Published on June 18th, 2012 | by jsdp1
Throwback Attack: The Charm of Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil
Remember those under-the-rader hits nobody…remembers? But for those who do recall that hit look back amorously. You have that nostalgia of being a kid again—and you are learning the right life lessons—despite gettin’ on in years. Better yet that smash, on a first glance, resembles nothing more than a child’s game.
But it is so much more.
Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil has this indelible charm that, somehow, persists long after our celebrated last generation Playstation 2 has faded so the next generation can push forward. Klonoa 2 is a fine example of an elusive gem released early in the Playstation 2′s life whose colorfully vibrant, childlike world and deceptively cute ensemble cast make for an old school gaming experience done properly.
Klonoa 2 had its debut on a Playstation 2 demo collection alongside other various titles such as ICO and Spy Hunter. This sophomore effort by Namco is a direct next-gen sequel from the Playstation original— Klonoa: Door to Phantomile—in aesthetic, story, and gameplay. Sporting 2.5D sidescrolling gameplay, Klonoa was a platformer focusing on the eponymous protagonist Klonoa, an anthropomorphic cat-dog-rabbit creature, as he uses his ring-powered bullet grabs to fight through his home of dreams, Phantomile.
Klonoa 2 more-or-less picks up at some undisclosed time in the future when the first left off; Klonoa supposedly was returned home through a portal, but in his sequel he initially finds himself in a black dream-like void with an ominous voice beckoning for help. With his prophesied arrival and mythicized Dream-Traveler title, Klonoa is picked up by Priestess Lolo and her feisty sidekick Popka at the prophet Baguji’s request.
Baguji’s prediction was dead on.
The setup and story are, at first, your basic save-the-world-from-evil plot—even more apparent is the cartoon-y cast and their world. The animal-like characters (and in some cases, animals), their cute fictional lingua franca, and varied environments of several color palettes exude a perky family friendly video game—which, for the most part, is true. The E-rated video game is indeed for all ages. But suddenly, when Baguji busts out a $5 word such as “xenophobic,” you can bet that the bouncy mood finds itself subverted into more mature themes. Whereas the original game finds Klonoa the circumstantial hero of his homeland, the sequel ostentatiously pits him in a foreign world for people with whom he has no true connection; additionally, Klonoa is now a character with a legendary status. As such, his growth is reflected in his next generation debut.
Klonoa’s character growth is not the only noticeable progression. The graphical upgrades from the Playstation to its hardware successor are an eye-opening jump. Door to Phantomile used three-dimensionally modeled worlds but with various sprites as visual manifestations of the on-screen characters. Lunatea’s Veil sees a radical shift in environments and character models rendered in 3D, and with noticeable cel-shading to boost the cartoon feel. Ranging from snow drenched mountains, carnival fun parks, moss ridden caves, and otherworldly ventures, Lunatea is a diverse locale with inhabitants as various as its many regions. The supposed emotional balance of the world and its population find a disturbed harmony as the world now faces the invasion of a foreign evil.
The gameplay in Lunatea’s Veil is nearly identical to Door to Phantomile‘s, and could not be more simple. At the very minimum, you play with the D-Pad (or the analog stick if that’s your thing) alongside jump and shoot buttons (these can be remapped as well if pressing the X button as opposed to the O button is a deal breaker). Indeed, you interact with the world in its entirety whether you are grabbing an enemy for a double jump, hitting a switch, or throwing an enemy to hit a specific target—maybe even another enemy. Klonoa can also hover, albeit briefly, with his floppy and flowing ears acting as wings to just eek out that last bit of distance if the need arises. In short, gameplay is about as simple as Super Mario Bros. could ever be.
Klonoa 2, like its predecessor, is a linear 2D platformer with an on-rails path; however, the 2.5D aspect allows for optional paths and multi-layered interactions with puzzles. This sort of multi-layering furthers and emphasizes the art style as Klonoa jumps into cannons firing every which way. Quite often these scripted jumps have accompanying camera sweeps showing off draw distance and tasteful cinematic shots of the world.
As simplistic as this all appears, the game will throw you for several loops. While you may be viewing the environmental eye candy, the obstacles and puzzles will challenge your problem solving skills. Enemy types begin to vary as do their uses—figuring out how to properly use your options (and gain the rewards, optional or not) is intrinsic to the core gameplay.
A personal example and favorite memory was having to spend three full days to figure out a single puzzle in a late level which resembles what can only be described as an M. C. Escher nightmare; little challenges like that, and finally conquering them, put a smile on your face and your fist in the air.
That sense of accomplishment is wonderful considering the tasks are packaged with a game so deceptively innocent.
You can come back and replay levels to try and collect six bells throughout each level for an optional doll. Accessing half these dolls opens a harder time-attack level and collecting all dolls opens the second. Additionally, collecting the 150+ crystals in each level not only helps you gain more lives, but you will also net some art galleries for your perusal.
Each facet of the game is also supremely complemented by the excellent audio work. Voices are cute and silly (save for those crucial key actors), but you are never taken out of your immersion due to sub par voice acting. The emotions conveyed in the fictional language are readily apparent, and the more serious lines are delivered with emotionally appropriate candor.
The music, too, is nothing short of spectacular. With the exception of one mildly grating tune, the body of work is entirely instrumental. The main theme melody effortlessly weaves its way into key tunes. Genres range from full-blown popping orchestral work; Jazzy big band swing gets your fingers snapping; brooding toxic ambiance creeps up; and Rocky, electrified, frantic and exciting chase sequences interject. Each song was carefully integrated to perfectly match the levels and scenes.
The aforementioned light, cringe inducing song features Klonoa’s voice actress singing in the fictional language for a Klonoa themed J-Pop bender, although the events immediately following the song and its level are right when the story begins to unveil its darker undertones. Despite the one catchy just-for-fun song, you have an incredibly and lovely well-rounded musical package for all occasions.
Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil is a lot of things: At its core, Klonoa 2 is a two-dimensional platformer set in a three-dimensional world; it is a story of overcoming darkness and the complexity that darkness may represent and entail; it is a cartoon-y affair whose presence is comfortably at home with the more cute animes; but most importantly Klonoa 2 is a great and fun game. With an evolutionary form of old school platforming, Klonoa 2 has a celebratory style all its own. In a time when game developers and their audiences continue to demand pushing technological boundaries, Klonoa 2 is a retro-breath of fresh air—a wonderful throwback to having fun as a kid and enjoying a little art here and there. So, if ever given the opportunity, get at Klonoa 2. You will undoubtedly have a blast.