Klonoa is a “Wii-make” of the 1997 Playstation title, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. The original game and its 2001 sequel, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, were innovative side-scrollers that mixed old school, Super Mario Bros. style gameplay with 3D rendered graphics. Although neither title in the series yielded sensational sales, both were nevertheless critical darlings that consistently wind up on those “great games you haven’t played” lists that pepper the Internet. The series symbolized a period of transition between 2D side-scrollers of yesteryear to modern 3D platformers like Super Mario Galaxy.
The remake’s story is unchanged from Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. The player controls Klonoa, an anthropomorphic rabbit-like creature. Klonoa, accompanied by his best friend Hewpoe (a floating, blue, dew drop of sorts) must defeat the King of Darkness Ghadius, who threatens to plunge the world into chaos. The story, while not particularly interesting or original, propells the action forward. For a cutesy game it can be dark at times. That being said, due to the game’s length and voice acting (more on both subjects later), the player never bonds to any of the characters. Thankfully, the game’s story is secondary to the gameplay and is never forced upon the player.
Old school gameplay is the undisputed highlight of the series – as any fan would tell you. From controls to level design, Klonoa remains largely true to the 1997 original. Since Klonoa is a callback to old school platformers, veteran players will be readily familiar with its greater elements. For example, the player must navigate Klonoa through a series of “visions” (levels) that consist of two stages each. At the end of each vision, the player must face off against a boss. Along the way, Klonoa collects Dream Crystals. Once the player collects 100 crystals, he or she will gain an extra life. Meanwhile, Klonoa attacks by firing Wind Bullets from his magical ring. These bullets allow Klonoa to pick up and throw enemies in true Super Mario Bros. 2 fashion.
If this sounds like a standard, linear experience, let me assure you that’s not the case. Klonoa’s most notable aspect is its “2.5D” gameplay. Unlike a traditional side-scroller, Klonoa’s worlds literally have depth, with paths curving and twisting in 3D. Players can also both attack and be attacked on multiple planes. For instance, many times a player must throw an enemy “into” the screen to hit a switch that is not readily accessible from where Klonoa is standing.
Many levels also necessitate backtracking, like one that requires the player to tromp back all the way to the beginning of the stage after activating an elevator at the end. Similarly, many levels require the player to find keys in order to proceed. The game also features timing puzzles. On one occasion, there was a door that Klonoa needed to enter in order to progress through the level. Once I pressed the switch, however, the door would close before I could enter it. The solution required throwing an explosive enemy at the switch and then quickly running to the door before the creature exploded, which would hit the switch and open the door.
Puzzles aren’t the only mental stimulation here either. Jumping adds a great deal of strategy to the game play. Like most platformers, players will spend a good deal of their time leaping from one piece of ground to the next. Klonoa can double jump by pushing off a held enemy. The game often requires the use of this tactic in order to proceed. This can create some interesting situations in which the player must grab multiple enemies in mid-air and quickly boost off of each baddie to reach a higher area.
Klonoa gives the player several control options. The most basic method is to simply hold the Wii remote horizontally like an NES controller. The player can also use the nunchuck/remote combination, a GameCube controller, or the Classic Controller. No one input method has a notable advantage over the other, although I preferred using the D-pad on the Wii remote and Classic Controller.
From the controls to the gameplay, many players will find Klonoa refreshing in its simplicity. The whole experience is simply fun… while it lasts. Klonoa’s fatal flaw is in its length. Experienced players can whip through the game in a few hours. This problem is compounded by the fact that no one portion of the game, including boss fights, stands out as being particularly challenging. Most bosses, for example, possess a pattern of attack that, once identified and exploited, will almost always lead to victory.
The most significant differences between this “Wii-make” and the original Klonoa are cosmetic. The visuals, while hardly groundbreaking (there’s nothing present graphically that couldn’t be accomplished on the GameCube), are a dramatic improvement over the original PlayStation classic. The characters and environments are vibrant and colorful. The stages each feature a unique look, ranging from factories to forests to snowy mountainsides. Players will never feel that they are playing the same level over and over again.
The character’s voices have also been redone in English. It’s nice that Klonoa’s developer Paon made the effort to do this, but unfortunately the results are less than appealing. Most of the characters’ voices sound a little too familiar, as if one has heard them in countless games and cartoons. Both Klonoa and Hewpoe’s voices are generic and annoying. This is why the electronic gods show mercy on us with skippable cut-scenes.
Klonoa is an entertaining throwback to old school games, and one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long time. That being said, it’s hard to recommend purchasing the game – even at its $30 bargain price tag. There’s not enough game to make a purchase worth the money. Paon should’ve included more levels in this remake. Klonoa is more of a weekend rental than a must-have addition to a Wii-owner’s library. Several Virtual Console games, not to mention high-profile titles like Super Mario Galaxy, will give players a much better bang for their buck.