The fifth console generation represented arguably the greatest shift in game design the industry has ever seen, as developers all over the world wrestled with how to transition 2D tenets into the 3D realm. There was lots of experimentation, and while platformers like Super Mario 64 and Spyro dived head-first into the new dimension, others like Crash Bandicoot tethered the camera and still kept a lot of 2D design at the forefront. Launching on PS1 in 1997, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile — which was remade in 2008 on Wii — fell more in this latter camp, and though it seemed that Namco had largely abandoned the loveable Dream Traveler, he’s been given another shot with Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series. This remake of the first game and its sequel, 2001's Lunatea's Veil for PS2, is little more than a fresh coat of HD paint, but the two classics here still hold up as excellent platformers that no fan of the genre will want to miss.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The story of Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series places you in the role of the titular cat-rabbit Klonoa, a “Dream Traveler” whose role is venturing to worlds within people’s dreams to help bring about balance and peace. Along the way, you’re aided in this journey by local residents of the dream worlds and take on a small handful of silly antagonists who wish to fill the world with nightmares.

It’s all relatively light-hearted and whimsical stuff, but there are some serious gut-punch moments at key plot points that take things in an amusingly dark and heavy direction after you’ve lowered your guard. Compared to a typical 2D platformer, then, both of these games feature a little more narrative than is typical, but we appreciated the pacing and felt that it added notably to the overall experience.

Despite the expansive and interwoven worlds featured, both Klonoa games are in fact simple 2D platformers at heart. The big gimmick here is that the linear path you’re following bends and curves through the environment, giving the illusion and feel of 3D movement. Enemies can’t be stomped by jumping on them, you have to shoot them at close range with your Wind Bullet, which inflates them and lets you carry them above your head. From here, you can then toss them as a projectile or use them in mid-air for a double jump.

Interestingly, the level designs are built around this Wind Bullet concept with more of a focus on puzzles than on raw tests of dexterity. Klonoa is more about figuring out how to use the available enemies to reach collectibles and out-of-reach places than it is about overcoming tough obstacle courses. In this way, it feels like both games have a sort of ‘two-tiered’ design, a bit like many of Nintendo’s 2D platformers.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

On one tier, you can simply focus on clearing each stage without worrying about any extras, and this is extremely easy to achieve. On the next tier, you can focus on scooping up all the collectibles along the way, and this is where substantial challenge comes in. In both games, there are six collectible items squirreled away in various places just off the beaten path, and there are 150 Dream Stones (basically coins) to pick up. Even in the earlier levels, it can be surprisingly difficult to snap up everything, but the rewards are well worth it as you unlock additional levels if you 100% enough stages.

One thing you won’t find much of in either game is a sense of mechanical variety. There are only a small handful of enemies you can come across and level gimmicks to distinguish worlds from each other rarely go beyond adding surface-level variety. Klonoa’s primary ability with the Wind Bullet has to do a lot of heavy lifting, then, as it’s virtually the only major gameplay mechanic here. Distinct enemy types such as an explosive foe or one with a particular hue who has to be used to destroy color-coded barriers help to introduce some complexity to this mechanic, but there’s a lingering sense that Klonoa could use more power-ups or abilities of some sort to spice up the levels a bit more. This is perhaps the largest complaint one could have against either game; they’re both a bit ‘vanilla’ in terms of how they approach platforming. That’s not to say that they aren’t worth experiencing, however, as the rather perfectionistic approach to puzzle-platforming here is something that even today feels unique.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

As for this collection itself, it meets the bare minimum standard for a remaster. Aside from the spruced-up presentation, there's also a fast forward feature for the many cutscenes and the inclusion of an easier difficulty mode. Compared to other retro collections, it feels like Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is a little behind the curve, especially given that the concept art gallery and soundtrack player are locked behind $20 (!!!) DLC at the time of writing. The two games here are great in their own right and do ultimately justify the price of admission, but it’s disappointing that little else was done to celebrate and polish up the first ‘new’ Klonoa release in years.

In terms of its visuals, Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series manages to impress, as it presents these sprawling, abstract dream worlds at their absolute best. Whether you’re sneaking through a lush jungle or flying through the air at a circus, there are plenty of memorable set pieces and diversity in environmental design to make levels feel distinctive. Though there is a somewhat ‘flat’ look to many of the textures, we rather appreciated the simple and extremely colorful approach of the old art.

The only downside to this is that the Switch version of Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series doesn’t always have the best performance. Though 60fps is the target and it sits around there most of the time, we experienced several instances where it seemed like there was a double-digit drop in frames-per-second. None of these hitches affected our progress or caused gameplay problems beyond being unsightly, but it feels disappointing when remasters of games that were originally released on the PSX and PS2 have anything less than near-perfect performance.

Conclusion

Make no mistake, Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is the best way to currently play these two platforming classics and Namco has done a decent job of presenting these titles in the best possible light. With around 25 hours of dreamy, retro-styled platforming contained in this package, Klonoa veterans and younger platforming fans will find lots to love in the whimsical worlds and puzzle-platforming level design on offer here. Some performance issues aside, it’s tough not to fall in love with this duology. Catch it when you can.