Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (PS1, PSN) Retro Review

Time for a review of the retro variety with Klonoa's debut! Phil previously reviewed the Wii remake of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile in 2009 with his early review. A handful of years later, and he's at it again. This time Phil is reviewing the original game that hit the PlayStation One back in 1998. Is it better or worse than the Wii-make? Let's find out.

Is Klonoa's Game Good?
Well, Do His Ears Hang Low?

Poor Klonoa. It seems you're always overlooked by the gaming masses. It's a shame, too, as your games are seldom not an entertaining time. In 1998, the floppy eared feline known as Klonoa debuted in the gaming world on the original PlayStation with Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. Since then, Klonoa has seen various sequels and spinoffs, as well as a Wii remake of his first game. Is the Door to Phantomile one you should still want to open, even after all of these years?

"My precious..."
Klonoa and his best friend Huepow, an animated water bubble that rests inside Klonoa's ring, live in Phantomile. One day, a spaceship crashes into a mountain. Klonoa and Huepow immediately investigate, eventually getting involved in a quarrel with Gladius, a nightmare spirit who wants nothing more than total destruction. While there is the typical good vs. evil story trope here, there's also some heartfelt and even somber moments in Door to Phantomile that makes for a story that stays with you after the Klonoa's quest is complete. Outside a few full-motion video clips, the story is mainly told through in-game scenes, where the characters speak in a fictional Phantomile language while text boxes display their words. All of these scenes can be skipped through if one feels the need.

Maybe someone hit the rewind button...
There's plenty of interesting ideas that separates Klonoa: Door to Phantomile from the rest of the PlayStation era platforming pack. For one, levels are modeled in 3D, but Klonoa and other characters move along a 2D plane. This 2-1/2D (or if you're more computer literate, 2.5D) gameplay means you'll be running around objects; get greeted by split paths, each meandering their own ways; and having multiple points where paths intersect, allowing you to access new areas. You can even interact with objects in the background and foreground, opening up some clever puzzles and secrets. It feels like a 3D world, yet you're running along a 2D plane the entire time.

Level paths curve, twist, and cross
one another to impressive effect.
The other concept that shows immense novelty is Klonoa's Wind Bullet. With a shot of the Wind Bullet, a gust of wind can pick up nearby enemies. These then are held above Klonoa's head. Through jumping up into the air and then pressing the jump button again, you can make Klonoa use the enemy as a means to initiate a double jump. This allows Klonoa to access otherwise impossible to reach platforms. Seeing as this move also throws the enemy downward, you can clear out enemies from above mid double jump.

Enemies nabbed by the Wind Bullet
will inflate up like a balloon.
Aside from using enemies for extra height, Klonoa can chuck enemies into other foes and objects. There's times where you will have to chuck an enemy into the background to activate a switch or destroy a piece of scenery to reveal a secret. This element of gameplay remains unique and very much innovative.

Such secrets include six Phantomillians that have been captured inside bubbles that are strewn about the game's levels, usually in hazardous areas or ones that are the road less traveled. Not only does rescuing all 72 Phantomillians unlock an extra level to check out, but Klonoa: Door to Phantomile possesses 12 relatively lengthy levels for its story. Still, the game won't last players for too long. Simply breezing through the game (although it does contain some challenge here and there) offers players but three or four hours of game time. However, Door to Phantomile is one of those titles that just begs to be played over and over again. It's the perfect length for that, right alongside Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog, for instance.

Are you... Are you hovering over
the walkway? Based Klonoa!
Each second level of Door to Phantomile, or as the game refers to each as a vision, concludes with a boss fight. Most take place in a circular arena of some sort, and utilize the Wind Bullet mechanic in a lot of ingenious ways. One boss requires you to launch Klonoa up in the air with a spring and then toss an enemy into the boss's open mouth to damage it. Another takes place on a swinging log that moves backward and forward. When the log sways close to the player, that's Klonoa's cue to grab an enemy. When the log sways towards the boss, Klonoa needs to chuck the enemy forward into one of the creature's colored weak points.

If this boss and Klonoa kept circling the
arena, Yakety Sax would be a good song choice.
Obviously comparing Klonoa's first outing to games of today's standards would not be fair, so let's make note of the game's graphics compared to its contemporaries. Many PS1 era games that had 3D modeling oftentimes give me headaches after extended play sessions. However, Door to Phantomile isn't one of those games. While backgrounds, environments, and bosses are polygonal, other characters such as Klonoa and enemies are 2D sprites. This creates a lovely visual style that holds up pretty well. Door to Phantomile exudes charm from every orifice. Furthermore, the music of Door to Phantomile is memorable, offering many melodies and tunes that can easily be hummed as you play along. The gibberish voice acting applied to each character's speech is a cute touch, but when Klonoa screams, it can be a bit grating to the ears.

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile is a PlayStation One classic that any platformer fan should not go without. It's charming, it plays great, it features a gameplay mechanic that is still novel to this day, and it welcomes you to play through it multiple times every now and then. Although the gaming world and even Namco Bandai have turned their collective back on the character, I'm still enamored by that long-eared cat with the power of the wind. Me-wow! ...Forget I just said that.

[SPC Says: 8.5/10]

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