A titan of Japanese animation for decades, Ghibli is not only a legendary studio in the anime community, but a standard fans of the art medium measure new creations and styles against. Even in games, people can’t help but draw comparisons between an imaginative, thoughtfully made setting and the worlds of Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away, paying a game compliments or criticisms based on whether it illicit the same feelings as those films.
This can be intimidating for some creators, but for Throughline, it’s a clear and established strength.
Forgotten, But Not Lost
Set in a magical world known as The Forgotten Lands where all lost and forgotten objects wind up, the game follows Anne, a young woman who must keep order among its inhabitants. When a rebellion threatens to prevent her, her master and the world’s other inhabitants from ever returning to the real world and being found, she must set out to stop the movement’s leader and restore peace to her home.
It’s an interesting concept for a setting and story which the team has clearly put a lot of love into. From Anne to the world’s inhabitants, known as Forgotlings, every part of the world feels alive and expressive. Lost socks bounce across platforms and slink across the ground like slugs, while an old mannequin retains the spirit of a swordsman thanks to a discarded wig.
The art used for the world and its characters show clear inspiration from Studio Ghibli films, but never come away as a straight rip-offs. The emotive movements of the Forgotlings as they jump and run through the world, as well as the magic powered wings and technology Anne utilizes, would feel right at home in one of Ghibli’s film’s, and yet they fit in just as well in this new world all the same.
Though some animations can appear too stilted or static – especially in cutscenes, where some character models feel flat and nondescript compared to their in-game counterparts – other moments where the player takes on platforming segments feel smooth and fluid, with Anne gliding across chasms toward a nearby ladder or clinging to a train as her clothes flutter in the wind. Whereas the Ni No Kuni series brought the anime juggernaut into the 3D realm, this title encapsulates the magic and wonder of their 2D art style better than most could have hoped for.
Meanwhile, the colors and character designs elicit just the right amount of nostalgia for Ghibli classics without forcing to much of a comparison. The appearance of a nefarious, spindly armed man in a top hat brings back memories of the witch’s minions in Howle’s Moving Castle, but still feels like his own character and antagonist tolearn more about and be explored.
Hopes For A Newfound Adventure
Admittedly, the game still needs some polish and time to come into its own before it can really realize its potential. Yet, with the clear love and appreciation for the game’s inspirations on full display, it’s hard not to believe that Throughline will see their title through these dilemmas and deliver what could be a stand out title for fans of gaming and Ghibli alike.
For more imaginative gaming experiences which pay homage to other great works and creators, check out our thoughts on Blossom Tales, a charming Zelda-inspired action adventure title.