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Door to Phantomile
Score: 9.0 / 10
Overlooked games are a dime a dozen. With
the flood of titles released each year, it isn’t surprising that same
games fall under the cracks, even when given a shining endorsement by
critics and curious players alike.
The original Klonoa, released on the PS1, is one such overlooked title;
released at a time when the gaming market was flooded with 3D
mascot-themed games in order to capitalize on the success of Mario 64,
this 2.5D polygon/sprite hybrid offered one of the greatest
sidescrolling and platforming experiences outside of a Nintendo system,
but remained a cult favorite at best, even after releasing a cel-shaded
Third time’s usually the charm, however, and a third release on the most
popular console this generation might be the one to give Klonoa the
stardom it so richly deserves. Developed by the same team behind the
original game, Namco’s Wii title is in actuality a remake of the first
Klonoa game. In actuality, calling it a visually enhanced port may prove
accurate, as the core game is virtually
identical to the original, but with a new fully polygonal makeover.
Despite the new coat of paint, does Klonoa’s classic gameplay still hold
up to today’s standards?
The story remains unchanged from the original; after experiencing an
ominous dream, the long-eared, cat-like Klonoa and his best friend
Hewpoe embark on an adventure spanning six kingdoms in order to stop the
evil Ghadius from turning their world of Phantomile into a domain of
On the surface, Klonoa features a basic story, but this minimalistic
setting masks an emotionally deep story that features some surprising
twists and a few heartwarming moments that are worthy of being added to
gamers’ “games that made me cry” lists. The colorful, dreamlike visuals
and fantastic soundtrack add to an engaging tale that creates joy as
well as sadness to anyone choosing to play it.
The gameplay also remains unchanged, but still proves to be a greatly
polished experience; as a Ring Spirit, Klonoa uses his friend Hewpoe to
inflate and catch enemies, in which he can then either toss them as
projectiles or use them to propel high into the air. These two methods
are used to traverse and solve puzzles; a switch, for instance, may sit
out of reach in the far off distance, which requires Klonoa to hurl an
inflated enemy to activate it.
But the 2.5D perspective also plays a large role into the gameplay.
Klonoa is able to interact with objects and enemies in both the
foreground and the background, a mechanic that becomes integral to
operating the right switch or finding the missing key to progress in the
level. This outside level of thinking compliments the tightly polished
platforming, resulting in an easy-going, but not always easy adventure.
The original Klonoa featured colorful
visuals for the time, and the fully 3D upgrade has carried on that
spirit along with improved textures, widescreen support, and multiple
effects that culminate in one of the prettiest Wii games to date. The
audio also features two language options, English and Phantomile. The
English dub features strong voicework with the exception of the titular
character, who sounds like a teenage Sonic knockoff; The Phantomile
voicetrack features an originally created language in the vein of Ico
and Shadow of the Colossus (although keep in mind the original Klonoa
came up with the idea long before either game was conceptualized) and
remains a more recommended choice to make Klonoa’s setting feel truly
alive. The music remains completely untouched, but this is hardly a
criticism as Klonoa’s synths and symphonies still hold strong, and is
quite honestly one of the best videogame soundtracks ever made. There
are also a variety of control options, including the standard Wii and
Nunchuck combo, the sideways Wiimote option, the Classic controller, and
even the Gamecube controller.
As timeless as Klonoa’s gameplay remains, the Wii edition sadly fails to
address the two biggest criticisms of the original: A short length and
easy difficulty. Since the levels are structured exactly the same as the
original, the total length to finish the adventure falls under five
hours. Some Wii exclusive editions include a time attack and reverse
mirror modes, but all new areas and puzzles would have gone a long way
in improving the game. As for the difficulty, the puzzles and platforms
vary in challenge, but never reaches the point of frustration, which is
a good thing. The enemies, on the other hand, won’t offer much
resistance in their roles as moving puzzle pieces, and the boss fights
can be dealt with effortlessly once their patterns can be figured out.
But despite the short length and difficulty, Klonoa’s classic strengths
far outweigh its long forgotten weaknesses. Whether you were a fan of
the original or a curious newcomer, Door to Phantomile is a wonderful
experience that deserves to reach the reception it has long deserved.