KLONOA Phantasy Reverie Series (Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil)
After writing hundreds of articles, I am well aware that saying anything is the "Best X Of All TIme" is a "Put Up Or Shut Up" statement to make. There were literally thousands of platformers released for over forty decades, including Mario, Kirby, Crash, Rayman, and countless others. I will literally spend several lifetimes listing them all if it was up to me, however, the Klonoa series always stood apart from the rest. Klonoa Door To Phantomile was a great introduction to the cat...rabbit...cabbit? Whatever Klonoa is, one thing is for certain. Klonoa 2 Lunatea's Veil would become Klonoa's most significant title yet.
Released in 2001, Klonoa 2 was one of the PS2's earliest titles and served as a direct sequel to Door To Phantomile. As was the case with most games during its time, it showed off the capabilities of the new PS2 hardware as well as a step above its prequel in every way. The transition from sprites to full 3D models meant that the game was given a perspective not possible in the first game. Camera angles, specifically whenever Klonoa would be shot outside a cannon or take flight, were dynamic. Lighting textures, especially in illuminated dark caverns, also showed off its graphical capabilities.
Another thing the game had going for it was its story, which not only gave Klonoa character development but allowed him to interact with others and create new friendships. This time around, Klonoa is accompanied by Popka and Lolo, both residents of the world known as Lunatea. Mirroring the events of the first game, Klonoa is summoned to Lunatea to put a stop to a looming threat. There's no explanation as to how he was called to Lunatea, something his new companions are unaware of as well. This becomes a focal point of the plot as it begs the question. If you're not from this world, why risk your life to save it?
The game begins in the Sea of Tears where Klonoa is saved by Popka and Lolo. It is quickly realized that Lolo has the same powers as Huepow from Door To Phantomile as she is the source of Klonoa's wind bullet. Immediately I learned that Klonoa doesn't just walk fluidly because of the upgrade in quality from PSX to PS2, but the way he presents himself has an effect on this. He portrays himself with confidence in his abilities, grown from a mere kid in the original, and a personality that infects those surrounding him as we'll see later on.
After travelling through the Sea Of Tears, the trio venture through La-Lakoosha, which was also the level featured in the PRS demo. I mentioned how much of the original was captured in the remake and for good reason. Unlike the first game, which was based on the Wii remake, the Klonoa 2 remaster is remade from the ground up, running on a modified version of the Klonoa Wii-remake. The sequel was never re-released so this makes the Phantasy Reverie Series the second time it was ever released. Most of what I had to say about La-Lakoosha can be read in the demo.
Upon arriving at Joilant, the game splits into two levels, which is one of the main features of the second game. At times, you'll be tasked to play the game in any other you wish, but both levels must be completed to progress. I decided to go with the Jungle Slider first as it was the level I've had fond memories of. It was also the level that appeared in the original PS2 demo disc and it's the first "boarding" level in the game.
Board levels are essentially auto-scrollers similar to the levels featured in Turtles In Time. I hadn't mentioned it at this point, but much like the first game, Klonoa is tasked to free spirits from bells hidden through the levels. Instead of residents, these spirits are dolls that are collected and given to the Momett House. The owner of the house, Momett, entrusts Klonoa to collect the dolls that have been "given their own sense of adventure" and return them to the House. Since it is in our best interest to collect each doll from each level, we'll be coming back here shortly.
After the board level comes the actual Joilant level itself. It is a carnival-style level that is up there with Sonic 2's Casino Night Zone except for none of the gimmicky RNG springs. More enemy types are introduced, including one that acts like a helicopter to reach new heights. Upon clearing both levels, the game's second boss appears. One thing I can say that Door to Phantomile did better than its sequel was the bosses themselves. The bosses were never Klonoa's strongest suit, but to me, the bosses had more significance in the original story. They are still fun to fight against and neither of them is headache-inducing like the Ghadius fight.
Next up is the warring city of Volk, which once again splits into two levels. Klonoa needs to turn off two reactors, one above and one underground. I began underground as it made sense to work my way up to the city level, but it was at this point that I felt the level design was Klonoa 2's strongest point. The underground is met with dangerous toxic waters, tricky platforming segments, and a new enemy known as the Erbil which gives Klonoa access to an electrified double-jump.
The city level itself shows the city in chaos amidst the sunset. Despite the carnage, the scenery is beautiful to look at, especially when flying through skyscrapers and construction grids. After the boss that follows this, Klonoa will have to go through the city of Volk again to save it from being destroyed. This is the first "revision" of a previous level, only this time the city is in flames and a giant robot chases Klonoa throughout the level. One thing that the series had always done right was giving players the chance to revisit levels as the environment changes when the story calls for it. Despite the general route being the same, many things are altered to give the level a deeper challenge.
