(Game Boy Advance)

Klonoa: Empire of Dreams (Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Klonoa: Empire of Dreams Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Wahoo!

Starting life on the PlayStation in 1997, at a time when Super Mario 64 had just brought the gaming world triple-jumping headlong into the era of 3D platforming, Namco's Klonoa series has always done things differently. Klonoa's first outing, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, was a pioneering foray into 2.5D, mixing polygonal backgrounds with sprite-based characters, and restricting movement to a two-dimensional path while letting the path itself wind its way enchantingly through a three-dimensional world.

It was breathtaking then and continues to captivate today, as Nintendo gamers discovered with the excellent Wii remake in 2008. But Klonoa's earliest appearance on a Nintendo system was back in 2001, with Klonoa: Empire of Dreams for the Game Boy Advance, a title now available on the Wii U Virtual Console. Given that one of the series' defining features is its innovative use of 2.5D, does this fully two-dimensional performance manage to capture the charm of Klonoa's original adventures? Absolutely, and in the process, Empire of Dreams delivers one of the finest puzzle-platforming experiences found anywhere.

Rabbit, cat, or both? Klonoa's species is never really explained, and isn't worth fretting over; in game he's referred to simply as a "Dream Traveller". Empire of Dream's story revisits the series' staple theme this time in the Kingdom of Jillius, where an insomnia-stricken emperor has outlawed dreaming within the realm. Naturally, Klonoa runs afoul of this law and is tasked with ridding the kingdom of various monsters to atone for it. Told through mostly static cut-scenes, the story is charming and more engrossing than you might expect, and it's happily backed up by wonderfully engaging gameplay.

The main gameplay hook of the series is that Klonoa can use a short-range "Wind Bullet" from his ring to lift enemies above his head, inflating them in the process in a visual homage to Namco's Dig Dug. From there he can hurl them at other enemies, or throw them towards the ground mid-jump, leapfrogging over them to perform his signature double-jump. It feels great, and re-imagining enemies as stepping stones rather than strictly obstacles makes for a very different kind of platforming experience. It means that just moving around the levels (or "Visions" as they're called here) involves light puzzling elements, and collecting the three stars needed to clear a Vision and the 30 optional gems requires creative use of Klonoa's skills as well as puzzle-solving prowess.

Barring some head-scratchers in the later areas, these puzzles are never difficult. But they're not designed to stump you. Rather they're meant - like Klonoa's central double-jump mechanic - to engage you in your surroundings, and to encourage full use of the environment. By design, Empire of Dreams is a game that invites you to enjoy the little things. An array of different foes and environmental elements are introduced as you progress through the game, bringing new puzzle-solving techniques with them and making each world feel fresh in gameplay as well as visual style. The level design is fantastic throughout, and keeps a strong sense of forward momentum even when there's backtracking involved. It's very difficult to get lost, and since enemies and objects respawn automatically, you'll never be stuck having to restart a Vision.

The main puzzle levels are broken up by two faster-paced stage types, with both forced-scrolling platforming and side-view hoverboarding sequences thrown into the mix. Yes, Empire of Dreams hails from the Sonic Adventure 2 era, when every mammalian mascot worth their salt added some sort of extreme board-sport to their résumé, but Klonoa feels like he comes by his hoverboard honestly. These stages are a lot of fun, and collecting all 100 optional gems requires quick thinking, split-second jumps and likely a lot of replay. The forced-scrolling levels in particular are beautifully designed, easy enough to complete without being frustrating, but with gems placed tantalizingly just out of reach so that you're always tempted to risk squeezing in another double-jump or potentially deadly detour.

Even as an early Game Boy Advance release, Empire of Dreams looks wonderful, making excellent use of the system's impressive 2D capabilities. Sprite scaling and rotation add real personality to Klonoa's foes, environments, and boss battles, while parallax scrolling brings the multi-layered backgrounds to life. Animations are beautiful, the sprites are charming, and the bright colour palette - which thoughtfully leant itself to easy viewing even on the non-backlit first generation Game Boy Advance - shines brilliantly on both the GamePad and the TV. The visual themes in the different worlds also skip the usual platformer clichés of fire, ice, and so on, and are much the richer for it; the opera house-themed second world is a real highlight.

