Believe me when I say that the name “Klonoa” is one I’ve heard around the internet plenty of times over the years. A bonafide cult classic among those my age or older who happened upon the original titles from the late ’90s. An attempt at the ever-popular mascot platformer era of gaming that didn’t quite stick, but didn’t quite disappear, either. I imagine the announcement of this remastered collection had a certain niche of gamers very excited.
If you’ve been around this particular blog for a while, it would be easy to guess that this was, at least on the surface, adjusted to my tastes. Platformers are my comfort games, having grown up playing approximately seven-million Nintendo titles. An opportunity to understand why this series was so beloved made this an easy purchase… after a sale. Regardless, how much magic is there to this “dreamy” platformer series?
“KLONOA is a 3D side-scrolling action game series whose first title was released by Namco in 1997. Set in a unique universe populated by a range of original characters, the game follows the hero, Klonoa, as he sets off on a journey to save the world.
Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the first title in the series, we are pleased to announce the release of the KLONOA Phantasy Reverie Series, a remastered title combining both KLONOA: Door to Phantomile and KLONOA 2: Lunatea’s Veil! “
Some might be wondering, “Cop-o-dock-o, how are you going to review a game that’s just two games in one?” My response? “Carefully.” My actual response? It’s not too complicated—these two games are fairly similar in structure, so it’s almost like reviewing the same game, except not.
There was some initial desire to split this review up into two categories, one concerning the first game and the other the second. However, as stated, there are a lot of similarities between the two that makes it feel somewhat redundant. Hopefully I can manage to just talk about the first game at length, then skeeter into the second game without much fluff.
In the years leading up to my playing this, all I’ve heard is very vague praise concerning the Klonoa franchise. People have said this series deserves to be revived, but I rarely hear of why, exactly. Gameplay? Story? …Nostalgic blindness? I hoped to keep a mindset of identifying what about these games held many hostage with its charms.
How about the story? Admittedly, for this review I had to look up the story off of a wiki, because I could not for the life of me remember the plot of the first game. That probably says more than the story itself. Very child-like—though to its credit, there are some attempts at making more of surface-level developments to accentuate sentimentality. Characters have clear bonds with one another and wish for each other’s well-being. The ending is not exactly the happiest of conclusions.
What really hurts it is that it’s incredibly fast-paced. There is very little time to breathe with this story, constantly favoring action over solidification. Granted, how it communicates the story is similar to how, say, Sonic Adventure 2 displays its story, often with cutscenes interspersed between levels or just before them. With this in mind, it’s hard—at least as an adult—to take things past face value. I can imagine myself being a lot more immersed in this if I were eleven, but alas…
There’s a feature to this game where one can speed of dialogue and cutscenes. This is lovely, except that it also skips dialogue if you keep fast-forwarding. Is it that hard to speed things up without also skipping dialogue? That seems like basic visual novel stuff. Certainly a major game company can work out a way to do even that.
Fortunately, the second game’s story is slightly better (I can actually remember it). Klonoa is summoned to an unfamiliar world by mysterious means. He then comes across denizens of said world that aid him in trying to discover answers to his situation. Along the way, they are tasked with collecting some crystallized energy macguffins so that some evil woman doesn’t collect them first in an attempt to rule the world or whatever. While I remember it, that doesn’t mean it weighed much.
As a clear joke, I told my little brother that the second game’s story is “dumb and not worth paying attention to.” He replied by saying, “Klonoa fans would kill you for saying that.” So, at least per the words of my little brother, fans of the game are really enamored with the narrative. Sure, while it does a little more than the first to develop the character cast and includes some twists near the end, it’s still not exactly revolutionary. Looking at the whole, it’s about 80% “collect things to stop someone from ruling the world.” Great.
Of course, it’s entirely possible I’m discrediting some true emotional soul deeply embedded into these stories. A focus on introspective emotions and bonds made with the people around you are a nice basis. Only the way it’s presented through these games is, for the most part, rudimentary. Again, this would probably be a lot more impactful for me if I were eleven. I am almost thrice that age.
Oh, wow, nearly 800 words in and haven’t even touched the gameplay. Let’s get a move on, then.
