Klonoa: Door to Phantomile on the original PlayStation was one of those strange games that I experienced exclusively through a coveted PS1 demo disc. Whether it was PlayStation Underground or Official PlayStation Magazine, I can’t particularly remember, but here’s what I do know: I absolutely loved running through the 2.5D platformer’s bright and colorful first level over and over, relishing the excellent soundtrack and charming visuals. It was like Crystal Dynamics Pandemonium!only starring a bunny cat…thing?
You’d figure such a positive impression would have led me to acquire the full game at some point, but no, this (sadly) never happened. Considering the complete game’s astronomical Ebay value at this point, you can probably understand my ongoing regret.
Gamers from that era can relate to this sort of problem, I’m sure. We all had those select games we worshiped via demo discs, though something kept us from taking the MSRP retail plunge. Do young gamers today even know what demo discs are? I feel so ancient. Excuse me while I go cough dust.
I suppose my ’90s stories don’t matter much at this point, because Bandai Namco has benevolently released Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Seriesa heartfelt — though terribly named and somewhat barebones — remastered compilation of the first two Klonoa games. This includes the aforementioned Door to Phantomile as well as Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, the cel-shaded PS2-relegated sequel. The latter isn’t cel-shaded anymore, but we’ll get to that.
As far as I can tell, the remastered Door to Phantomile is based on the 2008/2009 Nintendo Wii version, which itself was a remake of the original PS1. So in essence, the new 2022 Door to Phantomile is a remaster of a remake, which totally isn’t confusing at all. On the other hand, the included sequel game is a remake-ish remaster, I suppose, since it’s also based on its corresponding original PS2 version but adds some changes.
Basically, if you haven’t played any of the Klonoa games, they’re arguably great platformers with an interesting surrealist style. Between the two of them, they’ve occupied a somewhat niche corner of Namco’s storied library, and I still don’t think a whole lot of people have played these games. Probably more gamers experienced the Wii remake, so it’s nice that we’re getting a pair of largely ignored classics in one modern, accessible, updated collection.
On that note, the updated graphics do look excellent, minus some egregious blooming effects here and there. I’ll always prefer the rudimentary sprite-heavy visuals of the PS1 release, but what’s here is nicely and lovingly brought into the current generation. If you go in expecting graphical powerhouses, you’ll surely be disappointed, but Klonoa has never really been about pushing hardware. The draw is in the art, the environments, and the cute appealing nature of our anthropomorphic hero’s entire world.
It does seem that Bandai Namco has altered the look of Klonoa 2, stripping the game of its charming cel-shading in favor of a more homogenized display. This bummed me out, because I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for cel-shading, and I blame Jet Set Radio for that. At least the music from the first game appears to be in-tact from the PS1 release, though I can’t be certain for the sequel, since I didn’t play that title nearly as much.
The last thing I’ll mention is that I was definitely expecting a little bit more in terms of franchise history with Phantasy Reverie Series. I’m thinking in terms of stuff like design documents, interviews, anything to ‘plus’ a retro compilation like this. Many of the recent throwback collections (say, from Capcom) have dabbled in such extras and I think it goes a long way in making a re-release like this more special. It should also be noted that none of the other Klonoa games, like from the Game Boy Advance, made the cut.
It looks like a digital artbook is included in the special edition, but I’d have preferred some kind of Klonoa museum feature in-game. I mean, Namco is no stranger to awesome PS1 museum compilations, so I feel a bit let down.
That said, the Klonoa games are beautiful, fun, (mostly) hidden gems and I’m hoping that enough interest shows up for this new collection that Bandai Namco seriously considers making Klonoa 3. In the meantime, I’ll be listening to the amazing Windmill Song on the first level of Door to Phantomile over and over, just like I did all those years ago.
But if you haven’t played these games yet, do yourself a favor and give them a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Disclosure: Bandai Namco provided a review code for coverage purposes.