Nostalgia in spades
Few things make me feel as warm and fuzzy inside as classic video games. I could pop into the worlds of Final Fantasy VII or VIII at any moment and feel the swirls of nostalgia careening within. Heck, even revisiting games like Nier or Lost Odyssey – ones that have fond memories attached to them – is extremely enjoyable. There’s something to be said about that type of positive experience. When Anodyne 2: Return to Dust popped into my mailbox advertising itself as a PSOne/N64 and SNES inspired video game, I was on that as quickly as I could be. Obviously, the nostalgia imitation is good, but Anodyne 2 is so much more than that.
In Anodyne 2, you are Nova – a cleaner created with the purpose of ridding the world of Dust. Your two “moms” are the masters of the Center, which lies below the center of Cenote. Palisade is the loving, sweet, mother, while C Psalmist is a bit more aloof. Both provide Nova with advice for her journey, which they almost immediately set her out upon. As Nova journeys forth from the Center, she meets a slew of odd people and creatures that help her along the way, while attempting to clean the ill who have been infected with Dust. Nova’s quest is to gather Dust and cards to enhance the Center and expand its proximity, pushing back the pollution.
During exploration of the ‘overworld’, Nova and her surroundings mimic the visual fidelity of the PlayStation/Nintendo 64 era. It is faithfully and lovingly rendered and is an endearing love note to games long past. As you find those in need of cleaning, however, Nova shrinks herself to hop inside them, transporting her to a world that emulates Super Nintendo goodness. The combination makes for a fun little adventure that varies enough to keep you invested. While in the outerworld, Nova can explore, drive her buggy, and interact with the denizens of the world. There isn’t much action here outside of a rhythm mini-game you need to pass each time you begin a cleaning. This is okay; it allows the player to fully appreciate the experience of traversing Nova’s world.
While cleaning, Anodyne 2 becomes a retro-styled shooter. Nova can vacuum up enemies and objects to use as projectiles to defeat other enemies, and this works pretty well. Each area typically contains a boss enemy – a Dust Assassin – and a large Dust crystal to cleanse. The gameplay here is enjoyable, and the boss battles increase bit-by-bit in difficulty. In addition to battling Dust foes, Nova will need to explore these SNES worlds to find keys and unlock the source of Dust. In doing so, Nova learns the reasonings behind the actions of each ill individual. For example, Geof was found digging at the bottom of a village. As you clean through him, you learn he was the mayor of the village. The village crops were beginning to decay due to the dust, so Geof dedicated himself to digging away the corrupted soil. Unfortunately, this task drove away all of his loved ones, including his partner and their daughter.
And that brings me to the greatest aspect of Anodyne 2. The game features a number of emotional stories related to each of those corrupted by the Dust (which also works as a metaphor for the emotional distress people work through on a daily basis). It’s a personal tale that really touched home on a lot of things I could relate (and something I imagine most gamers can relate to). The bond between Nova and Palisade was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, and Nova’s journey into the Dust becomes complicated as she continues to venture forth. There’s a much deeper overarching narrative here, but it’s one I won’t expand upon to save you from spoilers.
Another terrific addition to the game is its subtle but brilliant soundtrack. It brings in heavy influences from the PSOne/N64/SNES eras while also pulling from classic sci-fi hymns that breeds an entirely unique experience – one I’m sure I won’t forget. Heck, the whole experience is unforgettable, and it’s worth every penny. Anodyne 2 is one of the very special indie games that deserves all of the praise and attention it will receive.