Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series – Game Review

Poor, poor Klonoa. The waking world was hardly fair to Bandai Namco’s Dream Traveler. The first
Klonoa game came out just as the world was getting tired of platformers and 2D games, and the second one came out at a time when side-scrollers were considered positively passé. The many attempts at recognition—a 2008 remake on the Wii, a webcomic, even an aborted motion picture—all fell by the wayside. No mere Scrimblo Bimblo, Klonoa nevertheless faded into obscurity, his name a secret handshake among those who’d been touched by his charming adventures.

Thank goodness, he’s finally been given a second chance.

The Phantasy Reverie Series collection brings together both Door to Phantomile and Lunatea’s Veil, with some minor updates and improvements—and time has been very kind to both of these games. Originally billed as a “Guided 3D” game, both Klonoa titles in this set are 2.5D side-scrollers: the main axis of movement is along a two-dimensional plane, but Klonoa is able to interact with objects and paths three-dimensionally, shooting things into the foreground and background. Klonoa’s abilities are consistent: he can jump, flutter short distances by flapping his big ears, and shoot wind bullets from his ring that can inflate enemies. These enemies are held by Klonoa as he moves around, opening up his range of movement and offense: by throwing the enemy, Klonoa can destroy obstacles or defeat other enemies. He can throw inflated enemies into the foreground or background to hit switches or find hidden treasure. Or, he can throw them downwards in mid-air to give himself a double-jump—and skilled players can even chain capture enemies and throw them to extend Klonoa’s air-time even further.

That about sums up Klonoa’s abilities; In both games, there are some minor gimmicks in levels like special switches that Klonoa can grab to hang in mid-air, waterslides he can slip down, or some guided segments where he rides large birds. But that’s nevertheless it: Klonoa is content to give you a fixed list of abilities, iterating on their use in order to progress. For example, one level in
Lunatea’s Veil had us throwing enemies into a pendulum in the center of a circled path in order for it to knock over stone pillars on the opposite side of the screen, thus clearing a path forward. Other stages have simple progression puzzles, where players need to figure out the proper time to throw an enemy in order to obtain treasure, but it’s mostly a simple affair—not that “simple” should mean “insubstantial.” Each stage in both games comes with 150 gems to acquire and six hidden figures to rescue; accquiring all the treasures requires a keen eye and a swift hand. Rescuing all the captives also unlocks a bonus level in both games, where your skills are truly put to the test.

And even if you’re not interested in diving into all the challenges Klonoa has to offer, the world itself is still a joy to explore. The bright, colorful stages are a visual delight, the wandering Moo enemies are adorable, every character is cuter than the last, and the villas are devious and mysterious. This is capital-C “Character” at play here: Klonoa starts each stage with his signature “Wa-hoo!”, and the dreamlike music breathes life into these vibrant worlds. Both Door to Phantomile and Lunatea’s Veil have been touched-up, visually, from their original releases: both have been given more vibrant colors to make their worlds pop visually. While these games still look quite old under scrutiny (their textures are quite visibly dated), their stylization is timeless.

Now, some clarification does need to be made: while this game is a collection of both Klonoa titles, it does not contain the original Klonoa: Door to Phantomile from the PlayStation. The version featured in this set is the 2008 remake on the Wii. It’s a minor disappointment, but given the original’s striking mix of 3D backgrounds with amazing 2D spritework, the 2008 remake is nevertheless given a new lease on life and ultimately stands as a fantastic remake from the ground up. It also stands as an improvement on the 2008 port, as the US version of that game had a new dub recorded for it. It wasn’t a bad dub, but Eric Stitt’s take on Klonoa was poorly directed, giving him much too old of a voice. Instead, the
Phantasy Reverie Series uses the PS original’s voice track. While heavily compressed and showing its age, it works brilliantly; Kumiko Watanabe‘s cheerful “Wa-hoo!”s are perfect, and the filtering mixes well with the made-up “Phantomilan” language. It also serves to make the villain Ghadius sound far more menacing and eldritch.

Another improvement for the gameplay comes from the optional support mode: both Door to Phantomile and Lunatea’s Veil have the option for a Player 2 to offer Klonoa an extra jump-boost during gameplay. It’s on a timer, so you can’t just jump over the entire level, but it’s a good way of including a second player. It makes for a good “little sibling” mode, or a way to share the game with your children. There are also options for skipping cutscenes or fast-forwarding them.

If I haven’t mentioned the story for these games, it’s because there isn’t too much to say about them. Not that the story is bad: you have a fun, rolling adventure in two lovely worlds. It’s just that they’re capstoned by some intensely emotional climaxes that are best discovered for yourself. Suffice to say Klonoa is a lot like Tezuka’s Unico: someone you want to be friends with, but is cursed to be unable to stay someplace for too long.

I’ve gushed plenty about this game, but that’s because the Klonoa games are that impactful. Sure, they’re not perfect: the platforming is a bit gummy, and you’ll find yourself dying from misjudging your jump distances. While it’s fantastic that the two console Klonoa games are compiled in this set, given that this game commemorates Klonoa’s 25th birthday, I’d have expected some more pomp and circumstance. Toss in the GameBoy and GameBoy Advance Klonoa titles, maybe even Klonoa Beach Volleyball. Let us unlock some design documents or something. And if you’re someone who craves the challenge, these games aren’t going to give that to you: bosses are simplistic and enemies rarely do more than waddle around waiting for you to capture them.

But in the end, that’s okay. Lots of indie devs in this day and age have helped us rediscover how fun it can be to just explore lovely, colorful worlds. The Phantasy Reverie Series gives us two games that harken back to the time where these fun, thoughtful platformers had AAA budgeting pumped into them. Don’t buy the Phantasy Reverie Series
because Bandai Namco has teased a possible Klonoa 3. Buy it because, above all else, it’s a fun game with a cute, winsome protagonist, and it’s sure to stick with you for a long time.

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