June 2009


June 30, 2009

Namco’s Klonoa series of platformers has always had a small but devoted fan base.  Critical success and little promotion have led to a continuation of this all-too-common situation. With this remake of the PS1 original, it certainly has had little fanfare. Has the series retained its charm and quality?

In a word, yes. Klonoa‘s 2D gameplay is retained now down to the last detail, even with the transition to full-3D graphics from the original’s hybrid scheme. The mechanics aren’t terribly innovative. Klonoa jumps, hovers, grabs and throws enemies, and…not much else. These moves were conceived in the mid-’90s mascot-fest era, so this isn’t surprising, but for that time these are much less gimmicky than they could have been. There are only a few hours of gameplay in Klonoa. There are time trials and such to try to add replay value, but none of this is really compelling. Thankfully, Namco priced this remake at $30, and that feels like the sweet spot for this one.

The presentation is a bit painful, though. The voice acting is worse than Sonic, and the storytelling moves just a bit too slowly, making players impatiently hit buttons between levels in attempts to skip it. The graphics aren’t stellar, but the team focused on making it run at 60 frames per second, and that seems to be the case.

Klonoa is definitely geared towards a younger demographic. Levels are not very challenging, and everything looks a lot like a show for children. That isn’t to say that older people won’t enjoy it; they will, but this isn’t for those looking for a Mega Man-style challenge. This fits in better with games like Kirby, where the fun isn’t tied to a feeling of accomplishment.

The Wii is getting a lot of remakes recently. Some bemoan the lack of originality, and that’s true, but it’s hard to argue with getting a sort of “greatest hits” system that has decent versions of almost every great game ever, and the system keeps getting closer to that goal. Klonoa isn’t going to convert anyone who disliked previous titles, since it’s a bit short and a bit easy, but it just might introduce a great series to the new, young generation.

ESRB: E10+– This should probably be just E.  It’s fine.

Pros: Fun; tight controls
Cons: A bit short; cutscenes are obnoxious

Different “abstract strategy” games take the word “abstract” in their description different ways. Most are just a bunch of themeless geometric pieces and/or arrangements that don’t really represent anything: Go, Blokus, Connect Four, etc.. Then there’s stuff like Easter Island, a game in which players represent powerful wizards engaged in conflict with each other by using the titular island’s trademark Moai statues as powerful solar-powered deathrays.

No, I’m not kidding.

Each player has a total of seven Moai statues in his color (white or black); each statue has a triangular as a base, with one side parallel to the back and a point at the front. Play begins by players alternating placing four of these statues anywhere on the grid/board with the base of the statue parallel to the gridlines. Each player also has eight “sun disks” in their color.

Each player usually takes two actions per turn; whoever takes the first turn of the game takes only one action. These actions can be any combination of the following choices (and the same choice can be used twice):

  1. Place a statue from your reserve on to the island.
  2. Place a sun disk on one of the twenty sun spaces.
  3. Rotate one of your statues either 90 or 180 degrees.
  4. Move one of your statues any number of spaces in a straight line (without rotating it); you cannot pass through or jump over any other piece.
  5. “Activate” a sun token already on the board.

There are only two simple restriuctions to these rules: you cannot activate a sun token that you placed this turn, and if you place a statue as your first action, that statue cannot be involved in any beam that might be created during your second action. These rules basically prevent you from ambushing opponents with moves that weren’t already on the board.

If a sunbeam strikes a statue either directly from the front or directly from behind, the statue is destroyed; if that beam were to strike on either side, the beam would be redirected toward the front of the statue (presumably from its “eyes”). In the event that a statue is hit twice by the same beam, it is destroyed (it “overloads”, I guess); if no statue is destroyed by these means, then whichever statue was last struck by the beam is destroyed instead. Play ends when one player has only one statue remaining on the island, even if that player has additional statues still in reserve. If, in rare cases, the game reaches a point where both players have fired off all eight sun tokens without ending the game, whoever has the most statues left on the board wins; in the (even more rare) event of a tie, whoever placed the last statue wins.

Easter Island is a glorious game of move and counter-move, as each player attempts to orchestrate positions to trap his opponent’s statues in the sights of his unforgiving solar death beams while simultaneously trying to avoid the same fate. Sacrifices must be made in order to progess, and momentum constantly shifts back and forth as play progresses. Attacks can come from various angles as the imaginary beams pinball around the board, and an unexpected rotation or shift could spell your doom at any moment. As an added bonus, the game plays fairly quickly, with around a thirty minute run time for most cases. I would really like to see a “deluxe” version of this game (or perhaps a video version) that could really capture its quirky laser-shooting majesty, but the colorful board and solid plastic statues will have to suffice for now.

At E3, Natsume was showing off an array of titles, including some with a bit more variety than we’ve seen from the company recently. We got some hands-on time with Afrika, Squishy Tank, Cheer We Go, and a suite of Harvest Moon titles: Animal Parade, Sunshine Islands and My Little Shop. READ MORE

It’s been a long time since I really had a ton of games to juggle. This week alone I’ve split my time between Grand Slam Tennis, Tiger Woods 10, Punch Out!!, Prototype, and Ghostbusters. Talk about an amazing lineup of titles. I’m honestly enjoying my time with each and every one of these titles. Of the group I think Prototype is probably my favorite, but Punch Out!! is pretty darn fun.

What’s in your system right now?

Having skipped E3 this year, I didn’t get a chance to actually try out any games with Wii Motion Plus capabilities. I played Grand Slam Tennis over the weekend, but sans WMP. To rectify that issue, I ran over to Costco yesterday and got a copy of Tiger 10. Costco has the Tiger 10 + WMP bundle for $54, arguably the best deal out there right now. READ MORE