Klonoa is not a new series by any means. It made its debut the year I was born back in 1997 and returned in 2001 with Klonoa 2, a game I’m more than familiar with. Many fans, like myself, have made a special place in their hearts for this often underlooked platformer series. But in a year like 2022 (one that hasn’t been too cheery), remake collection Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is a title that isn’t just for fans.
It’s a comforting re-release and not just because of its nostalgic platforming and bright art style. It’s a game that reminds me that the lows in life are important to the overall journey and that it’s okay to embrace those negative moments.
At face value, the Klonoa series is yet another drop in the bucket of classic “scrimblo bimblo” platformer series. Thankfully, this particular drop is one made of liquid gold. Klonoa titles are solid games that have tons of unique design features that differentiate themselves from their peers. Klonoa producer Ryo Ishida explained what made the series unique when I spoke to him earlier this month.
“The biggest feature of Klonoa is the side-scrolling platformer action,” Ishida told me. “But how Klonoa differentiates from its competitors is the 3D-interactable and stylized map, and the deep and diversified gameplay with the simple core mechanic of grabbing and throwing enemies.”
All that gameplay takes place in plenty of comfy dreamland levels called “Visions,” a space that gives Kirby’s own cozy dream world a run for its money. From grassy lands to whimsical forests, all accompanied by calming and cheerful music tracks even when the situation is dire, Klonoa constantly reminds me that a great video game can just be a pure fun-first experience that brings players to a different world.
Of course, Klonoa’s adventures aren’t just about the gameplay. The series is a very rare case of a platformer being praised for its story. That praise comes not from just the script, but the timeless themes that are surprisingly deep for both children and anyone above that age range playing through the games. If you’re anything like me, you can expect to let a few tears flow during the final cutscenes of both games. And yes, it’ll probably happen every time you revisit the games as well.
Klonoa 1 and 2‘s stories are about friendship, cherishing memories, and daring to dream. But the main lesson I take away from the two mainline Klonoa games is a message of acceptance: You can’t ignore the bad in life and that’s okay. You have to take the negatives, remind yourself that difficult emotions are natural, and realize that they’re just as important as the good feelings.
Both Klonoa titles in the Phantasy Reverie Series feature antagonists that are angry at the world for forgetting them and seeking their revenge and rightful place in the hearts of its inhabitants. The forgotten two are Ghadius, the Dark King of nightmares, and the King of Sorrow. Both are shunned and thrown into the darkness for being emotions and parts of life that no one wants to acknowledge.
Through their frustrations, Sorrow and Ghadius seek to destroy anyone in their way and make the world accept them. In the end, Klonoa defeats both in their respective games, but not before he realizes that they both are an important part of life that can’t be thrown away.
In the first Klonoa, the titular hero loses his “grandpa” and finds that all the memories he’d believed throughout the game are fabricated memories. In the end, he returns home, never to meet his new friends or witness the saved world he freed from nightmares. It’s the ultimate nightmare, despite Klonoa apparently disrupting Ghadius from unleashing such a thing on the dream world of Phantomville.
Klonoa 2 sees Klonoa and its antagonist, the King of Sorrow, get more closure along with a further fleshed-out theme. Klonoa defeats Sorrow with the power of every other emotion that he’d encountered from other kingdoms throughout his journey. After his victory, Klonoa removes the veil put over the world and reintroduces sorrow to everyone’s hearts, freeing the King from his tomb of sadness and reminding everyone that it’s okay to cry.
One particular moment stands out. In Klonoa 2, the hero tells a friend that if they remember the sadness of a certain moment then they’ll never forget it. It’s a small, but key line that underlines the series’ ultimate takeaway: We can’t lock away our negative emotions, no matter how painful they are.
While those themes can be heavy, they’re why I find so much comfort in the Klonoa games. The platforming is relaxing, the world is charming, the characters are endearing, and the story reinforces lessons that are easy to forget. We need to live with our nightmares and sorrow, just like the residents of Phantomville and Lunatea.
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