Ech0ez's Klonoa Review
•Simple yet gripping story with some heart wrenching twists.
•Colourful and beautiful graphics that never cease to impress.
•Absolutely fantastic soundtrack that will easily entrance most people.
•Several control schemes including the Gamecube and Classic Controllers.
•Well designed levels that are a lot of fun to play and do require a fair bit of skill.
•The game is being sold at half the price of your standard Wii game.
•Story is short, can easily be beaten in 3-5 hours.
•Some degree of difficulty in the later levels, but overall too easy.
Originally released in 1998 for the original Playstation, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was a serious cult hit, failing to sell well at retail yet gathering a large fan base, most of whom became devoted to the series, whether it be for the addictive gameplay or the fantastic story telling. The series I developed by a second party to Namco Bandai called ‘Klonoa Works’ whom are essentially Namco’s equivalent to Sega’s SonicTeam. The franchise has spawned several games, from the PS2 sequel Lunatea’s Veil, to the several handheld games, all of which are loved by the fans yet still fail to do outstandingly at retail.
We’re now 11 years from the release of the original Klonoa and it’s been remade for the Nintendo Wii, with new beautiful graphics, the option of English voices, a handful of unlockables, a cheap price and the lack of a catchy subtitle.
The question is; is it worth it?
The story of Klonoa follows the adventure of its namesake, an anthropomorphic ‘cabbit’ who lives with his grandpa in the rural and quiet Breezegale, the Wind Village. Also living with them is Hewpoe (Huepow in the original game) a floating blue sprite who lives inside of a mystical ring, which grants Klonoa the power of his ‘Wind Bullet’; the game’s main gimmick. Troubled by nightmare of a ship crashing into the nearby Bell Hill and darkness covering the land, Klonoa is shocked when said dream comes true, and he and Hewpoe set out to investigate. On the way they encounter Balue, a strange fellow with an obsession with the Songstress Lephise, a mythical woman who is said to live in the Moon Kingdom, and by legend sings the Song of Rebirth that lets the world of Phantomile be reborn. Balue is building a tower to the Moon Kingdom to meet his love, and after explaining the folklore, leaves to see if the statue of Lephise is alright. Proceeding on, Klonoa and Hewpoe make it to the op of Bell Hill where they find that the crashed ship belonged to the Songstress herself and that she is now unconscious. To make matters worse also present are the two main antagonists of the game; Ghadius the king of nightmares whom was sealed away for attempting to allow nightmares into the world of Phantomile, and has now awakened seeking revenge on the world that imprisoned him. He is also accompanied by his minion Joker (Joka in the original version) a cat-like clown who comes across as your typical ‘idiotic sidekick’. Shortly after noticing Klonoa and Hewpoe, Ghadius takes the Songstress and leaves Joker to deal with them. After defeating the monster Joker summons, Klonoa and Hewpoe discover the Moon Pendant, the mythical item that belonged to the Songstress, and is necessary for Ghadius’ plans to succeed. After giving the pendant to Grandpa, Klonoa and Hewpoe set off to inform the Cheiftress of Forlock Forest about the event and from there the plot unfolds.
It starts off as an incredibly simple story and almost comes across almost as your typical ‘Saturday Morning Cartoon’ plot but as it goes on it gets deeper, with surprising twists about halfway into the game and several underlying morale questions. Phantomile is a world formed of dreams and happy dreams only, Ghadius merely wants the world to accept nightmares, the typical ‘good cannot exist without evil’ debate. Is Ghadius really evil for merely wanting ‘fairness’ and should he of been imprisoned? Does that furthermore give him the right to seek revenge? These morale questions are never presented to the player directly but are underlying throughout the course of the plot, and even more so by the ending which is a very surprising twist I might add.
The characterization is the story is certainly solid, Klonoa is your typical everyday talking ‘cabbit’ who is dragged into a ‘save the world’ scenario against his will, and all the other characters are somewhat developed, and nearly every single one knows something that Klonoa doesn’t, something quite dark when you think about it. Joker starts as your typical ‘buffoon henchman’ and later becomes quite a dangerous villain, and Ghadius both appears evil, yet leaves the more thoughtful player to question whether he really deserves the crap he’s gotten from the inhabitants of Phantomile.
The world of Phantomile itself is also quite fleshed out, being divided into five different areas, Breezegale the Wind Village, Forlock the Tree Village, Jugpot the Kingdom of Water, Coronia Temple of the Sun and the mythical Cress the Moon Kingdom. As you progress through the game and encounter the inhabitants you come to get a better understanding of Phantomile, a world created by dreams themselves.
Overall the story of Klonoa is both simplistic and perfect for younger kids to enjoy, yet at the same time incredibly deep and questioning for more thoughtful older people, and by extension can be appreciated by people of all ages.
