Klonoa almost requires you to gush no matter how you feel about the original material, or the makeover, or even the genre itself. These top-flight developers had the guts to go out there and pitch a decade-old game as viable disc-based competition to anything out there today — well, anything out there today on the Wii, which is admittedly a unique market. Wii does better suit darling platform remakes from the past century, and I don't believe I'm biased in saying so.
Where the art lies in creating, or recreating, a game like Klonoa is in choosing your battles. This new version of Klonoa looks a whole lot better than the original PlayStation title, and it should. For this remake to look anything but stunning in contrast to the original material would have been an unforgivable tragedy. Heads would have rolled. But, thankfully, those heads remain right where they belong because Klonoa looks great. Those who've played it before — who I suspect will make up a large portion of the audience for this bargain title — will be delighted with the upgrades. Those who've neither seen nor heard of Klonoa, well they'll just be delighted.
Oh, here I go gushing, but Klonoa's (re)design team has done an excellent job selecting its source material and completely, entirely failed to ruin what was an immensely satisfying, albeit relatively uncomplicated, original experience. The progenitor Klonoa maintains to this day something of a cult status — although subtler than some other cult titles, the slew of old-school horror games and shooter titles too numerous to mention.
Lacking a starship-caliber graphics engine to tell its tale, the original PlayStation was often long on backstory; Klonoa is no exception. The game resides, pardon the forthcoming nostalgia, in a land far away a long time ago, a land called Phantomille, which was once home to a Wind God, Tree God, Water God and Moon God. The gods had an intimate relationship with the mortal inhabitants of Phantomille in that they appropriated the mortals' dream power to create the whole world. If you're thinking that this sounds just a like saccharine-sweet PlayStation game of yore, you won't be disappointed.
Enter strife, though, as a matter of course. Ghadius, the King of Darkness fought a battle with the gods, one he figured to win until the gods defeated him with the aid of celestial fish (don't ask). The downside of this Pyrrhic victory for the people of Phantomille was the loss of ability to recall and use dreams, which were relegated to remain within the realm of sleep. The dreams were safe and sound until Ghadius recoups his powers and battles to become the ultimate ruler of Phantomille.
Enter our savior, Klonoa — he of the floppy Pac-Man cap and marvelously cute alter-mouse appearance. With the fairly robust fairy-tale backstory, you may expect that intricate plotting ensues. Recall, however, this is a 20th-century platformer designed for the original PlayStation console. From this point on, the Klonoa game wisely plays just as its forebear. In remaking the game, no one did much tinkering under the hood. Even the cut scenes, which have been graphically enhanced to suit a detailed remake for a current-generation console, hold true to their roots. The point here is platforming your way through numerous, substantially creative and enjoyable levels, fighting somewhat simple bosses at the end of each level, until you defeat Ghadius and restore order to Phantomille.
The basic mechanics are unchanged, too, and they translate well to the standard Wiimote and Nunchuk, although you can get quite as far along with the classic controller shell or a GameCube controller. One thing you'll miss without the Wiimote and Nunchuk to shake about: Whirlwind! It's an addition that the original Klonoa and the updated PlayStation 2 sequel didn't feature. Whirlwind slows down enemies, so you can get one up on them. Frankly, it's something of a crutch. It's fun to pull off at the right moment, and it might save you from repeating a stage segment, but you certainly don't need it. By all means play with the controller combination of your choice. I like the classic shell; the GameCube controller works just as well, but unless you've hung onto your WaveBird, you'll be tethered by the cord.
True to the dream theme, Klonoa levels are divided into Visions, which typically have two or three stages; advance through each one, and you're off to the next Vision. In the spirit of softhearted weapons, Klonoa uses "air bullets" to zap enemies and collect collectibles. Sometimes defeating enemies requires a bit of calculation combined with special skills — e.g., high double jumps — or you'll need to leg up onto other surfaces to take a whack at them. None of the everyday enemies are particularly difficult, and the interim bosses follow suit in their benignity.
Collectibles of greater value require similar machinations: Some are placed just out of reach, others are clearly accessible but there's some trick you may miss at first. Something you'll want to grab no matter the cost: Memory Clocks. Klonoa is very much an old-school game. You'll get several portions of health each time, but once they're gone — except for grabbing extra health bumps here and there — they're gone. Falling off a cliff will smack you to zero health right then and there. For the most part, dead is dead, even in Phantomille, and Klonoa checkpoints aren't terribly forgiving. Ask me about the single most difficult element of Klonoa, I'll tell you that it's those cheapskate checkpoints. Memory Clocks allow Klonoa to return to the last such item he activated while at full health.
Klonoa is full of environmental devices intended to aid you in your quest. Almost all of them work as billed. Keep in mind that this title has stood the test of time, and thankfully for the developers, there was little required to bring this title into the current century.
I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed Klonoa, all the way round. It's simply a joy to play. There aren't enough checkpoints, even with Memory Clocks, compared to what we're accustomed to today, and controls that were perfectly sound way back when sometimes feel awkward now. Klonoa is not a long game either; it'll take you about six hours to finish the platforming game, but you can stretch that, as I did, by falling off cliffs quite a bit. What you're getting, and you're getting it at a bargain price, is a magnificent update of an already standout title. One final point: All Wii games should look this, even the new ones. The graphics are beautiful, and there's very little at work in the stylized graphics that modern developers can't somehow incorporate into their contemporary games.
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