Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile Review

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Some titles just never seem to fair well in the West. Klonoa is a cute cuddly anthropomorphic animal, he kinda looks like he’s a cross between a dog, a cat and maybe a rabbit. In Japan this cute fella was incredibly popular and his Playstation game rocketed to the top of the charts for sales. Then Klonoa made his happy debut in the West and things just didn’t seem to fair well for the poor guy. The problem you see is we are horrible people over here in the West. Gamers here are hungry for blood like vicious hyenas, and that’s why games like Tomb Raider did well. If we have a platformer it better have attitude like Crash Bandicoot or be in 3D like Spyro the Dragon. Klonona failed to perform well and in turn the game become very rare and sought after to Playstation collectors in the West. I was lucky enough to rent this game back in 1998. Fortunately with the power of PSN, I was able to download the game to my PSP and see what this cuddly adventure has to offer and what we folk in the West failed to see.

klonoa_1Klonoa is a 2.5D platformer. The character sprites are 2D traversing across a 3D environment, think Donkey Kong Country on SNES only the backgrounds are all in blocky 3D. The game looks a little odd today with this style as the sprites clearly look like they don’t quite fit into the world they’re walking across. Though this design was quite common for the Playstation since many developers were still getting to grips with 3D. The problem it causes especially in Klonoa is it’s quite hard to navigate platforms when you’re regularly spinning around on a 3D plane. I consider myself quite an experienced platform gamer and I found myself over estimating jumps. I felt like I had to learn the games own gravity.  That doesn’t deter from the fact that this game is incredibly colourful and cute. Klonoa and even the enemies called “Moos” are just adorable in this game. It’s odd for me to play a game where I kinda feel bad for killing the enemies. Although the graphics are dated the levels look vast in scale and at times quite stunning if you’ve appreciation for the original Playstation platform.

klonoa_2There are many mechanics that make Klonoa stand out from the crowd. You use an enchanted ring to attack enemies but instead of killing them it blows them up like a balloon. You can then use these ballooned enemies to take out other enemies or jump on them to reach higher platforms. It feels like there is some light puzzle solving elements to the game as you will have to use this mechanic regularly to figure out how to progress through the levels such as hitting switches and reaching higher platforms. The game also expects you to be very aware of your environment as hidden items and switches are often hidden in the background 3D environment. This means you’ll often need to fling ballooned enemies into the background to progress in the level. Its a clever design showing that the 3D effects are not just there for show but also cleverly incorporated into the gameplay. The game only has six stages which each feature two levels and a boss fight. It may be short but nothing feels wasted. The game never feels like it repeats itself in order to artificially lengthen the experience. Each level feels unique and the boss fights offer a good challenge that is very rewarding to over come. Once you have finished the adventure you are able to replay any level via level select. Your only real incentive to do this though is to go back and find any collectables you missed.

klonoa_3As for the story Klonoa is teamed up with his buddy Huepow as they go investigate a mysterious crash in the mountain which Klonoa has oddly enough been having dreams about. You evidently end up embarking on a quest to save the land of Phantomile. Along the way you meet a variety of fury friends who speak voice acted jibberish. This brought back memories of Banjo Kazooie. Much like that game these weird sounds are translated into text boxes. While the game feels like a Care Bears adventure the game hit me with quite the surprise ending which I really didn’t expect.  Like the cute cuddly tone of the game the music is very cheerful. You feel like your playing through a Saturday morning kids show. There was rarely a moment where this game didn’t put a big smile on my face. I found myself still often humming the games medleys while I was at work.

Klonoa in my opinion is a game that just sadly got caught up in the evolution of gaming back in 1998. Gaming was fast moving to 3D games exclusively and left games like this in the dust. It wasn’t the only casualty of this by far, but it meant it just wouldn’t appeal to audiences. It’s a shame because what we have here is a fun challenging platformer that really has its own personality and feel. The game would receive an enhanced remake in 2009 that also under performed to my surprise, so yeah the West clearly hates Klonoa. If your a fan of platformers don’t let the cute deter you this game is absolutely worth your time. Don’t be ashamed let some happiness into your life.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)

Klonoa is available on the Playstation, where it originally premiered, and a PSOne digital version can be found on the Playstation Network worldwide.  A remake of sorts was released on the Wii worldwide as well and while it doesn’t quite have all the charm of the chunky mid 90s pseudo-sprites, it’s a decent way to enjoy the game should you not have access to the Playstation versions.  

Written by jamalais

June 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. I myself avoided this title because it is not 3D. But recently I softened up to 2D games, watching many a Let’s Play and getting through Undertale. Klonoa 1 is now on my list.

    The music is actually a mix between trip-hop, electronica, j-pop, orchestral, and kitchen sink. Yes, I already listened to the soundtrack before playing a single second. That is a thing I tend to do, being a big fan of VGM.

    Also, are the fury friends made of pure fury?


    June 11, 2016 at 4:39 am

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