The graphics of Klonoa are a huge step up from the original, featuring some crisp colourful graphics that never cease to amaze me, from the rising waterfall on the route to Jugpot, to the setting sun and industrial environments of Coronia, Klonoa doesn’t ever stop providing beautiful graphics throughout. The game itself entirely plays out in the same graphics engine, no fancy CG cinematics here which to some degree helps add to the dream like world. The graphics engine itself is solid and the art design only serves to make it better, leaving players impressed by the wondrous world of Phantomile.
Klonoa retains the soundtrack of the original, and for good reason to; the soundtrack is simply fantastic. The music fits the settings perfectly and never once does it feel out of place, or even remotely unimpressive.
The voice work on the other hand could use some work. The ‘Phantomile’ voice option sets the character to speak in their original voices, which in actual fact is nothing but gibberish. Even so it adds to the world Klonoa expressed and for the most part makes the game much more entertaining. The English voices fail to impress, adding to the ‘Saturday Morning Cartoon’ feel and for the most part feel out of place. The only English voices I genuinely felt fit were Joker’s and Ghadius’, Klonoa has a decent voice with mediocre acting behind it, and most of the other voices aren’t impressive. They aren’t bad as such, but they won’t make you feel for the characters whatsoever.
Needless to say this isn’t enough to detract from the soundtrack, which is also unlockable once you’ve beaten the game.
The controls in Klonoa are vastly dependent on which set-up you use. You can use the Wii remote and Nunchuck, the Horizontal Wii remote, the Gamecube Controller or the Classic Controller. To be blunty honest I find the latter three far more impressive, using the Wii remote and Nunchuck feels awkward for the most part, and the few motion controls in there feel tacked on.
The Wiimote/Nunchuck settings have Klonoa’s movement mapped to the analog stick, jumping to A, - to pause, B to attack, and in order to use the whirlwind you have to shake the Nunchuck, whilst throwing enemies requires you to shake the remote.
The horizontal set-up is solid, you use the d-pad to move Klonoa about, the – button to pause the game, the 1 button to attack and the 2 button to jump. Shaking the Wii remote initiates Klonoa’s whirlwind.
The Gamecube controls use the analog stick to move, the A button to jump, the B button to attack, the Y button to use the whirlwind and the Start button to pause.
The Classic Controller uses the d-pad to move, a to jump, b to attack and y to use the whirlwind.
Ultimately all the control set-ups are solid and aside from the Wiimote/Nunchuck I have no complaints. I personally prefer the Gamecube Controls myself. Regardless the game gives you four different control options, odds are you’ll be happy with at least one of them.
Klonoa is a 2.5D Platformer which by heart does exactly what you’d expect, you platform. The main gimmick here that separates it from the crowd is Klonoa’s ‘Wind Bullet’ which lets you launch a small bullet of wind out in front of you over a short distance. If you hit an enemy, you grab it and from there you can either throw it at other enemies and obstacles, or use it to perform a ‘Double Jump’ to reach higher areas, or cross gaps that are further that you can merely jump across. Klonoa can also float in the air for a short period of time by using his ears as attempted wings. Between the Wind Bullet and temporary floating you find yourself with a simple, yet ingenious mechanic that requires a level of skill and precision whilst also been easy to access to new players. Another mechanic is the ‘Whirlwind’ which when used temporarily slows down enemies, a technique which whilst rarely needed is certainly handy when deal with quicker enemies, and enemies that are invulnerable to the Wind Bullet.
Klonoa’s health is measured by 5 hearts, which can be restored by find hearts throughout stages and are obviously depleted by getting attacked by enemies. Fans of the original will notice you now have two extra hearts, you only had 2 in the original PSX game and by extension Klonoa is much easier than the original. Rarely during the early levels will you lose more than one or two hearts in a stage, although in the later stages and boss battles you will find yourself frequently losing several, assuming this is your first time with Klonoa. Unfortunately seasoned Klonoa fans will find this an enormous drop in difficulty. Now assuming your hearts are depleted, or you suck at Platforming and fall down a fatal drop, you die and lose a life. You start with 3 lives and gain more throughout levels, either by collecting 100 gems (Which are otherwise useless items all about levels) or by collecting ‘coin’s, which are typically hidden, Silver Coins grant you one extra life whilst the harder to find Gold Coins grant you 3.