The soundtrack was a stand out feature of both Klonoa's console outings, and this previously-portable version lives up to their musical legacy, albeit on a smaller scale. The loops are shorter, but the series' trademark sound is still here in spades, with catchy melodies lilting over the action and often evocative of the wind mentioned in our hero's Japanese name (Kaze no Klonoa - "Klonoa of the Wind"). The impressive voice samples included are also a treat, and Klonoa's trademark "Wahoo!" adds a gleeful sense of triumph to every double-jump.

Empire of Dreams has 40 Visions spread out over its 5 worlds, and while it's not a lengthy game by today's standards - you could easily beat it in a weekend - the focused stages are perfect for quick trips into Klonoa's world. You can return to previously cleared Visions at any time, and there are extras to be unlocked by collecting every gem in every level, which significantly extends the replay value for ambitious players. The restore points afforded by the Wii U's Virtual Console are largely unnecessary, given the game's save system and relatively short levels, but the other emulation extras - including an optional screen-smoothing graphical filter, customizable controls, and a full scan of the original instruction booklet - are excellent additions.

Conclusion

The Game Boy Advance was blessed with an enviable and nearly endless parade of platformers over its lifespan, and this game stands out as one of the very best. With thoroughly satisfying mechanics and more charm in the opening stages than many games manage by the closing credits, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is an absolute joy, and well worth revisiting in this Wii U re-release. If you enjoyed Klonoa's big screen adventures, you'll love Empire of Dreams both for the same reasons and for its distinct, pocket-sized personality; if you've never had the pleasure of taking a trip with Namco's fuzzy Dream Traveller, this is a wonderful place to start.

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User Comments (44)

sketchturner

#3

sketchturner said:

This game gets such good reviews. But every time I pick it up, I play the first level or two and get bored. I probably need to give it more time.

BakaKnight

#4

BakaKnight said:

Downloaded immediatly yesterday and loving it, amazing how Namco managed to keep Klonoa's world working so well even with the limits of the GBA; I can only agree fully with the review :D

KingCreezy

#5

KingCreezy said:

If this comes to NA I will make the purchase. Sadly for one reason or another, I've never played a game in this franchise, despite all the good things I've heard about it.

Nomad

#6

Nomad said:

One of my favourite video game characters, and one of the most underrated. Looking forward to replaying this one. Would love to see this guy in Smash Bros.

eviLaTtenDant

#7

eviLaTtenDant said:

The only thing i remember about this game is that it was a fun ride. Dang, i don't even remember the boss-fights so i should probably replay it one day.
I hope GBA's Klonoa 2 or maybe even its Klonoa Heroes will be available on the 3DS here one day.

rosebud

#8

rosebud said:

I still have the original cart for this and play it from time to time. The 9 is deserved; this is a great game Too bad Klonoa games didn't last.

readyletsgo

#9

readyletsgo said:

I got the ps1 game on the vita a few weeks back, enjoyed what I played, must go back to it.

Isn't the gba cart worth a lot of money now? I remember wanting to buy them last year and the prices were crazy!

NImH

#10

NImH said:

Oh @Zipmon, you never fail. Thank you for rightly presenting this wonderful gem. Empire of Dreams is one of my all-time favorite games. I really hope this comes to NA soon.

TruenoGT

#12

TruenoGT said:

This'll be my first GBA VC game if it comes to NA soon. Loved 1 and 2 on the PS1 and PS2 (and the Wii remake!) and have always wanted to play this one.

Einherjar

#14

Einherjar said:

Klonoa was a real sleeper hit back then. Despite its very simplistic and bleak graphics, the game just oozes with fun.
A real treat for everyone who puts gameplay over graphics.

WaveWarlock

#15

WaveWarlock said:

@GeminiSaint

Klonoa(Wii) was absoluely amazing. One of my favorite games of all time and is no doubt in my Top 5 wii games. The dreamy, surrel, magical & imaganitive soundtrack alone is just mesmerizing... :D

SparkOfSpirit

#18

SparkOfSpirit said:

@DiscoDriver43 Played it. Was awesome.

