In A.N.N.E, by Gamesbymo, you can choose to play as one of two robots: NO.25 (Number 25), a worker robot who is looking for his lost girlfriend who was captured; or as A.N.N.E, which makes NO.25 the robot captured. Using your robotic weapons, abilities and personal spaceship, you are tasked with rescuing either of them from the Federation space fleet.
I was given a demo of the game at PAX by the President of Gamesbymo, Moise Breton, someone who had originally worked on the Chrono Resurrection project — a Chrono Trigger remake project that was sent a cease and desist by Square Enix back in the early two-thousands. I had loved that project back in the day, so I was anxious to see what A.N.N.E had in store for me.
The demo begins with you navigating your spaceship through a meteor shower as you make your way down towards the planet. Unfortunately for you, the Federation is here with their own armada and are desperately stopping you from making your way there. A seemingly endless barrage of ships and meteors rain down upon you, but you can use the meteors against the enemies by using your ship’s tractor beam to fling them at the ships. It has a nice ‘physics game’ feel to the beam and the weight of the meteors feel good as you swing them around to build up momentum to launch them at foes. After a somewhat challenging mini-boss fight against a head Federation spaceship, you finally settle your ship down on a platform jutting out from a prison-like ship set against a brooding, lightning-filled sky.
It’s here that you immediately see your ‘robotic rescue target’ of choice in a cage dangling high-up and out of reach, and as soon as you move to recover your lost love, the cage begins moving to the right, following a mechanical track. Picking up a nearby gun on the ground, you follow them into the laser-filled rooms beyond, hoping to be able to rescue them in time before they get melted into scrap metal. As you enter the final room, just as it seems you are about to recover them from their cage, a robot that looks like the ‘big bad’ of the game slices the supports off the bottom of the cage and your counterpart holds on for dear life, dangling dangerously close to a monstrous shredding machine below them. Mr. Big Bad’s minion then shoots the floor out from under you and you fall out of the ship, down to the planet below — left to wonder the fate of your beloved.
After my playthrough of A.N.N.E, it was clear to me that this Metroidvania does a lot to make itself unique. Being able to explore both with your ship and on foot is something typically unheard of in this genre. Moise showed me that you can basically interchange between the two at any time during the game, often letting you move heavy objects and tackle other obstacles that requires the unique abilities that only your ship can offer.
There are obvious Cave Story inspirations in A.N.N.E, as well as other references to other fan-favorite games, such as R-type and Guardian Legend — which is another game that came out way back in the eighties for the NES that allowed you to get out of your ship and explore, but in a top-down format. It’s exciting to see the amount of dedication put into the gorgeous graphics and the chiptunes-style music that wrap together to create a fun, frantic, open world platformer with a big heart and even bigger aspirations.