If you spend any time in any circle of hardcore gamers you have no doubt heard mention of certain titles that were grossly overlooked. Names like Jersey Devil, Beyond Good & Evil and our subject at hand Klonoa are likely among the titles mentioned, and for good reason. Namco Bandai Games has decided to resurrect Klonoa by releasing a remake of Door to Phantomile for Nintendo’s newest console, and hopefully introduce an entirely new breed of gamers to this classic platformer. With a cheaper price tag, a colorful mascot and superb gameplay Klonoa is easily one of the best additions to the console’s library to be released this year.
Klonoa is a very interesting character. He has long floppy ears like a rabbit, contains the features of a cat, and wears a hat with Pac Man pasted on the side. The story revolves around Klonoa waking up from a terrible dream one night of his world being overrun by a dark force. Shortly thereafter he sees a ring fall from the sky and as he dislodges it from the ground a blue sidekick appears in the form of Huepow. After this event a lot of what follows is a combination of clichéd ideas and confusing dialogue that really never establishes itself. The plot will be hard to follow for younger gamers, and experienced ones will either already know the tale of Klonoa, or not care to invest the time to decrypt the vague cut scenes and dialogue. Either way there is no doubt that narrative is not the reason this game has been considered a sleeper hit for over a decade.
Anyone unfamiliar with Klonoa should be aware that this is platforming at its core. The game is presented in a two dimensional plane ala old-school Mario, but with interactivity between the foreground and background. This was known as two-and-a-half D, and was made extremely popular in the days of PSOne. One of the many changes made to this updated version is that all of the characters are now rendered in full 3D as opposed to their sprite-based originals. Amazingly enough everything else about the game holds up extremely well, even over a decade after its initial release. The simple platform mechanics translate perfectly to the Wii, and being able to control the game with just about every configuration of controller the system supports works flawlessly.
The mechanics of Klonoa are simple, which are part of the charm and what make the game accessible and fun for all ages. You have the traditional jump and attack functions that will dominate most of your experience, but when you combine these simple actions with the fact that you can grab enemies and use them as projectiles it spices up the gameplay. Having items in both the foreground and background also injects new challenges to the adventure. There are oftentimes secret items and paths to be found by thinking outside the box. You can use enemies as weapons as I mentioned before, or you can simply borrow their mass to help you get that extra height needed, which essentially becomes your double jump.
Make no mistake though, Klonoa is not as challenging of a platformer as some of the games it is an modeled after, which makes it all the more fitting for Nintendo’s more family-friendly console. The adventure is also not overly time-consuming, although some may look at that as a downside. The game spans fifteen total levels, and can be completed in roughly 5-6 hours depending on how much exploration you can do. While this may seem short when compared to other games, it really runs its course within that time frame. Any longer and the game would simply feel like it was dragging on for the sake of making it longer.
Visually the game does look great, but certainly not the best the Wii has to offer. The new 3D characters and backgrounds really add some life to the world of Klonoa, and the bright color palette is refreshing compared to today’s gray dominance. It is also worth noting that the game runs at a buttery clip and never misses a beat. The sound is equally impressive and fan-driven as Namco Bandai has opted to offer two audio tracks for the game. Users can choose between the convoluted gibberish found in the original game, or the brand new English dialogue recorded just for this iteration. While not necessary, it is a nice touch, and one that fans of the original will certainly appreciate.
Klonoa is a charming, albeit simple platformer that reminds us that games are meant to be fun first and foremost. The clever level designs and outlandish characters are staples of gaming past, and the fact that Namco Bandai opted to bring back this seemingly unknown character show just how much faith they have in the game. The Wii was definitely the perfect audience to deliver it on, and for thirty bucks you simply cannot afford to miss this incredibly charming experience. Fans of platforming games in general will marvel at the classic feel and younger gamers will appreciate the nearly perfectly learning curve. Klonoa is a classic in its own right, even if most people have never heard of that wacky bunny-eared guy.