Ever since I was first introduced to the concept of video games, one of my all-time favorite types of games has been the platformer. I explicitly remember getting a copy of Banjo Kazooie for Christmas 1998 and falling in love with the fantastical world, writing, and gameplay. I remember the days of the “mascot platformer” where every company had a cute character that would be in its own adventure (Spyro, Crash, Croc, Tomba, the list goes on and on). However, one character that seemed to slip under my radar (and everyone else’s, it seems) is Klonoa.
The original Klonoa game was released in 1997 for the PS1. It follows a cute anthropomorphic big-eared cat-like creature named Klonoa as he tries to save the dream world of Phantomile from an evil being who intends to turn it into a world of nightmares. The game was praised for its blend of 3D graphics with a 2D playstyle. A sequel, Lunatea’s Veil, was released in 2001 for the PS2. Now, both games have been brought to modern consoles with the Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series.
For years, I’ve wanted to play these games because they absolutely looked up my alley in terms of gameplay and just overall vibes. I am pleased to report that these games are absolutely spectacular and more than live up the critical hype I’ve heard after all this time.
(NOTE: As of this writing, I am currently neck deep in Klonoa 1 and have only briefly dabbled in the sequel. So this review may currently reflect my feelings on the first game alone).
Right off the bat, the first thing to notice is the game’s unique graphic style. Every piece of scenery springs to life with such vibrancy. In the later levels, shadows and the use of time play so well with the game’s color scheme. Even the enemies feel so sprightly. This version of Klonoa is apparently a high definition remake of the original game (more so than the 2008 Wii version,) so kudos to MonkeyCraft and Bandai Namco for doing a stellar job on this remaster.
The other thing that’s immediately noticeable is the gameplay itself. At the time, the idea of 3D meeting 2D was a wholly original concept. Being able to jump from the foreground to the background was something new and fresh. These days, many other games have executed ideas like this, but going back to see where it all started here felt so novel.
The story here is simple but, at times, genuinely heartbreaking and also shocking. There are times where I was surprised by the seriousness that the game took its almost whimsical concepts. Klonoa goes through such a heart wrenching journey that you can’t help but to root for him. His relationship with Huepow is one of the most touching elements of the game. I adored how well they got along together and how deep their friendship went.
Also, as someone who plays on easy mode quite often, the idea to give the player unlimited lives in easy mode is a GODSEND. It’s small but a wonderful accessibility feature nonetheless.
The puzzles and platforming are also incredibly solid. Puzzles can be challenging but never frustratingly difficult. The only complaint I really have with the gameplay is that there are so many branching pathways in order to get to the main goal. While this may seem fun at first, it eventually becomes confusing to have to remember where to go and how much backtracking you need to do.
Finally, and this is a minor quibble, but the game’s cutscenes don’t give you the option to hit the A button or anything during it. It’s something I’m so used to in order to have text move quicker on the screen. However, this is a small complaint.
Overall, the Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is genuinely great. Both games are ported over faithfully to the current generation (this runs GREAT on Switch), allowing generations new and old to experience (or re-experience) these cult classics. It’s a perfect example of a revival done right.