With many consoles of the past having a library spanning hundreds if not thousands of games, with enough time passing, it is likely that many will become inaccessible due to backwards compatibility being discontinued. While we have seen games in major franchises such as Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy made available across multiple console generations, it is those niche works at risk of being unavailable to future generations of gamers. Thanks to the actions of Bandai Namco Entertainment and the development team at Monkey Craft, the two mainline instalments of the classic Klonoa platformer series will live another generation at least.
Earlier this month, gamers were treated to the release of Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series natively across all current Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox platforms, in addition to the PC. While from the outset its title doesn’t give much indication of what the game is outside of the series it is associated with, it contains true remasters of the 1997s Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and 2001s sequel Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil. Both were developed by Namco exclusively for the PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 respectively, neither was the most prolific game but enjoyed a loyal cult following and positive reception at launch. As someone who came into PlayStation gaming at the end of the PS2 era, I never had the opportunity to play the original works. However, it quickly became clear why a remaster was warranted soon after my playtesting began.
Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series sets a standard for what PlayStation and PlayStation 2 remasters should look like on new generation hardware. Both games feature aesthetic enhancements including 4K Resolution support with new textures and 60 fps support, but also some minor quality of life adjustments such as a two-player local cooperative mode. Granted the extra gameplay features are nice, but the visuals are the shining element of both Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, rivalling the style of platformers from recent years and even exceeding them. I cannot speak for how long-time fans would treat this collection, but the colourful anime-style character designs and varied environments are delivered in abundance.
In the latter half of the 90s, when Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was released, it was during a transitionary time for both the platforming genre and the gaming industry. Consumers grew up playing 2D games, but 64-bit gaming hardware, and more notably the release of Super Mario 64 by Nintendo, saw consumers open their eyes to the potential of 3D platformers. This led to development teams discovering how to push the boundaries of still limited system specs while keeping up with the demands of their userbases. On the side of Namco, they chose for Klonoa to retain the more classic side-scrolling mechanics, but set the game in a fully 3D world – delivering an early example of a 2.5D Platformer, which is pulled off perfectly.
Taking control of the titular character, a cat-like kemonomimi with ears that double as wings, in both Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, you will run and jump your way left, right, upwards and downwards through several diverse worlds, collecting diamonds and other collectables along the way. At the base level, it is your standard platforming affair, until you start to realise that “Hey, I can’t get up to this ledge”. There are a few mechanics that made it revolutionary for the time but also stand out by standards of the genre even today.
The first thing is that Klonoa is a rather standard character ability-wise. They can jump, they can flutter, but it won’t be enough to get through the levels. Instead, most of the time you will be interacting with the world by grabbing enemies with different attack/defence patterns and using them to double-jump by springing off them, hurling them at other enemies and bubbles in a 360-degree range around them and uncover secrets through experimentation. Frankly, the controls took some getting used to, and unlike other platformers never got to the point where I didn’t have to continuously remind myself that I needed to grab enemies to progress through each level.
The second element holding gamers’ attention is the use of its 3D environment. Not only can you attack in a 360-degree area surrounding Klonoa, but as the camera perspective shifts, you can change your trajectory into the foreground or background of an area you previously encountered. While nothing revolutionary by today’s standards, I can appreciate how distinct this would have been in 1997, and also just how smooth the transitions between routes can be.
While aesthetically Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series has been revitalised into current-generation standards, other mod-cons such as bonus features for the remaster or even voice acting for each game’s short but sweet storylines were not included. You are essentially getting the two games with better visuals and slight gameplay improvements – nothing much celebrating the franchise’s 25th Anniversary in any other way. This isn’t necessarily a negative on the collection’s part, but as with other remastered classic games, I would have loved to see what a modern-day development team would have done if tasked with building a few new levels. In total, each game should offer you about a half-dozen hours of enjoyment, potentially more if you set out to 100% complete each title and unlock the game’s Platinum Trophy / All Achievements.
Showing that platformers can stand the test of time years and even decades after their original releases, while lacking some of the 25th Anniversary celebratory flair one might expect, Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is worth picking up by long-time fans and newcomers alike. Both Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil offer fun gameplay, diverse and colourful worlds and enough challenge that you feel like the difficulty is ramping up as you continue through the game.