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Review - Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series
Developer: Monkey Craft
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Available On: PlayStation 4|5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
IS THAT A RABBIT?! - Introduction
Full disclosure, but I never got the chance to jump into Klonoa in 1997 when it was released on PlayStation. As most of you know, I was an utter JRPG snob, turning my nose at other genres. I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone. Now, at 33, my mind is opening up, and I crave fresh adventures and more variety. Throughout my years on earth, I’d always hear praise being lopped at this quirky journey from friends. So, when a remake finally appeared in a Nintendo Direct, my curiosity piqued. Social media was also set ablaze with excitement. I took to Bandai Namco with a heart full of hope. I wanted to see what the fuss was. After devoting roughly 12 hours to the game, I have plenty of thoughts to share. It’s going to be a long one.
1, 2 GROWING PAINS! - Writing
Character dialogue is the definition of lighthearted. It won’t try to weave an engrossing tale of wonderment, but the structure of it is incredibly nostalgic. There is zero fluff, too, getting straight to the point and moving the plot forward with a vigorous pace. At times, there are tiny flourishes of humour. Nothing that promotes a booming belly laugh, but it breaks up the monotony of the chatter. What did inadvertently cause a chuckling fit was a specific moment that didn’t match the cheery tone. It blindsided me, pulling an audible obscenity as I looked on in surprise. The shock never took from the charisma, though, and if anything, went to amplifying the gratification I was already feeling. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing groundbreaking in Klonoa as far as the literary aspect goes. Still, I couldn’t help but be gleeful.
Whereas the first felt like proof of concept, Klonoa 2 takes the narrative and explodes with something truly substantial. The pacing isn’t erratic, adopting a steady flow. After finishing each level, a tiny cutscene plays out. Yes, that familiar charm remains rock hard. While I never had any chortles with the previous one, that’s no longer the case with this sequel. I giggled at a few instances, with a continual dosage of smiling - my facial cheeks hurt. One noticeable and welcomed change is the elongation of the brief audio cues used to indicate when a character is speaking. It mimics more of a pseudo-voice-acting performance now, albeit on the gibberish side. It does prove beneficial, though, since it perfectly matches the cutesy aesthetic. It helps push the emotion of a scene to the forefront. Klonoa manages to take a vibrant foundation and fully embraces the adorableness.
Now, when I say it grips the loveliness of its world, I mean it. The personality that oozes from everyone is so damn potent in Klonoa 2. Its appeal is dripping out the seams. This anthropomorphic rabbit, for example, magnifies his demeanour. Those sprinklings we saw previously are turned to eleven and effortlessly betters the overall experience. Sure, there’s a fair amount of predictability. Regardless, there’s no denying how gosh darn cozy this romp is. The notion of a natural progression to in-game events and a fleshed-out conflict is excellent. There are actual stakes behind what’s transpiring. The banter is never insane, keeping an innocence to it. It makes sense since Klonoa is geared towards children. Still, it was a pleasure to play through. I was also pleasantly stunned by how relatable Lolo's struggles are - they do well to endear her to you.
COLLECTING SHARDS IN 1 & 2! - Gameplay
Believe it or not, there’s a puzzle aspect implemented in this delightful little platformer. I know that’s not an outrageous declaration, but implementation is why it’s so unique. See, within every level, there’s a sub-objective to gather 150 Dream Crystals. So far, nothing overly egregious, but the strategy creeps in when considering there’s just enough to hit the goal. As an extra wrinkle, there’s also a creature in a bubble that doubles up what’s picked up - the total, however, never surpasses 150. Suddenly, it becomes a real brain teaser. I had to decide the optimal route to squeeze the most out of that perk. It’s a fantastic method to attract engagement, encouraging me to plan my moves meticulously. Of course, missing the mark means I’d have to repeat that level. Thankfully, repetition doesn’t set in due primarily to an arguably fantastic quality of life consideration.
For argument's sake, say you falter on gathering those 150 Dream Crystals. What prevents the repetitiveness from becoming an arduous chore is the short length. Size does matter in this context, and with each one clocking in at a minuscule two or so minutes, it’s not only negligible but also easily digestible. I had zero qualms running it back multiple times. If I were to gripe about one thing, it’s that within the level proper, a collection counter is absent. It would be nice to keep track of what’s been acquired by having a visible meter. As it is, the only way to inspect how much I’m missing is while on the overworld map. As a result, what ends up happening is I’d enter a perpetual cycle of finishing, coming up shy of my goal, before having to repeat the process then. The brief runtime certainly does mitigate the annoyance.
1 FAST 2 FURRY-US - Gameplay
Both Klonoa entries have other collectibles that, depending on which you’re playing, will differ. The first has captives that need rescuing by locating these sporadically placed star-shaped items. In the sequel, their material appearance remains identical, but it’s now doll pieces. There are six total throughout, and on occasion, they're hidden quite well. A few of them demand some creative thinking to discern the actions needed to be successfully obtained, too. At first glance, they’re proper brain crunchers, forcing me to experiment for the answer. Honestly, I find this facet fascinating. It keeps the title from devolving into a mindless escapade and becoming stale. I wasn’t just going through the motions and that eureka moment was a dopamine rush. Klonoa is a collect-a-thon from a bygone era that beautifully slots into the modern landscape. With the current revival of retro franchises, it fits right in.
