System: To change
Release date: July 8, 2022
Developer: monkey craft
Editor: bandai namco
Normally, when a game franchise fails to meet a publisher’s sales expectations, that tends to be the end of the road for them. Indeed, although 1997’s Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and 1999’s Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil received very positive reviews from critics upon their release, these 2.5D platformers never managed to reach a large enough audience to really rival the likes of Mario and Crash Bandicoot. The franchise has been dormant for over a decade now, with no new games having been developed since 2008’s Wii-exclusive remake, which was an attempt to revive Klonoa that never took off. Fortunately, Bandai Namco is giving its brave feline hero another chance to shine with Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series, which remasters both classic games for modern audiences. But how well do these decades-old platforms hold up today?
The Klonoa Phantasy Reverie series marked my first time playing these classic games, and perhaps the highest praise I can offer is that I was having hearty fun every second. There are a lot of factors that contributed to this, from the games’ lovable character designs and lively, vibrant world, to their infectious soundtracks and (surprisingly) fun writing. But perhaps more important to me was that I had never experienced a platformer that played quite like Klonoa. Almost every stage (or “Vision” as it’s called in these games) introduced a new type of interesting mechanic or gimmick to overcome, and I was always surprised at how creative almost all of these ideas were. and engaging.
The main differentiator between Klonoa and other platforms is that you don’t jump, spin, or attack enemies to defeat them. Instead, you pick them up or catch them. This allows for all sorts of unique ways to interact and traverse the various dream worlds of these games. For example, picking up an enemy and then throwing them towards the ground in the air allows you to double jump, making it easier to reach higher ledges. You can also launch enemies into each other; some of them even explode, making it possible to chain certain attacks and trigger chain reactions. Some enemies can be grabbed, launching you high in the air for a short time. Traversal is often a headache in Klonoa, and figuring out how to use your enemies to your advantage is always satisfying.
Klonoa games are also relatively unique thanks to their 2.5D perspective, which is implemented in an incredibly innovative way at the time these games were released. While Klonoa typically moves on a 2D plane, the paths he travels often take him forward and back through the game environment, or at the very least allow him to interact with objects in the foreground and in the background. background. In practical terms, this means during gameplay that there are often secrets lurking just out of reach, prompting players trying to grab every collectible in the game to explore a bit more. It’s an incredibly immersive way to add literal depth to what might otherwise have been a clever but simple platforming experience.
While neither Door to Phantomile nor Lunatea’s Veil are particularly long games, each stage is of remarkably high quality and creative direction that reflects the love and care that goes into these games. My favorite stage was the one in which the time of day changed every 20 seconds or so, briefly making enemies invulnerable to your abilities until the sun was revealed again. I was also blown away by some stages of Lunatea’s Veil that take place in a slightly haunted amusement park, which introduced so many thrilling (albeit brief) platforming segments that I was a bit disappointed when they were completed.
Every few stages end in some kind of boss battle, and while they were all solid, they didn’t feel as engaging overall as the main levels. This is mostly due to predictable and simple attack patterns that have been executed to death at this point, with a few exceptions here and there towards the end of each game. I enjoyed them anyway, mostly because of the cheesy writing the villains would adopt. This especially applies to a character named Joka, who is essentially the Klonoa equivalent of Bowser Jr and is both a subtly funny henchman and an absolutely massive jerk.
Surprisingly, story is a pretty big part of Klonoa’s identity as a game. The main theme of these games is dreams, and while I don’t feel like these games tackle the subject with much deep – they were originally marketed as children’s games, after all – the focus is on solving the mystery of these mysterious worlds. Almost every stage is completed with surprisingly long story sequences that often only have a tinge of sadness, just a hint of melancholy that saps the joyful energy that emanates from Klonoa. It adds weight and urgency to the stakes of Klonoa’s mission, and there was a story in the first game that was delivered with so much emotion that it really pissed me off. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to imply that Klonoa is some sort of narrative tour de force, but the way the story was presented definitely hooked me deeper into the experience.
From a technical standpoint, Phantasy Reverie Series is a very well-executed remaster that runs very well on the Switch. While Lunatea’s Veil as featured here is simply a cleaner, brighter version of the original PS2 sequel, the version of Door to Phantomile included in this package is a remaster of the 2008 Wii version of the game rather than the original PS2 sequel. original PS1 version. Interestingly, however, this version of Door to Phantomile ditches the full voice acting of that 2008 remake, opting instead for the original 1997 voice tracks which are presented in fictional in-game gibberish language. seems a bit jarring, because while the game’s music is clean and crisp, the voiceover tracks sound decidedly low and dated. It’s grown over time, but it’s a stark reminder that these are still older games at their root level. It’s great to see Lunatea’s Veil running in a modern engine for the first time, though, and the frame rate and resolution of both titles remained solid throughout my play.
Also added to these remasters is an easy difficulty, which I think will be essential for younger players wanting to enjoy this game. and some of the stages in these games can be long – meaning running out of lives can sometimes mean losing a good half hour of progress. Easy mode gives Klonoa infinite lives and allows him to grab enemies at greater distances. It’s a great option for making these games available to an even wider audience, which is something I always love to see in these types of remasters.
Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series managed to transform me from someone with minimal interest in the franchise to someone who is eager to see more of these games as soon as possible. Klonoa 1 and 2 are creative, polished, and mechanically innovative games, and they absolutely live up to the standards of modern platforming in more ways than you might think. Anyone interested in the history of the genre is a must check out these classic games, and returning fans now have the joy of reliving these games in their final state.
Copy of the Klonoa Phantasy Reverie series provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.