Review: Klonoa (Nintendo Wii)

Klonoa
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Paon
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 05/05/2009


Klonoa is a more than welcome blast from the past. Originally released on the Playstation as Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, it features platform gameplay and presents 3-D characters and backgrounds on a 2-D plane. This type of game hasn’t been seen regularly in the past few years, and as a big fan of platformers, I must say that I have been wishing for a strong return of the genre for a while. The character of Klonoa was last seen on the Game Boy Advance in 2005, so this remake is a return to action after four years away from the limelight.

While the game is indeed a remake, the previews promised more than a simple port, with reworked graphics, new voice acting, new levels and unlockable costumes – all of this for the budget price of 30 dollars. Does it all come together to create a satisfying experience? Let’s find out.

STORY/MODES
The story here is a simple one, and quite frankly, even after I finished the game, I wasn’t totally sure if it all made sense. The game starts with a nice cut-scene that seems to indicate that Klonoa is having a dream of some sort, where he finds a ring and stumbles upon a weird floating blue ball named Hewpoe. When he wakes up, he realizes that the ring is indeed with him, and that Hewpoe has been watching him sleep. Klonoa does not find that creepy at all and simply smiles, as if they had been friends all alone. Together they eventually find out that an evil sorcerer called Ghadius has kidnapped the mythical songstress Lephise, who is the only one who can stop his plan to turn Phantomile into a world of nightmares using her famous, “Song of Rebirth”. Obviously, Klonoa and Hewpoe give chase, and this is where your adventure begins.

As you can see, it’s a classic, “save the lady from the bad guy” storyline, only this time it takes place in the most rainbow-coloured, candy-coated world I have ever seen. Everybody here is cute as a button, including the baddies. The storyline might not be original, and it might not even be a really necessary aspect of this type of game, but it sets the wheel in motion, introduces adorable characters and doesn’t get in the way with never-ending cut-scenes.

Story Rating: Mediocre

GRAPHICS
The first word that comes to mind here is “colourful”. The entire game is bursting with vivid colours, and the whole package ends up looking like a nice Saturday morning cartoon. The characters look adorable, even the bad guys. Some jagged edges can be spotted here and there when the cut-scenes zoom all the way in on some characters, but the main perspective is nothing but exquisite. No matter what kind of world a level is set in, it looks to me like the development team completely nailed the look of each and every one of them, from lush forests to waterfalls cascading backward. Each stage has a different vibe, and they all come together to create a gorgeous world that has nothing to envy when compared to other classics of the genre. With a steady frame rate and distinct visuals, I have nothing but praises for the graphical style shown in this game.

Graphics Rating: Great

SOUND
The entire game is filled with cheerful songs that are just catchy enough to stick in your head without making you sick to your stomach or making you want to bang your head on a wall. The melodies are quite simply gorgeous, a pure auditory pleasure.

The voice acting comes in two flavours. The default setting features English voice acting which is often over acted, but still feels good because it gives the games a cartoonish feel. The second setting is the original game’s “Phantomile” voices, which are nothing but gibberish, but give the game a real personality of its own. That option strengthen the game’s whimsical atmosphere, and you can still follow what’s going on with the subtitles, which are played out comic book-style in speech bubbles.

Both voice acting settings have their own qualities, but I have personally prefer “Phantomile”. I just think it gives the game a little more charm. The only thing I need to warn you about is that should you choose the English setting, you will hear Klonoa shout “WA-HOO!” quite a lot, to the point where it might even subtly become a part of your own speech pattern. I am an avid hockey player, and I surprised myself this week when I shouted Klonoa’s trademark “WA-HOO!” after scoring a goal. This battle cry seems to be less present when the floppy-eared hero speaks gibberish.

Sound Rating: Amazing

CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY
This is a real throwback to times when controllers where much smaller and simpler. You move Klonoa with the d-pad, use a button to pick up and throw enemies and another to jump. That’s it. While what I just described is the sideways Wii remote control scheme, the game can also be played using a Gamecube controller or a classic controller. There’s also a remote and nunchuk scheme available, which simply maps the throwing of enemies to a quick shake of the remote.

The game is everything you would expect from a classic platformer. You simply try to guide Klonoa to the end of each level, which are called “visions” in this game’s world. Really, if you have played a platform game before, than you will be able to pick up and play this one without even reading the manual.

Each level puts our protagonist in a differently themed adventure, from a forest to a river and a village. Every other level, Klonoa has to fight a boss, which are actually quite simple to beat but manage to remain satisfying when you bring them down. The game truly shines in its level design, which brilliantly blends the game’s 3-D backgrounds with its 2-D mechanic. If I am not mistaken, the original Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was actually one of the first games to introduce gamers to what would later be labelled 2.5-D, and quite frankly, I think that the game is still the master of this subgenre. Each level is a clever mix of intersecting paths that move in and out of the background. Some levels even showcase mini-mazes that switch the perspective from one side of the background to the other, requiring mild memorization.