WHERE ARE MY 3D GLASSES?! - Gameplay
I’ve got to applaud the creativity in both Klonoa’s, particularly during boss battles. Their fights, as well as combat mechanics, make full utilization of the 3D environments. You see, since these two titles were originally part of the older generation, one can expect an old-school approach. Familiarizing yourself with attack patterns is crucial for survival. Now, there’s a tutorial that goes on to outline what to do. However, it didn’t always trigger, meaning that sometimes, there would be an element of trial and error to discern just how to inflict damage. 3D depth of perception isn’t perfect either. I’d miscalculate the positioning of an enemy or projectile quite regularly. It led to a couple of accidental fatalities. Finally, I love how it takes both the back and foreground, allowing the player to hop between them. It sprinkles a semblance of realism due to it harnessing the entire design.
JUMP, JUMP, JUMP! - Gameplay
Precision is a must; no, it’s absolutely vital to beating these two titles. Fortunately, Monkey Craft does a bang-up job teaching the player the basics through general gameplay. Sure, that’s all well and good, but God damn, it doesn’t nullify how excruciatingly tough it can become. My face contorted with an immense concentration on several instances. As my tongue hung from my mouth, I’d frequently die because of mistiming jumps, sticking the landing slightly off-target, or fumbling button prompts because of unbridled panic. Keeping a calm cucumber head is a necessity. It got pretty brutal, and, well, I loved every minute. Sure, Klonoa might look like the usual kiddy romp that poses no challenge, and granted, the first few levels don’t. Compared to the later ones, though, teeth will assuredly grind. Most importantly, when I’d perish, it was predominantly my fault and not due to unfair tactics.
MISPLACED 2X MULTIPLIERS! - Presentation
As I’ve established, level design, for the most part, is sublime. Cracks aren’t noticed until we get well into Klonoa 2. Now, it’s not a case of it being dreadful but more so the subject of a baffling creative choice. See, the creatures doubling as a Dream Crystal multiplier return. For some stupid reason, though, they’re placed after a long trail of those. Up to that point, the game conditions me to grab everything. So, I did, but as I did, blissfully unaware of reality, I was peeved once I saw it floating in a bubble in the distance. Thanks to completionist tendencies, I immediately restarted, hopped back into the level, then carefully maneuvered around so I could utilize the boost to its full potential. It’s a minor problem, but its existence pretty much promises another playthrough if collecting 150 is the plan.
IT’S 2 NARROW! - Presentation
I’m sure it comes as great news to learn that controls are responsive. There’s a catch, however, and that’s an extreme sensitivity to touch, especially in Klonoa 2. Aside from typical platforming goodness, there are areas dedicated to on-rail snowboarding - movement is automatic. For the majority of the time, nothing about it is troublesome; until that is, it introduces ridiculously skinny weaving paths. Man, the amount of lives I lost due to overshooting a direction pivot is immense. I eventually adjusted accordingly and had no problem moving forward from then on, but that initial minute or so was an utter death fest. What’s especially bothersome is when I’d miss a jump or turn-off for a collectible. It meant purposely falling into the void to get a second chance. The whole affair was bloody tedious but, thankfully, never got rage-inducing.
SWEET NOTHINGS! - Sound Design
Have you ever heard a soundtrack that fills you with deep joy?
Well, that’s precisely what Klonoa is. It’s whimsical and cheery, filling me with happiness. Those docile musings of the instrumentals were penetrating my eardrums. I was giddy over the usage of an accordion because it reminded me of Portugal. There’s a wide variety to this musical buffet, and fortunately, I came with a growling stomach. It’s feel-good, something that compliments the carefree atmosphere here. My earphones were locked and loaded, nuzzled into my ear holes. Sure, there aren't any bass thumpers that increase adrenaline and get the blood pumping, but even if there were, it’d stick out like a sore thumb. These games star a weird bunny-like creature, after all, so having heavy metal or hip-hop would kill the vibe. Klonoa’s music may not invoke an emotional reaction, but it fits like a glove.
AND THE HOPPING VERDICT IS…
Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series is a sheer delight to experience. It’s the perfect balance between painfully easy and challenging as hell. I’ve already touched on this facet, but it bears mentioning again - note that the first entry is an appetizer. Its purpose is to whet your appetite for the vastly superior sequel, and it succeeds in doing that. Whereas the plotline felt lost and thrown together, it evolves into a coherent chain of events during the second. I do wish it was possible to remap buttons. In those more strenuous stages that demand agile and quick reflexes, I was fumbling my presses. It wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked. Then again, perhaps that’s on me. The ever-so-brief flutter that Klonoa can do is also somewhat finicky. There’s a handful of times when it refuses to work, causing me to plummet into the darkness. Then again, maybe it’s just me.
At the end of the day, I 100% recommend Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series. It’s cute, it’s charming, but due to duration, I’d be comfortable dropping around $39.99.
Special thanks to Bandai Namco for providing the code used for this coverage.