Recently, Bandai Namco has been digging several of their old properties out from the grave. Mr. Driller saw a brand new game a couple of years ago, and Pac-Man is getting quite a bit of love with the recently released Pac-Man Museum + and an upcoming remaster of Pac-Man World. After years of wishful thinking from its (formerly) small fanbase, Hideo Yoshizawa’s short-lived Klonoa series is finally getting its time in the spotlight as well, thanks to Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series.
For those unfamiliar, Klonoa is a 2.5D puzzle platforming series introduced in late 1997 on the Sony PlayStation and did just well enough to spawn one console sequel alongside several handheld spinoffs before becoming dormant. At the same time, some may consider the Door To Phantomile and Lunatea’s Veil duology to be genre masterpieces. They, unfortunately, weren’t marketed well and came at a time when 2D games were being phased out in favor of 3D. They’re also titles that fetch a decent amount of money nowadays, thanks to their obscurity, so legally getting ahold of them to experience in 2022 was tricky before the arrival of this collection.
As a collection, Phantasy Reverie Series is about as minimalistic as it gets. You’re given a static title screen and can dive into the remaster of either the PS1 original or PS2 successor from there- no bells or whistles.
Although it is argued that the undeniable charm of the Full Motion Videos(FMVs) and sprite work contained in the PS1 version of Door To Phantomile is lost in its respective remake (which is an upscaled port of the Wii remake with the titular character’s design tweaked to reflect the 1997 release better), there’s also no denying that it still looks great in action. While the game doesn’t always manage to maintain its 60 FPS target (at least on a base PS4), the environments haven’t looked better, and the monsters you’ll be chucking around are as squee-adorable as they always have been. Seriously, I’ve not felt bad for snatching these guys up and tossing them to reach a higher ledge or solve a puzzle.
However, one major elephant is in the room to discuss this version of Door To Phantomile. While I’m ever so grateful that Klonoa no longer slides about when stopping as he did in the PS1 original, I (and several others) have noticed that the firing range for the character’s primary means of attack/picking up enemies has been nerfed quite a bit. This isn’t nearly as noticeable in the first three-quarters of the game as Door to Phantomile generally isn’t a demanding platformer, the last leg of the journey is made a bit more frustrating than it should have been thanks to this odd (potentially unintended) change in the game’s most distinct mechanic. For this reason, I’m not so sure that this can be considered the absolute best way to play this otherwise fantastic game unless a patch shows up. It’s still a pleasant 3-5 hour romp with some unforgettable storytelling to boot, but longtime fans will notice this.
I may be slightly biased, but I’ve always felt Lunatea’s Veil was the better overall experience. Yoshizawa captured lightning in a bottle with the original Klonoa with the unique catch/throw mechanic. From a design perspective, Lunatea’s Veil turns that lightning into full-on thunder. While there’s still a relatively deep and involved plot to experience here for those who are into that kind of thing in their video games, this sequel truly shines in enhancing the original’s gameplay. (It was also my first exposure to this series nearly 20 years ago- one of the very first games I rented out for my PlayStation 2 in the early 2000s. Hence why I might be just a little bit biased!)
There’s quite a bit more variety in the level design of Veil. The platforming and puzzle changes are spiced up thanks to introducing new monsters with different attributes to put to the test. For example, one monster allows Klonoa to rocket upward and destroys blocks when tossed, whereas Klonoa can use another like a helicopter before inevitably popping. In addition, there are a few hoverboarding and chase sequences to break up the otherwise slow pace of the game. In contrast, I often found myself complaining about this sort of thing in other platformers; they’re surprisingly memorable here. In fact, running away from this killer robot in a wrecked cityscape still stands as one of my favorite parts of the entire game all these years later.
Fortunately, this master class in how to do a sequel fares a bit better in Phantasy Reverie Series. As this isn’t just an upscaled conversion of a remaster that already existed, as with Door To Phantomile, the punch-up in the visual department is more apparent. Environments have more detail than what was possible on the PS2. The colors are more vibrant- this lovely slideshow on the Klonoa subreddit showcases the difference pretty well. The frame rate also didn’t chug as much as it did in Door To Phantomile. While the gimped range of Klonoa’s wind bullet still proved problematic in some areas, I still think this version has a slight edge over its PS2 source material. (And that’s with the nostalgia mentioned above goggles I have for the original version).
At the end of the day, however, whether or not Phantasy Reverie Series is worth it’s hefty $40 asking price will depend on many factors. Neither of these games is particularly long (the first took me 2.5 hours to 100 percent and the second just one hour extra), but they’re beautiful rides while they last. That being said, there’s next to nothing in terms of additional features for returning fans. There’s a Hard Mode for each game that unlocks upon completion (and all it indeed amounts to is one-hit deaths). You get some cute alternate costumes, but that’s it besides the visual glow-ups. If you don’t have a way to play the originals on their native hardware and love this breed of sidescroller, I’d say it’s worth it so long as you don’t equate value to playtime. As someone who grew up with these games and has always adored them, I can’t help but feel that Bandai Namco could’ve done more to entice returning fans.
>These games look beautiful on current gen hardware- especially Lunatea’s Veil
>The core puzzle-platforming gameplay still holds up in both games, providing short-but-sweet experiences
>Provides arguably the best way to play the second installment in the series in 2022
>Door To Phantomile currently has some performance issues, including frame drops/stuttering alongside the odd change in physics
>While completely functional and serviceable, the lack of extra content on top of these games already being rather short is going to make this a hard sell at $40