These magnificent levels remain a blast to play from start to finish because of the crisp controls, which never suffer from hit detection or loose jumps; two items which have been the plague of the genre for as long as I can remember.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Classic

REPLAYABILITY
The game is over quickly, and once it’s over, there really isn’t much to do. There’s a mode where the levels can be played in reverse, similar to the mirror mode we see in so many racing games nowadays. You can also unlock more costumes and a time attack mode, but the strange thing is that all of these are unlocked at the same time, when you complete the final stage. The only thing that the game makes you work a bit for is “Lephise’s Jukebox”, which is little more than a glorified music test mode. In order to get this, you need to find every last Phantomile hidden in every level. Each level is home to six Phantomiles, and some of them require the player to really go out of his way. If you are the kind of player who obsesses over finding every last collectible in a game, then you might be in for two or three supplemental hours of gameplay, but Donkey Kong 64 this is not. Once you are done with that, then you are pretty much done with the entire game. At least, the game only costs 30$, and for the price, you still get a reasonable amount of gameplay.

Replayability Rating: Above Average

BALANCE
As you might have guessed, the game is easy. Very easy. The stages might present a puzzle every once in a while that will leave you thinking for a minute or two, but the solution is often in plain sight. Most of the puzzles require finding a key to open a door, in which case the key is usually hidden down the path you did not take when starting a level. Even the bosses never pose much of a challenge, even though each of them requires different actions to be beaten. They can usually be sized up in about thirty seconds, after which the battle is simply a formality. Still, the game has a nice pace, and while the challenges I described above might not be impressive to a skilled gamer, kids will often meet their match in some of the puzzles. Nevertheless, even adult gamers will enjoy the game’s pacing, as minutes and hours will quickly fly by, a smile stuck to their face.

Yes, the game is easy, but some levels still require quick reflexes. This is a game that can be enjoyed by anybody, although not in the same way.

Balance Rating: Above Average

ORIGINALITY
It is hard to argue against the fact that the game is more or less the same game that has been released on the PSX years ago, only prettier. The cosmetic changes are all very enjoyable, with beautiful graphics and voice acting that suits the atmosphere perfectly, but there isn’t a lot of new stuff all around. At least the publishers have waited a long time before re-releasing the game, and the gap between each version is sufficient to think that today’s audience has never been exposed to the product before.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

ADDICTIVENESS
Because the game is so short, it is better played in short burst. It doesn’t get tiring or anything, but levels are over quickly. By the time you have played five levels in a row, you will feel like you have had enough for the day. Unlike other games where I expect to be addicted, I don’t really see it as a fault in Klonoa. It is one of the few games which can actually make games a real hobby; something that you can do in short rounds between other activities. The levels are fast and fun, so it’s easy to simply get one or two in before going out. However, if you are the kind of gamer who buys a game and dedicates his time to it and nothing else until there’s nothing left to do, be aware that you will not find solace here.

Addictiveness Rating: Decent

APPEAL FACTOR
Klonoa is a game that is obviously aimed at children, and it will easily win them over with the great characters, cartoonish voice acting and bright graphics. Adults will be harder to convince that this game is worth their time as Klonoa is often too cute for its own good. I feel like many people will pass on this one because it look really childish, but underneath it all, there a little gem of a game that sends anybody who grew up with platforming games on a nostalgia loop.

Appeal Factor Rating: Decent

MISCELLANEOUS
The experience is satisfying, but really barebones. There is no multiplayer mode despite the fact that Klonoa is always accompanied by his sidekick Hewpoe. I could easily have seen a second player taking control of Hewpoe in a manner similar to the multiplayer modes we have seen in many Kirby games, or even in Super Mario Galaxy. A second player could have been used for neutralizing enemies and smashing foes before they have a chance to smash the main hero. A cooperative aspect could also have been emphasized, focusing on helping Klonoa accomplishing his double jumps, or finding secrets hidden in the backgrounds.

On the plus side, the game’s level design is spectacular, switching perspective and using the 3D backgrounds to great effect when creating 2D worlds. As far as platformers go, I have rarely seen such creativity in games that don’t have Mario in the title.

Miscellaneous Rating: Good

THE Scores
Story/Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Good
Sound: Amazing
Control/Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal: Decent
Miscellaneous: Good
Final Score: Enjoyable Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Klonoa is a great game for all ages. Kids will fall in love with the floppy-eared titular character, the great visuals and the fun gameplay. Adults will find amazing level design and a game that can scratch their itch for a good platformer. Despite being a remake of a game nearly a decade old, Klonoa shows that pure fun is always is timeless, and at 30 bucks, the price is just right for those who missed it the first time around, or even for nostalgic gamer who wish to give this one another spin.

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