Klonoa: Door to Phantomile
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • PlayStation
  • Developer:
    • Namco
  • Publisher:
    • Namco
  • Released:
    • JP 12/11/1997
    • US 03/10/1998
    • UK 06/05/1998
Score: 90%

This review was published on 05/15/2009.

A modestly old school platform game, Klonoa was released during a time when such offerings were rapidly being replaced by Mario 64 clones. In a criminal act comparable to mass genocide, Klonoa did not sell very well in North America. A touch of oddness there, given that it received high marks from most gaming magazines. I can only assume that it was drowned out in the flood of high-profile games that were making their debut at the time. Like most excellent games doomed to obscurity, Klonoa achieved a stout cult following. A cult following stout enough to get a few of the sequels brought state-side. We are quite fortunate for that.

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The star of the show is Klonoa, the titular black cat-like thing with big floppy ears. He is accompanied by Huepow, a "ring spirit" that grants his ring power. Klonoa awakes from a worrying dream of something crashing into a nearby hill, and once the dream comes to fruition, he ventures off to check things out. There he eavesdrops on Ghadius, a dark, shadowy, evil-looking bad guy who has bad fashion sense when it comes to headwear. Ghadius begins to explain his generic plans to conquer or destroy the world (whichever) to his number one cohort, Joka. They eventually catch wind of the fact that Klonoa is listening in on them, so instead of Ghadius killing off the pint-sized hero right then and there, he gives the job to Joka. Being too much of a wimp to fight, Joka leaves you a poor critter to beat up on instead. I know this might sound like a bore, but the story to Klonoa does have some depth to it, particularly toward the last stretch of the game. Joka will amuse you with his mad antics until then.

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One of the main things about Klonoa is that it was one of the first games to incorporate 3D graphics with differing camera angles and retain the game play of a 2D platform game. Many refer to this phenomenon as 2.5D. Part of the reason for this is the remarkable aesthetics; the camera angles will change as you travel either to the left or right, revealing scenery that is pleasing to the eye. Even something as mundane as walking in a straight path will seem like a glorious ride of epic proportions. There is a functional purpose to it, as well: looping and multiple paths. Most levels will have different paths that'll take you to additional items or secrets, and a lot of these paths will loop back onto the main path for convenience. Some of the later levels also have a nonlinear progression, fully utilizing multiple paths. The great thing about these paths is that you can actually see where they might take you before you even explore them, due to the unique perspective.

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Another main point about Klonoa is the ring that fires majestic wind bullets. With this, you are able to inflate small enemies into a sort of balloon to which you'll hold over your head. Then, you can throw this ballooned enemy at another foe, or throw it downwards while you're airborne to get an extra jump. Fret not, for as complex as that sounds, you merely need to press the jump button again while in the air with a ballooned enemy in tow; you don't have to press down or anything crazy like that. This simple yet full of depth game mechanic is used heavily all throughout the game, in all kinds of inventive ways. An extraordinarily simplistic mechanic like this would normally run the risk of becoming tedious, but it never does. Instead, it increasingly ups the craftiness as you move on.

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Despite the plot being painfully generic early on, you may still find yourself enjoying every bit of it. That can be attributed to the great care placed in the cut-scenes. Every character you meet on your quest will have a unique design complete with gibberish voice acting very similar to Banjo-Kazooie, just with a distinctly Japanese tinge to it. There are quite a lot of cut-scenes for a game of this type, though they are brief enough so as to never feel intrusive. This helps to further characterize Klonoa's world, certainly adding to the experience.

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The musical score in Klonoa is filled to the brim with sounds of the utmost beauty and variety. Every single level has its own track, complete with a unique musical style. Bosses each have individual themes which accurately personify the ensuing confrontation. Not even cut-scenes are exempt from the awesome music. There are no recycled tunes, save for a few of the character themes. Clearly, they were serious when it came to the soundtrack.

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Unless you're totally devoid of video-gaming skills, Klonoa won't provide you with much of a challenge. Boss fights are stupidly easy, and levels are designed with 5 year olds in mind. Some difficulty does present itself on the final set of levels and last boss, making them a satisfying way to end the game. However, for the most part, you'll blow through the game without making a sweat. I think the developers took note of this, as they've made available a secret level you can unlock after beating the game that will most assuredly challenge you. We're talking extreme difficulty here, akin to the Lost World in Donkey Kong Country 2. Still, I don't think a single hard level is enough to make up for the total lack of challenge in the main game. On the bright side, this makes the game far more accessible. And, really, the easiness doesn't have a negative impact on the fun factor.

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This isn't a very long game, totaling to just about 14 levels (that includes the final boss fight, which constitutes a single level). One of those levels you must unlock by rescuing all the captives who're hidden throughout the game. Each individual level has satisfying length, but on the whole, there just aren't enough of them. There appears to be no way to stave off the feeling that your fun was cut short; even if you go back to achieve high scores, you'll still be left wanting for more. The only way to alleviate this problem is to play the PlayStation 2 sequel, it seems.

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Klonoa is one of the finest platform games ever created. Its flaws are few and far between, making it a perfect example of what a game ought to be. It is more than a diamond in the rough; it's a subterranean palace made entirely out of gold. The only conundrum is that it's just not long enough. Games this good shouldn't be in such short supply.

Word Count: 1,122

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