On the weekend of April 1st, myself and co-director of All Things Playstation, Sachi Weragoda, headed to EGX Rezzed. We were excited to learn what fantastic new indie games were on the way for 2017. As a hopelessly affectionate fan of all things anime, I couldn’t wait to head over to Forgotton Anne to see what I could learn. Speaking to Ingvi Steinn Steinsson Snaedal, Assistant Producer at Throughline Games, I learned a ton of exciting new information on Forgotton Anne.
To kick things off, I pointed out just how much Forgotton Anne stands out in a modern gaming world. Unlike many of its contemporary anime counterparts, Forgotton Anne takes a more pensive approach when presenting its world to you. It is tastefully delivered, sombre, charming and unforgettable. What delicious irony. Snaedal goes on to tell us a little about what players can expect from Anne’s story.
“You play as Anne. She grew up in this world called the Forgotten Lands. Which is a realm where anything that you’ve loved and lost and forgotten about is found. So an emotional attachment to the item in question imbues them with a force called anima which is the realm’s power source. It keeps the lights on and everyone alive. Master Bonku is Anne’s father figure and is the other human in this world. He’s working on building a bridge back to the human world.”
Surprised that we weren’t dealing with a game based on pure fantasy, I wanted to confirm that there is a typical “Earth” in the game’s lore. Snaedal goes on to clarify:
Yeah, and Master Bonku is working on this ether bridge which is the bridge between these two worlds. Of course, the life force of these Forgotlings, which is what the many animated characters are, is dependant on the emotional attachments to their previous owners so they want to go back home as well!
So at the beginning of the demo, there’s an explosion outside and an anima transfer pump has been blown up. So it’s dark, you wake up and this sets the scene as you start your journey to assess the damage and figure out what’s going on.
Starting the game with an explosion is a great way to capture the player’s attention from the outset. Yet, this is not a general rule for the game as a whole. Forgotton Anne delivers a story heavy experience which takes its time to build up to deeper, more adult subject matter. After stating that I felt Forgotton Anne looked Terry Pratchett and Eastern literature had a baby, I had to ask – what kind of things inspired the game. Snaedal’s response came as a bit of a surprise.
“What we’re trying to do is make something that mixes Eastern and Western. So we’re trying to build a surreal adventure that is similar to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labrynth. As events progress the story gets into some deeper and darker subject matter.”
So Who Is Forgotton Anne For?
Up until this point, Forgotton Anne invoked many Studio Ghibli images in my mind. This is the kind of stuff that gives me the warm fuzzy feeling of a classic children’s story with character. Visually, Forgotton Anne is indeed comparable. To learn that it would be handling its story and narrative in a Pan’s Labyrinth kind of way, came as a shock. The good kind, for me personally. What about everyone else, though?
“I would argue that anyone could pick this game up and enjoy it. Because it has this colourful and cartoonish look. It doesn’t feature any grotesque violence or anything like that so there’s no reason why children can’t play it. But the story is very intricate and it deals with some themes that I would argue; you would need to have an adult mindset to understand fully.”
This is great news as Forgotton Anne has a marketing duality. It can successfully deliver its story to both kids and adults. Hopefully it will, gaining the recognition it so clearly deserves. Of course, a game being fun and engrossing makes it deserving of such attention. But it also helps to know just how much work has gone into bringing a game like Forgotton Anne to life. Burning in my mind was a question that would stand as a good measure of this.
Exactly How Much Animation Work Has Been Done?
Cutscenes have obviously been hand drawn. Beautifully so. Suffice it to say, Forgotton Anne’s cutscenes are at such a high level of animation that I would have thought the trailers were for a high budget movie. Colours and environments look fantastic. What about the gameplay itself? I needed to know, with such a high bar now set, if characters during gameplay were completely hand animated. Or were they simply static characters animated into movement. Snaedal impressed me yet again.
Some of the more basic characters are animations that are moved artificially through the Unity system. Just some minor NPC characters that may not have limbs to move around. Anything bipedal like Anne or Master Bonku and any other characters with more intricate movements – they’re all hand animated.
Yet More Surprises Are Discovered When Discussing Gameplay
As a 2-D sidescroller brought to life with hand drawn animation, plenty of avenues for gameplay could be made possible. So far, Forgotton Anne is looking like a puzzle game. Yet, our experiences of it will be jazzed up by a heavy focus on storytelling and what Snaedal went on to explain left me with the impression that it will have a good sense of pacing, with no slowdown for the sake of figuring out a tough puzzle.
“So it’s an adventure platformer with a very strong focus on the story telling element and exploration. There’s not that much platforming that requires your reflexes, no timed platforming puzzles. There’s no fail state either. So you can’t die in this game. Any time you miss a jump, there’s always a way to get back up to where you were.”
No bottomless holes sounds great! This means we’ll not be suffering sudden black screens with “you died” written across them. Indeed, it seems Forgotton Anne’s delicate handling of delivering their fairytale world would be wasted on something like death. After Snaedal had painted this picture for me, I suggested that Forgotton Anne is like a giant poster. What we’re playing is simply a zoomed in picture of that poster. Snaedal agreed that this was a cool way to describe Forgotton Anne’s world. Still, when he corrected me, I learned there’s so much more to this game’s level design.
That’s a cool description . An interesting way to describe it. But it’s not a completely flat thing. There are ways to traverse into the foreground or into the background so you could say it’s a 3-D poster.
Forgotton Anne’s campaign will be roughly six hours long. Snaedal went on to explain there is a grind available for the players who are into that kind of thing. Completionists will be right at home with hidden areas, collectibles, branching dialoge and multiple endings for that hallowed replay value. Forgotton Anne is shaping up to be one of the most memorable indie experiences of 2017 and is expected closer to the end of the year. Special thanks go out to Snaedal for taking the time to talk in a busy games expo.