Klonoa is a highly underrated franchise. Every platformer is excellent.

If Namco had a Smash rep, it should be him. The guy deserves it the most.

blaze8937

#20

blaze8937 said:

Amazing review this game definitely deserves all the praise it gets. I recently just got both the original gba carts and having such a great time with them. I would love to get this on the wiiu but seriously crossing my fingers hoping they make an announcement that gba vc games are coming to the 3ds at e3. Then I would buy this in a heart beat.

Pahvi

#21

Pahvi said:

The text in the world map in this game - is it from Terragen's license file or something?

retro_player_22

#24

retro_player_22 said:

I got all the Klonoa games for PS1, PS2, Wii, and GBA (even the Japanese only Klonoa RPG) and I love all of them deeply. For those who hadn't play it, give this one a try, it's one of the best platform game that is up there with Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, Rayman, Aero, Bubsy, Ristar, Crash, Banjo-Kazooie, Earthworm Jim, etc.

BlackStar9000

#27

BlackStar9000 said:

@BakaKnight lov dat avatar
I do think we need a namco bandai character, Modern Pacman with his new abilities would be great, and his super smash could turn everyone into slow blue ghosts while he dashes around chomping everyone with all of the sound effects from the original game.

JaredJ

#29

JaredJ said:

getting this as soon as it hits north america. Would also like to pick up either the first Klonoa game on psn or the Wii remake.

JaredJ

#30

JaredJ said:

@PS4 have you played any of the gba games on wii u vc? They play just fine and look great.

JaxonH

#31

JaxonH said:

@PS4

Wii U VC is top-shelf man. You must not own one because if you did, you would know that. TV play, off-TV gamepad play, virtual restore points, full button customization and mapping, 4 or 5 different controller options, pixel perfect or full screen modes, screen smoothing options, real-time full-color gaming manual access on Gamepad with zoom options, the works...

JaxonH

#32

JaxonH said:

So, I'm hoping NA gets Klonoa next week, as well as The Minish Cap, which hasn't yet been confirmed for May 29th anywhere other than Europe (though they did confirm it's coming soon). Also, still no word on Super Mario Kart for VC here...

Dpishere

#33

Dpishere said:

I have always wanted to try the Klonoa remake for Wii but decided against it because of criticisms about its length. This game looks quite fun and I would likely pick this up if I had a Wii U though.

unrandomsam

#35

unrandomsam said:

I dunno whether I will like this :

Puzzle Levels sounds exactly what I don't like whereas the faster paced ones sound exactly what I do like.

JuanitoShet

#38

JuanitoShet said:

To this day I have never played a Klonoa title, but ever since watching online reviews of the games a few years back, I've been wanting too ever so badly.

I don't own a Wii U, but I do own a Game Boy Advance & Game Boy Advance SP. If I'm lucky (which I haven't been for a while), I'll come across this title sometime in one of my many flea market trips.

James1993

#41

James1993 said:

Klonoa Empire of Dreams was great.
Just to point out Klonoa on the Nintendo Wii was released in 2009.

Pahvi

#43

Pahvi said:

Now that I've played this for two worlds' worth, I don't see how this stands out in the sea of indie puzzle platformers that have been coming out lately. Sure, it was an early contender in the genre, but we don't drive automobiles from 1890s today either.

Still, I think the level design here is more complex than in the Wii remake, so that's a plus for this over the Wii game.

alvieao

#44

alvieao said:

It may not have been the first handheld Klonoa (that honor goes to Kaze no Klonoa: Moonlight Museum for WonderSwan), but Empire of Dreams is a well-made puzzle platformer starring everyone’s favorite Dream Traveler. Even for an early GBA title, the audio and visuals are excellent, while gameplay is fantastic. The voice sampling of Klonoa’s “Wahoo!” catchphrase is also delightful. It’s a short but sweet GBA platformer worth playing, and I look forward to its sequel Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament on Wii U VC…

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