As far as level design goes Klonoa is strange, you play the game through a linear progression of 12 levels, all of which are divided into ‘Visions’, which are essentially chapters in the story of Klonoa. You access these through a ‘map’ or ‘level select’ screen enabling you to replay any level at any given time and progress through the story at your own pace. The visions are generally connected having you go through Vision 1-1 and then Vision 1-2 in a similar area, examples being how the whole of Vision 1 takes place during the Wind Village or how Vision 3 takes place in Forlock Forest. The levels themselves typically have on straight path to the end with several alternative routes to find items scattered about, these vary from gems, to extra lives, to Villagers which are essentially secrets. There are 6 villagers scattered throughout every level, some directly in your path, some in hidden areas and some hidden in things like eggs or flower buds. When you complete a level the villagers you rescued appear in mini-sprites beneath the level on the map screen and play part of an orchestra. Getting all 72 villagers will give you the complete song, which is a pretty mice touch. Besides that levels are simple with various level-exclusive additions, although the levels are pretty linear aside from Vision 5-1.
Enemies in the game aren’t all too impressive although they don’t need to be, generally being nothing more than fodder for your Wind Bullet. Occasionally you’ll encounter enemies that make an effort to attack you, and some that are partially, or even completely invulnerable to the Wind Bullet and thus require a fair deal of strategy to deal with, but for the most part you’ll be thinking more about the tactical uses for the enemies as opposed to how you’ll get around them. Bosses are also pretty simple, and whilst there is a surprising variety between them and how they’re fought considering this is rather simple Platformer, it ultimately comes down to taking regular enemies and firing them at the boss when it’s vulnerable.
Needless to say Klonoa’s strength is in it’s genius design, it’s incredibly simple and yet at the same time requires a degree of skill and patience and appeals to both younger and older fans a like, as well as the ‘Casual’ and ‘Hardcore demographics. Unfortunately it does falter in one aspect; the Difficulty. The first 4 visions of Klonoa are easy and essentially a step up on the ladder, whilst the final 2 visions are 4 steps higher in the case of the analogy. Or simple put; the game is easy and has a simple learning curve and then suddenly jumps, becomes significantly more challenging to newer players. Unfortunately fans of the series or even Platformer fans in general will find story far too easy, with the Villagers not being difficult to find and the Platforming easy once you’ve gathered some experience.
Klonoa’s lasting appeal is difficulty to place, the basic run is incredibly simple and only moderately challenging to new players whilst being far too easy for veterans and the hidden items in the levels are easy enough to achieve on your first run of the game. As far as unlockables go, beating the game unlocks you alternative costumes for Klonoa, Reverse Mode, Time Attack, the Extra Vision, a Movie Viewer and a Character Viewer. You can also get a Music Box that lets you listen to the soundtrack by beating the Extra Vision. The ‘cosmetic’ unlockables are interesting, the costumes are amusing to play as but not really much replay incentive, the character viewer merely lets you view the models for all the characters and enemies and whilst it’s fun for a few minutes, it loses it’s appeal fast, the Movie Viewer lets you view the cut scenes from the game but there’s not really any benefit here, and the Music Box is fantastic because of the awesome soundtrack, but I’m pretty sure most people in this day and age would download it if they liked it that much.
The gameplay changes however are quite interesting, the Time Attack lets you face off against any of the Bosses in the game and try to beat your best time, which admittedly is quite fun and assuming you know fellow fans of the game leads to some competitive fun between hotheaded people. The Extra Vision is basically a comical post-story little sub-plot based around Balue having finished his tower, which basically challenges you to play through what is probably the most difficulty thing I’ve ever experienced in a Platformer and requires near perfection on your Platforming skills. It’s also timed so yet again, competitive fun to be had here. Last but not least is the positively unusual Reverse Mode that flips all the stages around, and apparently makes them vastly more difficulty. I’ve yet to dabble in this myself so I can’t comment, but it certainly looks… interesting at the least.
Ultimately Klonoa has a fair few unlockables and a bit of replay incentive, and the game itself never loses its charm so you’ll probably find yourself playing it for a good while.
Lasting Appeal: 4/5
The Final Verdict
Klonoa is a fantastic Platformer with amazing design, beautiful graphics and music, a gripping story and a huge appeal to both kids and adults, Casual and Hardcore and of course those blasted furries. From start to finish you’ll never cease to be amazed by how simple yet deep the game is and the twists in the tale will take most newcomers by surprise.
Furthermore it’s also sold at a budget price, which arguably makes up for the length and difficulty. I mean really, there is no genuine reason not to get this. And if you’re a fan of the series you should be getting this anyway, it’s an amazing remake of a fantastic game with some new bonuses, and the life of Klonoa 3 depends on the sales of this game, therefore Ech0ez will hunt you down and beat you to death if you don’t buy it... Wait that’s not very professional...
In all seriousness though this is a fantastic game and a must have for any Wii owner, unless you’re completely opposed to Platformers in which case I direct you to the budget price of the game and tell you to swallow your hate and give it a go regardless.
Final Score: 5/5