Namco Bandai's Klonoa, the Wii remake of the 1997 PlayStation game Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, is a game from a simpler time, when "platformers" involved actual side-scrolling platform-to-platform jumping as their core mechanic.
Such is the case with the 2009 version of Klonoa, which is amazingly simple in its concept, with regular play requiring only a directional pad and two buttons—one to jump, one to grab and throw enemies. Klonoa's story, involving the world-saving adventures of anthropomorphic rabbit-thing Klonoa and his enemy-inflating sidekick Hewpoe, is a little less straightforward. In fact, Klonoa can be downright dark and depressing at times, despite its bright presentation and obscenely cute characters.
The combination of Klonoa and Hewpoe's abilities—together, the two can overcome obstacles by inflating and tossing bubbly bad guys—and the "2.5D" perspective were refreshing in 1997. But does Klonoa still hold up?
Jumping & Throwing Mechanics: What's so enjoyable about Klonoa is how well the game's designers capitalized on a barebones set of jumps and attacks. Perfecting Klonoa's double jump isn't overly easy. Klonoa also makes a last ditch effort float with his floppy ears when jumping, making difficult to reach platforms, well, reachable—and surprisingly rewarding. Similarly, using the "Wind Bullet" ring to inflate, grab and toss bad guys—who are rarely on the offense—is fun. The game designers make expert use of the 2.5D environments, making Klonoa as much puzzle as it is platformer.
Perfectly Unmessed With: With the exception of a handful of improvements, most notably the vastly improved graphics and a level-mirroring "Reverse Mode," Klonoa for Wii remains extremely faithful to the PlayStation original. The game can be played with a quartet of control schemes—Wii Remote, Classic Controller, GameCube controller and Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo—only one of which adds hints of motion control. The new whirlwind attack that slows down enemies, performed with a nunchuk shake, is forgivably unnecessary.
Cheap! The game is priced right, released at a meager $29.99 USD. Considering the game's general lack of challenge and brief playing time, Klonoa at standard prices would leave us feeling shortchanged. But given the amount of polish and quality presentation, a budget release, one given obvious care, is welcome.
Still Too Easy: Everything about Klonoa's presentation, from graphics to voiceover work to difficulty, feels squarely aimed at a much younger audience. With the exception of a few later levels, there's really no challenge to be seen during the main storyline. Even much of the harder to reach collectible items present little difficulty to acquire. Namco Bandai has added new "Challenge Rooms," which sound genuinely challenging to veteran Klonoa fans, but I've yet to unlock them.
Over Too Quickly: You'll likely burn through the meat of the game in about 6 hours, even if you take your time to do some poking around the game's layered levels. Regrettably, some of that time will be spent watching some awkward, plodding cut scenes that may confuse players with Klonoa's wonky, threadbare plot.
Fans of Klonoa, if they already haven't snapped the Wii remake up, definitely should. Namco Bandai has created an excellent port of the PlayStation original, giving players a chance to faithfully revisit a classic game with a new coat of paint. Just don't expect much more than an old-school platformer prettied up for a new generation. And if you've only played through Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil for the PlayStation 2, expect a small step backward in game and level design.
Those unfamiliar with the series may wonder what the fuss is about. Klonoa may feel like a fluffy, candy-coated antiquity, a step back from mascot-driven adventure games like Super Mario 64 and Ratchet & Clank. Klonoa may not have the expected bells and whistles—or destructive arsenal—of its modern-day counterparts, but it does have an unshakable foundation of quality gameplay. Plus, you get a free fish taco.
Klonoa was developed and published by Namco Bandai for the Wii, released on May 5th. Retails for $29.99 USD. Completed main quest, tested time trials, reverse mode and other extras.
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