It’s time for another one of the Christmas games that I got. Despite obtaining other big GBA titles like Mario Advance and Kirby, I felt like Klonoa had the strongest gameplay of the bunch right from the get go. After completing it, I can safely say that I feel like my hunch was right on the money. Mario Advance is certainly deeper and tougher, but Klonoa feels the smoothest by far. It’s a very short game and won’t last you very long at all, but some of the puzzles can definitely be quite challenging. Not in a “cheap” annoying way or anything like that, but you will have to take a moment and wrap your head around what’s happening. The best part about the puzzles are that they are all self contained in small rooms so you know that the game has given you whatever you need in order to win. You just have to utilize what they have given you.
The game starts with Klonoa waking up in a strange land. For some reason, the people of this country have made dreams illegal and Klonoa is being arrested under that charge. He resists as best he can, but these guys will not be dissuaded. Our hero realizes that the only way to put an end to this is to find the 4 monsters that are being mind controlled by a mysterious villain. Klonoa intends to put an end to the situation at hand and he’ll have to do it with his Pac-Man hat at the ready.
The gameplay is a little different from your average 2D platformer as it’s also heavily puzzle based. Usually that would be a bad thing, but as I explained, it’s surprisingly handled well. You have a ring which allows Klonoa to pick up enemies and objects to then throw them around the board and activate switches and other such gadgets. You have to collect 3 stars in each level and some levels will also have keys that you need to grab. There is no attacking from this, which makes the gameplay easy to figure out. The grab is the only move in the game aside from Klonoa’s unique double jump, which serves as a glide of sorts. It’s mostly useless and won’t help you with just about anything, but I suppose that’s part of the point right?
Klonoa’s a solid lead and you can tell that he’s the kind of character who doesn’t let the villains mess around with him. He even says the only swear word in the game at one point when the villains show up. He believes in the hope of dreams and is an all around good character. Of course, you have to wonder just how much of this is real though because the ending is definitely a little controversial. Let’s just say…..this is a game about dreams right? I suppose you can also just say that memories were wiped and everything, but I actually think the ending just played it straight. It’ll be a little anticlimactic for some, but it also does shed some light on why Klonoa would randomly be in a whole new world with no idea on how he got there. A little too convenient eh?
Klonoa’s sidekick is pretty forgettable. I don’t even remember his name since it was a little hard to pronounce. He’s not bad though and is still more helpful than Navi. He just won’t be remembered quite as well as someone like Clank or Luigi. Most of the villains are forgettable as well. You won’t be thinking about them anytime soon, but I suppose they serve the role of one-time GBA villains well enough. What they lack in design, they make up for in the boss fights. They’re pretty fun and the fact that they all die after 3 hits prevents any of them from dragging on.
At only 5 worlds, Klonoa is certainly shorter than most similar games. It’s also quite a bit easier than most of the others as it’s more about the difficulty of the puzzles than the actual platforming. To help alleviate this, there is some replay value to be found here. Collecting all of the gems in each level will buy you some time. It doesn’t unlock much though as you just get an extra level, but hey…that can still be pretty neat right? For the most part, getting all of the gems won’t take very long at all, but it’s something to do. When you consider the low price point for the game, it’s definitely fine that it’s not super long. Don’t get the wrong idea either, it’s not extremely short like Casper or something like that. It’s still a full fledged platformer and if you take the time to play all of the levels, it’ll give you a few hours of fun.
The soundtrack is fairly good. It gets blown out of the water by Mario Advance and some of the other big mainstream titles, but the music is solid. The graphics are also pretty good as the characters are clear and the level designs are all pretty solid. The worlds all have their unique elements and backgrounds that make the game’s level spread feel very diverse. I dare say that this may be one of the better looking GBA game and the fact that it had cutscenes (picture stills, but we take those) was also nice to see.
Overall, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is a fun game. It’s not going to rock anyone’s world, but it a fundamentally sound game. I dare say that it is underrated since I would easily say that it is one of the best GBA side-scrollers. It’s just not very well known at all since Klonoa himself never became all that popular. At least he isn’t at the point where he is super obscure yet either. Hopefully the series can make a comeback at some point since it definitely deserves to have more games in its arsenal. If you haven’t played this game yet, then I definitely recommend it. It’s certainly very unique and games with puzzles should take some tips from this one. Majora’s Mask and Layton.. (To a small extent. Most of the game’s puzzles were quite brilliant, but that last shapes one…) I’m talking to you guys. Throw Flip’s Twisted World in there as well because the game’s shadow puzzle is just not fair and it’s certainly not balanced.