I want to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, as Klonoa 2's story trumps the original, both of which I feel are some of the best stories in a platforming game. If the player has been collecting enough dolls, they should have earned enough for Momett to ask Klonoa to try out an attraction. It's here that the fist of two bonus levels, Chamber O' Fun, is unlocked. As the name suggests, Klonoa goes through a gauntlet of platforming levels that test the player's knowledge of how to utilize the challenges given thus far. It's not the most difficult level in the world as I was able to clear it in 5 minutes. Completing this will unlock the Music Player at the Momett House. We'll come back here soon enough, however...
Another boarding level takes place as you shred through the snowy mountains of Mira-Mira and this is often considered the Klonoa 2 level. It's one of the few levels to have a vocal track, often considered Klonoa himself singing, and it's one of the most iconic levels in the series. This is followed by a maze level that adds a puzzle element to the game. Overall, both levels are in my opinion the peak of the game as everything goes into serious mode following this.
The next few levels are revisitation of previous levels, much like the Volk City level earlier on. The beautiful scenic route of La-Lakoosha is now plagued with poison in the aptly named Noxious La-Lakoosha. This is almost the exact route of the original with a few platforming differences. The gimmick here is the toxins within the caverns that will suffocate Klonoa if not tended to in time. Fortunately, there are statues that grant him blessings and will cure him of the toxins. Therefore the gimmick is to move as quickly as you can between each statue. Not a difficult level but a unique take on what was once peaceful.
Following this is a revisit to the Sea Of Tears, only everything is pitch black this time. There are these monsters that, when attacked, surround Klonoa with light that allows the player to see the path before them better. While the player can traverse in the darkness just fine as it's not too dark, there are enemies that will hunt him down the longer he stays in the dark. It's similar to one of the final levels in Door to Phantomile where the scene changes from sunset to darkness.
The last "revisited" stage is the Ark, which I completely forgot to mention earlier. To reach the mountains of Mira-Mira, Klonoa boards an Ark in which he needs to turn on three of its engines to start it up. There's a lot of backtracking and moving in circles, but eventually, he does so and the Ark is set in motion. Now, this very same Ark must be turned off in the same way, except this time by blowing up all three engines.
Both stages are rather lengthy but this stage takes special mention as it is one of the most difficult stages to get a Momett Doll from. I'm specifically mentioning the final Momett Doll Bell as getting this one is a dozy to reach. There are breakable blocks above Klonoa in which using an Erbil will be enough to double jump his way through, all except one block.
On the left, there's a Boomie, an enemy that explodes after a certain period of time, which can be thrown towards the opening where the Erbil resides. The player is expected to time a double jump with the Boomie at the highest point of the Erbil's ascent, grab the Erbil in a near frame perfect jump, and double jump just high enough to hit the uppermost brick. With enough effort, the player will eventually reach the tope and earn the much-earned Momett Doll for this level. It took me a handful of tries, but be patient and you'll get eventually get it.
The final kingdom awaits and it's here that I felt the story and the level design comes together in harmony. The pictures of the solemn sunset does it no justice, but everything you have worked towards this point to come to this point feel more personal. The final boss even amplifies this as, much like Door to Phantomile, it's not the most difficult final boss. It does close the book on the game's story and I'd rather a boss do that than have a boss that's a challenge yet offers nothing to the story.
Completing the game and collecting all the Dolls will allow Momett to open a "Super Secret Attraction" known as the "Chamber O'Horrors." The difficulty here is comparable to Balue's Tower in Door to Phantomile, which is super tough. If you're attempting to collect every dream stone here, it is quite possibly the most difficult challenge in the series as puzzles must be solved in a very specific manner, combining agility and mental fortitude.
Of course if you're like me and just want to get to the end of the level as quickly as possible, then that's perfectly valid. In doing so, I was able to collect all the trophies in the game, thus platinuming Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series. But honestly, even if the platinum wasn't a goal, although it's something I'm proud of, completing both games was something I wanted to do for childhood me. Not to get sentimental, but I adored both games as a child. Unfortunately due to my background and how my childhood was, I couldn't afford both titles. They were rare to find as it were outside of video game rentals and as the years went on, so too did its value.
It was one of the major reasons why I was excited for the Phantasy Reverie Series as Bandai Namco Entertainment gave me an opportunity my childhood self was never given. I got to beat both games and experience the wonder of the Klonoa series from its beginning. I've played many platformers over my 24 years of gaming and I can confidently say that Klonoa 2 is the best one I've played of them all. The gameplay, the story, the characters, especially the music. Both games are beautiful and are prime examples of "gaming as an art form."
So what's next for Klonoa and I? I may look into the various spin-offs that were either Japan exclusive, released late in the US, or was only released in Europe and Japan. There's the GBA side-story Empire of Dreams which is a perfect candidate, but there's the Wonderswan game that was translated to English not too long ago, Moonlight Museum. There's even a Volleyball game spinoff. The sky is the limit and I should get that "Klonoa" tag ready because this is definitely not the last time we're going to see our friend.
Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is available on Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S.