|By Zach Patterson||Tuesday, 16 Jun 2009|
After picking up Klonoa: Empire of Dreams for GBA and enjoying it thoroughly, I decided it was time to play the original Klonoa game and see how it has held up over the past 11 years. I think what surprised me the most was how well every aspect of this game had held up; the graphics are still wonderful, solid, and colorful, the controls are tight, the story is good, and there is still a good challenge to be found. In short, this is still a great platformer.
A lot of what I commented on in my previous Klonoa review also applies here, as the controls and characters are pretty much the same. This is a very good thing. However, what makes Klonoa stand out from the pack of platformers on the Playstation and other systems is the presentation. 3D graphics on a 2D plane allow for multiple intertwining paths in the foreground and background that seamlessly converge. Enemies will attack from the background to your current position, or you can take platforms to the background and explore the rest of the world. As I have mentioned before, this is much like the Playstation’s Pandemonium series. I have a big soft spot for that series itself, but this is by far the better game, with a nicer presentation, better controls, better graphics, and better character designs.
Unlike the GBA game, Door to Phantomile is a much more traditional platformer that integrates some of the puzzle type mechanics into the levels, but never gets as hardcore on that aspect as Empire of Dreams did. However, this game is actually much more difficult as you progress, as there are not many lives to be found throughout the game. I still would hesitate to call the game hard, but it provides a good, even challenge from beginning to end. There’s definitely some parts of the game that are made to be a little frustrating, but fair, and fun. I really enjoyed the level designs as well, as it takes you through a variety of colorful grassy worlds, underground mines, villages, and ethereal moon kingdoms. It keeps a nice variety going from area to area, and never keeps you in one place so long that you are sick of the place by the end.
Another bright spot is the boss fights, as the are all pretty big and challenging. Nearly all of them are rings that surround a big boss in the center, and you are charged with running around the ring and tossing enemies at the boss’s weak spot. The first few aren’t too tough, but the last few are pretty tough and require some interesting things to do on the part of Klonoa (such as changing the color of the ground blocks in order to revert the world back
to light so you can attack the boss).
I mentioned it earlier, but the graphics have aged very well, and while there aren’t huge high poly characters and certainly the Wii remake of this game looks much nicer, this is still a great looking game in its own right. Even the 3D cinemas, one of the things that seemed to age the poorest from this generation of systems, look really nice. And of course, the characters are excellent. Klonoa is cute and the little Pac-Man reference on his cap is a nice touch. Joka is a sinister little bastard, and Ghadius is perhaps one of the scarier villains I’ve seen in a kid-friendly game. He’s different from most villains in that he simply wants revenge and has no real higher agenda. That leads me to the story, which is thankfully much better than the GBA game. While it still isn’t amazing, there are a lot of cinemas in the game, and it does a good job of telling a coherent story that doesn’t just feel like filler between levels. You meet some cool NPC’s and there are some pretty cool action scenes. I felt the ending was particularly well done, when Klonoa’s secret is revealed by Huepow.
The music is also decent, as it mixes some fun, upbeat tunes with some funky underground songs and some epic-sounding stuff near the end at the moon kingdom. On the whole, it’s rather forgettable, but it’s certainly not bad. It’s just a shame that the game is rather short. At about 4.5 hours, I had pretty much beaten everything and it was over. It was really great while it lasted.
This is one of those games that became expensive and perhaps was overexposed in some circles, but there’s actually good reason for that in this case. This game is solid in all aspects and for what was, at the time, a brand new franchise with no ties to any other series, it made a great first impression, and it’s good to see the game dusted off and given a makeover for the Wii. If you can’t find the Playstation version, grab the Wii one and prepare to have a great, albeit brief, time with a great platformer.