When I think back to my time with the spunky cyberpunk beat-em-up Anno: Mutationem, the first thing that comes to mind is that I wish they had included a pronunciation guide for that mouthful of a fake Latin title. . But the second thing that comes to mind is attitude. From the colorful, retro-chic art style to the endearing, ass-kicking protagonist, it’s a world with a strong sense of identity that knows from minute one what it wants to make you feel – even if the story therein told sometimes seems a little more lost.
The streets of futuristic Skopp City are where most of the action takes place: it’s a delightful sprawl of chrome and concrete filled with influences like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell. Its various neighborhoods each use color, sound, and small environmental details to create a textured world that manages to feel bright and welcoming despite its dark history. I had a lot of fun exploring its bars, shops and alleys, listening to random conversations and discovering unusual secrets. It’s not exactly a groundbreaking setting – although some Stranger Things-style quirks add a touch of spice to it – but it’s one I’d happily spend a lot more time in.
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When trouble arises on these streets, the capable and daring Ann Flores is ready to shoot, slash, and smash her way through hordes of thugs, robots, and mutants. The combat is responsive, well-paced, and in its best moments, the enemy’s battle design and flow reminded me of old-school Mega Man. There are plenty of interesting and challenging bosses and lieutenants to mash up, and the fact that you need to wear down their shields with slower heavy attacks to unlock powerful finishers, while dealing damage with light attacks faster, makes every piece more tactically interesting. than mashing a button in a health bar. The only kind of annoying thing is that there are a few too many encounters that rely on minions respawning endlessly for my liking. There are lots of ways to make a boss fight harder, and I just don’t like this one.
Ann’s progression as a professional ass kicker comes from two skill trees, where beating story bosses gives you currency to boost your base stats and beating normal enemies lets you unlock new moves . This ends up working really well, as you can’t really get too powerful for any given area, but earning a new heavy hit or improving your parry effectiveness gives you more tools to experiment and piece together. the right fighting style for tougher encounters.
Much of the main story takes place off the grid in long and varied dungeon crawls that create a sense of isolation and contrast nicely with running around town doing odd jobs. There’s always a hint that they’re part of a slowly unraveling mystery, but that didn’t stop me from feeling like I was being led by my nose with too little motivation. The locations you explore along the way, from a secret lab full of mutated plants to a hidden civilization of cyborgs, are truly interesting and blend into a richly detailed world. It just lacks a smoother flow between them to avoid it turning into a whirlwind tour that sometimes seems far less interested in why you’re discovering these places than in the places themselves.
The huge, colorful cast of characters represent both one of Anno’s most visible strengths and weaknesses. There’s limited voice acting, but where it does appear, it’s really well done. Especially Ann herself, voiced in English by the fantastic Suzie Yeung, who comes across as a confident and driven young woman trying to make sense of a mysterious and traumatic past. The written dialogue itself, however, isn’t as impressive. Often what’s being said doesn’t match the captions written on screen, and far too many conversations sounded like a rushed exposition that wasn’t presented in a very naturalistic way.
Sometimes Anno just throws too many new characters at you, often in unique cutscenes that won’t make sense until much later in the 20-hour story. While some of the reveals are really cool and I love how they put a weird, metaphysical twist on the cyberpunk genre, I felt like the plot was maybe a bit too complex for its own good. . It’s trying to do too much, with too many cast members not having enough time to grow or make an impact. What little I’ve seen of characters like Ann’s sarcastic sister Nakamura or moody cowboy Raymond made me want to get to know them better, but they just get mixed up on stage too quickly.
The only person you spend a lot of time with is Ann’s best friend, Ayane. Well, I love you girl, but you’re just a little too much sometimes. The bubbly, maniacal, aggressively gay sidekick following you in hologram form is an effective foil to Ann’s straightforward stoicism, but also reminds me of some of the overcaffeinated anime junkies I hung out with back in the day. college, and I often just wished I could tell him to tone it down a few notches. In her defense, she occasionally comes out of the stereotype alive with moments of emotional depth.