What initially surprised me with the way the game plays is that it’s an almost rigid 2D experience. For whatever reason, I expected it to be more of a 3D adventure. In actuality, in lieu of the growing buzz created by the aforementioned Nintendo classic, it doesn’t do too much outside of the 2D space—it’d probably be more appropriate to call it 2.5D. Basically, it plays more like Mega Man than Mario.
For the better part of content available in both the first and second game, one is tasked with going from the end of one level to the other. Along the way, they’ll be tasked with platforming challenges, the occasional puzzle, some opportunity for secret collecting, and action. As each game continues, though more particularly in the second, the levels will become more expansive and offer various difficult, precise gimmicks for the player to overcome. Bosses are a common occurrence, as well.
What sets Klonoa apart from most others is his manipulation of enemy combatants. Using this ring module he possesses, he can grab hold of enemies and use them to his needs—higher jumps, throwing them at others, among others. Klonoa can also do a short flutter that keeps him airborne for a short time, just in case you need to readjust your landing. This base set of moves will make up most of what you’ll do in these games.
Let me be very clear: if you watch a trailer for this and think, “That is exactly the type of game I love,” I would recommend this. But if there is even a slight sense of doubt looming, such as, “Oh, I’m not sure this gameplay loop will keep me engaged for that long,” you have reason to doubt.
This is what Klonoa is: You run left and right, grab some enemies to get to higher places—all the while listening to Klonoa go “YAHOO” every time—and collect some stuff. While not literally all you do in these games, this is most of what one will go through. The speed in which you traverse each level is not especially quick, either. Especially in the second game, levels can exceed ten, fifteen, sometimes twenty minutes. This is including trying for all collectibles, which I did, but I digress.
At its best, the games are a satisfying variety of platforming and puzzle-solving. Many boss fights are pathetically easy and the more straightforward levels tend to become repetitive. Near the end of both games, I was more playing to finish them than to see how they conclude. My favorite stages were often late-game gauntlets of creative problem-solving where the player has to think about the environment and their own capabilities in creative ways. I do wish there were more of those.
Unfortunately, a lot of both games are kind of like going through the motions of a very structured process. If you like this particular process, it feels more excusable to play through. Yet there are often limits to how fun one playstyle can be. It’s more fun than it isn’t, and the 2D platforming structure is one I do like to some degree. The major complaints I have, outside of what’s already been said of the story and speed-up feature, are the pacing of stages and a lack of variety.
One thing I won’t badger much is the art direction. These games, at least stylistically, look pretty rad. I’ve always really liked the design of Klonoa, which helped accrue interest in trying out the series. Many of the differing environments of stages also provide a decent level of immersion in these fantasy worlds.
Again, more prevalently in the second game, there’s a deeper sense of the world at play that is expressed while in the levels themselves. Sweeping shots of the areas shown from above, as well as the effects of narrative context on the area are a neat touch. Going back to prior stages (not something I recall doing with the first game) with a different layer of challenge is more of what I would have liked to see in a more fleshed out game.
As a final unintentional middle finger to the games, I don’t remember a single thing about the soundtracks. I mostly just remember the sounds of Klonoa doing things or shouting. That, more than anything, haunts my memory in the audio department. Oh, and the strange Simlish/Animal Crossing language they speak in cutscenes.
Do I understand its worth as a cult classic? Certainly. Do I understand why it’s a cult classic and not just a classic? Without question. Klonoa, at least based on the quality of this remastered package, is about as passable as one can be. Further kudos can be provided to the second game, which does an adequate job of expanding upon the rather simplistic formula of the first, even if it doesn’t totally escape it.
If nothing else, it’s recommendable enough for people who like the particular genre it coats itself in. But that’s about it. Won’t kill me if it never comes back, but I wouldn’t mind playing more. For the right price, anyway.
Final Score: 6-6.5/10
Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is available to purchase via Steam, Nintendo Switch (link above), Xbox, and PlayStation.
The rating for these titles and most others can be found on GG|.
For more reviews on this topic, be sure to check out the associated archive.
If reading this compelled you to give me a dollar, feel free to tip me on Ko-fi.
Thank you for your time. Have a great rest of your day.