'Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series' - A newcomer's view of a pair of classics remastered
Klonoa was a bit after my time. While anthro platformers were a big household staple in the earlier years of my childhood, by the time I was entering my teenage my family trended toward more first-person shooter titles. We didn’t get an original PlayStation, and went for an N64 instead. That being said, last year’s remaster was a great opportunity to play a classic anthro platformer that I never got a chance to. Was it as good as the niche audience for this strange cabbit-like character laid it out to be?
The remaster comes with two games, and I have played through both. In short, the first game came as a bit of a surprise to me and had gameplay and story elements that challenged me as a player.
In terms of gameplay, both games have similar mechanics and feel like a mixture of early Kirby three dimension titles mixed with Mario 2 (US) combat where you pick up enemies to throw them at enemies and objects instead of sucking them in.
Playing the second game so quickly after the first caused a bit of a disappointment as it didn’t do things that the first hadn’t already done better. I enjoyed Phantomile more than I did Lunatea’s Veil. If there was a graphical difference in the titles in their original release, this remaster eliminates it and both look good.
I will go into more detail as to why after the header, as it will go into a bit more of the game’s content with some spoilers.
Phantomile: Not what I expected going in
When it comes to anthro platformers, they tend not to be, in the phrase some gamers would use, “hardcore”. Usually the game’s target audience skews younger, therefore it will probably not turn the difficulty up to eleven. A great example of this is Super Lucky’s Tail which had me flooded with one
mans foxes by the end of the gameplay. So I expected something similar when I played Klonoa.
Instead what I got in Phantomile was a game that, while starting simple and expected in terms of story and gameplay, ended on a story and gameplay note that decided that it was time for you to grow the hell up. In a less harsh term, the story wasn’t quite a coming of age story, but the gameplay and story presented to the player absolutely was.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned that the gameplay was going to get difficult. A regular watcher of my weekly streams noted that the game director was the same as the one who worked on the Ninja Gaiden series. At the time they made that statement I was well before the game’s third act and made kind of a cheeky note that it was quite quaint that they decided to spread their work and do a more accessible game.
I paid for that hubris. Before the game’s conclusion I would find myself staring at the first game over screen I recall seeing on a furry platformer since I had started streaming games. The final level, Vision 6-2, is not to be underestimated. I laughed as I played the stage, which requires putting all your skills to the test with tight jumps and maneuvers. I saw the Ninja Gaiden slipping through. One slip, one missed button press, and your cabbit would fall to his death and his life pool will drain quickly.
I called it a night, and then farmed lives in the first level off stream so that I could have plenty of lives to try again the next time. This game uses a checkpoint system where a life will start you back at the last checkpoint, while a game over means you start the whole level over. And 6-2 is a marathon, not a sprint. Prepare your live count.
The story also matures as you progress. It starts off simple enough, but then the joker clown that seems just a harmless if unnerving rival decides to take a twist and just outright kill a character. And then at the end there is another twist where your companion and friend who was your partner the whole game, a regular trope in gaming, was actually just catfishing Klonoa the whole time and had manipulated his memories in order to get him to help the kingdom.
This made Phantomile a memorable experience. As frustratingly challenging as the gameplay got at the end, it was enjoyable and welcome. It tested me in a way that made me embarrassed that some silly animal platformer was kicking my butt. The story was also memorable, with a story that started off simple leading to something more harsh and complex. After playing it, I can see why Klonoa has a niche and avid fanbase. The game looks like it’s for kids, but by the end it’s not treating you that way. It gives a challenge that is refreshing and a story that is interesting.
If you do want to play the Reverie, I would recommend playing this one second. The games are episodic in nature, so you don’t need to play Phantomile to get anything out of the second entry. In terms of difficulty and story, if you play this one first you may be disappointed in Lunatea’s Veil as I was.
Lunatea’s Veil: A bit more of what I was expecting
I didn’t get a game over in the sequel. Because the difficulty curve on this one is a bit more on par with what I was expecting out of the first game. The story, also, was much more a classic trope in gaming with no unexpected twists. You need to collect bells from different towers in order to confront some legendary evil. There is a twist, but it was a bit more expected and common one this time.
The gameplay is not much different than the first game, and the difficulty was not as high. As noted in the intro, Klonoa fans may have been excited just to get a sequel and enjoy it. Playing the two games in a row showed how much Veil was a shadow of its former self.
Let me clear up though, it’s not a bad game. There is a fun snowboarding level, and the character does appear to have grown up in appearance a bit from his first adventure. It’s just Phantomile was better. If there was graphical disparity between the two, this remaster closed that gap and so I can’t judge the second on improvements to graphics or other such things.
Play this one first if you get this collection. It’s a good introduction to the series and you’ll be much more prepared for what Phantomile throws at you and the story is simple but isn’t unenjoyable and still worth a play.