, so the themes of the story are the connecting tissue.”

Another Studio Ghibli link that Forgotton Anne shares come from the games’ lead animator, and animator respectively. Both studied at the Tokyo College of Communication Art, with one of their tutors being Hiroyuki Morita; Morita directed the 2002 Ghibli movie The Cat Returns, as well as serving as an animator on several other Ghibli projects.

It’s not just the visuals that stand out for Forgotton Anne; the talent extends to every aspect of the game, further immersing players into this world. Sound plays a large role and the voice work lends to the distinctiveness of each of the characters that Anne will meet and interact with, which is important when dealing with talking scarfs and pillows who have no face with which to convey emotion. Behind all this is the wonderful orchestral score that is being composed in collaboration with the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, marking the first time orchestral music is being recorded in Denmark specifically for a video game.

A cinematic adventure

Dialogue options allow the player to play their own way; one interaction with a rebel scarf ended with the scarf being reduced to a pile of wool. We were told afterwards that things could have gone differently had we not been so suspicious of the scarf.

As for gameplay, Forgotton Anne is a 2D puzzle-platformer at heart. Exploring the Forgotton Realm, Anne has to navigate the world by running, jumping and climbing as well as dealing with environmental puzzles using the Arca Stone. The Arca Stone is a device for interacting with Anima, the energy source that powers the machinery in the Forgotton Realm. Anne is able to distill and instil Anima into creatures and machinery in order to solve puzzles and progress through the game. Transitioning from gameplay to cutscene is absolutely seamless, with the absence of loading screens or brief dips to black between the two states giving Forgotton Anne a unique, cinematic quality.

Currently set for release on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in late 2017, Forggotton Anne is most certainly on our radar, and we will be keeping abreast of the game’s progress.

– Dan P