The long-awaited return of Klonoa
Funny dog-cat-ears-thing to make life worthwhile
Klonoa has been away for some time, and I think it's fair to say he's been missed. One of the first PS2 games I purchased - possibly the first - was Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil, after absolutely caning the two-level demo that came with the UK's Official PlayStation 2 Magazine. While the original PlayStation Klonoa: Door to Phantomile got a Wii remake back in 2008, its sequel had never, ever been re-released in any form I'm aware of until now. So with the launch of Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series, a compilation of both mainline Klonoa games (no Moonlight Museum, Empire of Dreams, Beach Volleyball, Dream Champ Tournament or Klonoa Heroes) is now available for the first time on all contemporary formats. Except the Playdate, obviously.
And I'm a tiny bit disappointed by it. Not so much the compilation itself, which is difficult to fault, but the reality of what Klonoa 2 is actually like. See... I know this invites ire, because the game had this reputation of being essentially a "masterpiece", left behind on now-elderly hardware... but it's just not that good. It really isn't. Now, part of this comes from the fact that I recently replayed the original Klonoa: Door to Phantomile for a Retro Gamer feature, but the sequel truly does pale in comparison. The original game is a consistently brilliant and uncompromised experience, with condensed, compact level design that absolutely sings. It's not a lengthy experience but the challenge is there and the fun factor is higher than any other PlayStation platformer. Little Ralph is bubbling under. Just wanted to mention Little Ralph.
Klonoa 2, though... no. It's not bad - the atmosphere is superb in places, particularly the soundtrack - but coming from the original I found it a notably lacklustre follow-up. Level design now feels simultaneously sprawling and fragmented; you spend a tremendous amount of time being fired out of cannons and not in sort of skill-based Donkey Kong Country sense. You're just travelling between foreground and background by shooting back and forth, quite unlike the somewhat labyrinthine feel of the first game's stages which wrapped themselves around one another. Perhaps in an attempt to be less confounding, Lunatea's Veil simplifies the proceedings, making everything pretty much trivial.
Indeed, outside of collecting all of a stage's gems, Klonoa 2 is generally not tricky. It compromises where the first game didn't. Said predecessor was never insanely difficult or anything, but it had enough bite that it demanded attention, demanded skill at times. Comparatively, the sequel is a breeze and to my mind a significant step down. I still like it; there's no particular stage I would say is awful or even significantly lower quality, but the whole package overall of Lunatea's Veil just isn't up to the standard of the original game.
Thankfully said original is here, in the form of a remake of the Wii-make; while it mostly takes its cues from the Wii version, this new take brings back some of the cuter and more cartoonish elements of Klonoa's visuals - a very welcome improvement. Overall it's a nice package and it's super great to see Klonoa 2 re-released at least, not to mention the excellent first game being half the package. Shopping around you can score it for a decent price, too, and a new game in the series has been implied to be possible if Phantasy Reverie Series sells well, which it deserves to. I don't have high hopes for the existence of a Klonoa 3 but it's certainly nice to dream. Just ask Huepow.