As we enter the 4th stage of the Playstation life cycle, I want to take a look back at one of their 1st Gen games. And if there was one thing that characterized the PS1 era well, it was the wide range of colorful, character driven platformers. Games such as Spryo the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot were both good examples of this. But today, I want to talk about a lesser known mascot character created by Namco named Klonoa. This anthropomorphic long eared dog creature captured my heart the minute I laid eyes on him. For me, this little furry critter holds a big place in my heart, which is why I would love to fill you in on my adventures with Klonoa: Door To Phantomile.
Back in 1998 I was an awkward teenager just trying to make friends. Not to mention I was a girl, which basically made me even weirder in a time when mostly boys played video games. But soon, I found a group of friends who accepted me for all my strangeness because they were gamers too.
My friends started to show me the “different” games that the PS1 had in its early library, and one game popped out at me because of the cute little character on the cover. Yes, I know the old saying, don’t judge a book by its cover, but this one had me hooked.
For Christmas that year, my friend bought me a copy of Klonoa as a gift. It was a great surprise and I still have this copy on my shelves to this day. Once all the Christmas hype had died down, I settled into playing the game, and to no surprise it pulled me in, and has never let go.
Klonoa is again, a long black and white eared creature, wearing a red collar and a blue hat with Pac-Man on it. That is truly too much cuteness in one mascot! Alongside our hero is a small blue/green spirit embedded in the ring Klonoa uses for attacks. Throughout the game the characters communicate through gibberish language, with subtitles for the players.
At first glance, it appears that the game was aimed at children, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a solid or good game. To its credit, the gameplay at the time was something fresh for me. Klonoa wasn’t sluggish, but rather it moved at a good pace making the gameplay smooth which allowed for a more accessible experience. The story also had many sad overtones to it, taking you on a wild ride to save your friends.
Again, Klonoa’s main form of attack comes from the ring that he carries. The ring’s attack is called Wind Bullet because it shoots out a small ball of light and causes the Moo enemies to fill with air as Klonoa holds it above his head. Once they are full of this hot air, they can be thrown to attack other enemies or use it as a double jump to get to those higher platforms.
These platforms are part of a bright, colorful 2.5D world. Items, enemies and bosses can appear in the background or foreground. For example, you can capture a Moo and fling it to the background in order to obtain an item. It doesn’t feel like a weird gimmicky mechanic, but rather a natural part of the gameplay. Through the level there are little green gems strewn about, like Mario’s coins, you collect 100 and gain an extra life. There are also small hearts that will restore your hit counter. In addition to the gems, there are 6 creatures in each level that need to be saved throughout the 14 levels of the game. When you get them all you get a bonus level unlocked.
Remember when I said that this game looks like it’s for kids? Well, looks can be deceiving. Once you progress further, the game gets more difficult. Not to the point of Nintendo Hard, but just not something I see a lot of kids putting up with. But for more seasoned players, this will be a good challenge. The controls are solid and the deaths don’t feel cheap, but rather your fault. I’ve always liked that about good platformers. I mean, come on, that’s the point! And if the controls are weak and you build around that, you’re gonna have a bad time. But for these controls that are smooth, you get a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction after beating a boss.
One of the crown jewels of this game has to be the soundtrack. From the start you are hit with upbeat tunes that run throughout most of the game. Each level has its own music that fits with the entire design. Namco really felt that you had to be immersed and the soundtrack did the job right. When I first started playing I remember taking a tape recorder and putting it up to my tv so I could listen to the music later. I can’t say in my memory that I did that with a lot of other games at the time.
For me Klonoa: Door of Phantomile is among my top 10 games of all time, not to mention one of my favorites on the Playstation. You can complete it in around 6 hours, maybe 7 if you want all the collectibles. But for this game, I think if it was any longer, it might have overstayed its welcome (although I could be wrong). After all these years, the charm hasn’t diminished from this Playstation 1 gem.