Before true 3D platformers became all the rage, 2.5D platformers began showing up on Sony's Playstation console during the 32-bit era. These games featured 3D visuals, but kept the player on a 2D pathway through the game. This would allow developers the freedom of using 3D visuals without the hassle of trying to figure out how to set up the play control in a fully 3D environment. Namco released the original Klonoa on Sony's Playstation console in 1998 and despite being an outstanding title top to bottom, the game went largely ignored and its sales proved fairly dismal.
Now here we are a full ten years later and for Klonoa's 10th anniversary Namco has chosen to resurrect the floppy-eared mascot on Nintendo's Wii console. Not only does the game feature a gorgeous visual makeover, it also gains a few Wii motion controls as well. But does this classic 2.5D platformer still have what it takes to compete in a world dominated by flashy 3D platforming titles?
Despite the 3D visuals found in Klonoa, the game is still basically played on a rail. While this might sound a bit limiting to gamers who've become used to the freedom of a fully 3D adventure, the game does offer up multiple pathways throughout each level that allow for quite a bit of exploration, especially in later levels. Klonoa has several gameplay moves at his disposal beyond the standard running and jumping moves found in most platformers. Using his Ring, Klonoa can grab onto enemies and carry them, and he can then choose either to toss them or throw them in a downward motion that will provide him a double jump. You can even make Klonoa flap his ears and float in midair for a short amount of time by holding down the jump button while in the air.
There are six different areas in Klonoa called Visions, and each Vision is divided into two stages. At the end of the second stage, you'll generally square off with a boss before you can proceed to the next Vision. Along the way, you can rescue villagers that are hidden throughout each level, and also collect Dream Crystals in order to gain extra lives. While platforming plays the biggest role in Klonoa, there’s quite a bit of problem-solving as well: many levels feature tricky puzzles that require you to hit various switches or locate keys to open locked doors. It's this careful blend of platforming and puzzle-type challenges that gives Klonoa its unique appeal.
The play control in Klonoa is quite responsive and provides a solid feel for the tricky platforming elements strung throughout the game. The various gameplay moves at Klonoa's disposal also add a lot of variety to the mix. Namco even chose to add in an interesting Wii motion control move that allows you to shake the Nunchuk controller in order to unleash a whirlwind that can temporarily stun certain enemies. It's a small addition, but it does come in quite handy for those times when you find yourself in a tight spot with one of the game's many enemies. Couple all of these gameplay moves with some absolutely amazing level design and you've got a game that plays as good as it looks. Being able to go back and collect villagers that you might have missed the first time around adds in a solid dose of replay value as well.
The original Playstation version of Klonoa was certainly no slouch in the graphics department, but Namco has really raised the bar with this Wii update. The visuals in the game are absolutely stunning and the vibrant color schemes truly bring the world of Klonoa to life onscreen. Even the amount of detail found in the various backgrounds adds a lot of visual depth to the overall presentation. Namco has also tossed in some fancy cinemas that play out in between most levels, giving the game a more modern look and feel. The Wii console might not output true HD visuals, but you certainly wouldn't know it from playing this visually stunning title.
While the visuals in Klonoa got a major upgrade, the music and sound effects weren't so fortunate. Of course that's not really a bad thing considering how fantastic the original soundtrack of the game was. You'll notice slight changes here and there, but for the most part it sounds pretty much just like the original Playstation release. Namco did add in some voiced dialogue to highlight the many cinemas that play out during the game, but the voices are a bit on the cheesy side and seem a bit overdone at times. It's certainly nothing overly annoying, but it will make you wonder why the same attention to detail taken with the visual upgrade wasn't given to this voiced dialogue.
In the end, Namco has succeeded in resurrecting a game that truly deserved a second chance. What was one of the most overlooked platformers of the 32-bit era has now returned to glory on Nintendo's Wii console and feels as fresh today as it did ten years ago when it first debuted on the Playstation system. While platforming titles have certainly become more intricate and flashy over the years, Namco's update of their original Klonoa title proves that even a decade-old platformer can still hold its own when a developer puts the time and effort into it. If you're a platformer fan, you absolutely must own this wonderfully charming title.