Jay Button: Why haven’t you played this? Klonoa (PS1)

January 12, 2012

Time for another edition of Why haven’t you played this?, the portion of Jay Button where I make you feel guilty for no reason. When games successfully made the jump from 16 to 32-bit era with the PlayStation many new ideas were thrown out of the nest before they were ready to fly, while a few were allowed to stick around a bit past their time. One relic of a bygone era was cute mascot platformers.

Despite gamers moving toward more realistic and bloody fare that was now possible with 3D technology, companies still tried to make the face of games cuddly with characters like Spyro and Crash Bandicoot. Some of these characters, like Sony’s aforementioned mascots, still stuck around, while some were ignored because they were on the shelf next to Doom and Medal of Honor. One character who’s been largely forgotten, but has gotten a bit of well deserved love recently, is Klonoa.

Largely ignored when it first came out, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile has fallen out of the public consciousness, but thanks to a fairly recent Wii-make and the game’s availability on PSN, you can pick up this hidden gem without scouring eBay for an expensive disc. Though geared toward kids with its cartoony, adorable aesthetic, Klonoa is challenging and satisfying even though it’s from an odd time in platformer history. The transition from 2D to 3D worked beautifully for some genres while it took a few tries for platformers to awkwardly lurch into the new era.

Some companies kept all the same tropes of 2D platformers and pooped them into a big, empty 3D environment for you to endlessly collect random baubles, while others just continued to make the same 2D games with the same 2D level design only rendering the characters in 3D. Klonoa manages to be the perfect mix of 2D and 3D gameplay. The player still moves from one side of the screen to the other, but the path will fork and allow Klonoa to move in and out of the game’s deep canvas.It really is some beautiful level design as the paths weave in and out of depth. You’ll see an item and have no idea how to get to it, only to come across it ten minutes later. And the combat isn’t your trite Mario-esque hop and bop gameplay. Klonoa inflates his enemies and carries them, almost like a combo of Kirby and Dig Dug, and uses them to attack, throw and double jump. It can get pretty touch and go, but the game never gets too difficult. It was mostly for kids after all. That is, until you get to the ending.

I won’t spoil it here, but Aeris’s fate in FF7 is a joke compared to what happens in Klonoa. Despite the colorful looks, Klonoa‘s story pulls no punches. Klonoa: Door to Phantomile mixes 2D and 3D better than Tomba! and Yoshi’s Story. Now that it’s available on PSN for only 6 bucks, you have no excuse not to pick this hidden gem up. Give it a shot and let us know what you thought of it. Even if you’ve already played it and have loved it since it came out tell us you thoughts in the comments.