Developer: Klonoa Works
Release Date: February 23, 2005
Buy 'KLONOA 2: Dream Champ Tournament': GBA
Oh, Klonoa. From humble beginnings on the Playstation as an obscure but wonderful 3D platform title, we've watched you gain almost no respect from the community at large, instead remaining a niche series that, even in its fifth entry (counting the Japan-only Moonlight Museum on the ill-fated Wonderswan), will be primarily forgotten. We'll stay with you and watch you try to beat Gantz and The General, save your friends and hopefully the day, but any fan would be hard-pressed to recruit new supporters to your side with this game.
For those not as familiar with the series as some, Klonoa is, for lack of better definition, a blue dog...thing. Hailing from an unknown world of odd creatures, magic, and other such phenomena, our hero possesses the Wind Ring, which allows him to shoot magic bullets. Tied with his ability to fly short distances, a nose for adventure, and a generally do-gooder frame of mind, he's gone from one end of the world to another, saving the folk from various evils. It's not exactly the most involved concept in the world, but it certain makes for entertaining time-wasting.
While his first two titles (on the Playstation and PlayStation 2, respectively) were 3D platformers, the two GBA entries have been strictly two-dimensional fare, giving up the rotational and scaling effects of their bigger siblings in exchange for a more puzzle-based style. Klonoa's wind bullets allow him to bloat enemies, letting him use them as projectiles, ballast for double-jumps, seeds for gigantic flowerpots, and then some. For someone with a very limited arsenal (you never get a different weapon), this singular ability is used to great effect. Each level is laid out as a multi-stage puzzle; you can marathon through it, making time to just get the three Sun Coins that unlock the final door, or you can take some time out to pick up the smattering of gems and the hidden moon coin, unlocking things as you go along. It's great fun, and although it's not particularly complicated, it's still interesting.
The intrinsic elements are handled capably, creating an attractive package. The graphics, while a bit on the small side, are detailed and contrasted enough to even be playable on the older GBAs. Cut scenes and the occasional hoverboard race look remarkably good, with no slowdown in the 3D segments at all. Sound, while tinny and simplistic, is perfectly fine by GBA standards. (I miss Klonoa's gibberish language from the console titles, but there are just some things you have to give up in the name of portability.)
Given the simple design of the game, it'd be almost impossible to fault the controls, so it comes as no surprise that they're spot on. The shoulder buttons are primarily ignored—they do a completely optional spin move in the hoverboard races—with the other two buttons covering the only other functions necessary. There are no fluffy combo moves here, just a simple bullet/throw and jump. Double-tapping jump throws any enemy you're holding downwards to produce a double jump, holding jump lets you flap those mighty ears and fly for a bit...and that's just about it. What makes up most of the actual levels is finding out how to pass by one-way gates, blocks, pots, hurricanes, and various other blockades in order to get to the door and finish.
You may have gathered from the introduction that all is not well in Klonoa 2. It has nothing to do with graphics, sound, control, concept or anything else. No, in this case, it's challenge, which Klonoa 2 has little to spare. The level designs generally lend to one solution, and Klonoa's small pool of abilities don't lend themselves to being creative. Enemies are not hard to dodge and re-appear infinitely to make sure you always have a double-jump or a projectile when one is necessary. Even boss fights are fairly simple if you just keep at it long enough. While a three-star life meter does make some difference, the sheer onslaught of Klonoa tokens (free lives) means that you'll never be low on retries. It's not that it's not fun, it's just not particularly stressful, and many players may find themselves very bored. Given that nearly every level uses the exact same "find the coins, find the door" methodology as well, the game simply can't keep up the excitement forever.
It's a shame; Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament is a very tight platformer, taken from a unique angle. It's more low-impact than many entries in this slowly fading genre, trying to be more light fare than an intense action fest. While this may make it different, it also reduces its overall appeal, pulling it away from the action gamers that make up a great portion of the US gaming audience. In the end, I can't see anyone who doesn't already know Klonoa being drawn towards it. The cutesy graphics and character design certainly won't draw anyone but the young, and what it offers in gameplay will primarily appeal to those who are already fans — not intense enough for action gamers, not devious enough for puzzle gamers.