Two Decades with Gaming’s Best Boy.

To be clear, it’s this guy:

And I’ll let one of his sidekicks sum up why:

…because it’s easier than actually putting my own thoughts into words, and honestly I could probably ask an AI to write up an article gushing about the Klonoa series and it would do ten times the job I’ll ever do.

But, to try: He’s just the most relentlessly positive and cheerful mascot in gaming, and his games are genuinely joyful to play.  Most of them – I’ll ignore the spin-off JRPG and beach volleyball games – are puzzle platformers where the enemies are also the prime way to navigate through the hazards.  Almost every move Klonoa makes involves getting pixels away from being hurt by something, grabbing it before it can actually hit him, and then using it to  jump higher or break an obstacle.

I am very, very, very bad at puzzle platformers, and this is why it’s taken me nearly two decades to play through the mere five games in the series.

The first Klonoa game was a PS1 game, and it was one of those that came out in a very limited print run, disappeared from store shelves, and then was only available for scalper prices – which was, ironically, better marketing for the game then anything the publisher did.  It at least made me aware of the game, even if I couldn’t afford to play it.

In mid 2004, I got a Game Boy Advance when Nintendo released their Peak Nostalgia NES-themed model.  It was only a few months before the release of the Nintendo DS, and GBA games were already pretty cheap so I owned quite a few, and the system itself was tiny and the perfect way to get some slacking in during the work day.  I should probably apologize to my employers of the era because frankly they subsidized hours of GBA playing while I was technically on the clock.

Anyway.  One of those games played on my employer’s time was Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament, and it was the first Klonoa game I managed to finish.  Since it was actually the FIFTH game in the series, it was probably a bad place to start but, eh.

I eventually found a used copy of Klonoa: Empire of Dreams and played that as well, but much later.

After the GBA games were released, Namco actually published a Wii remake of the original Playstation game, and I snapped that up and had a blast with it.   That was 2009.

And then I tried Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil.  And it did not go well.

See, my typical way of covering for my absolute lack of skill when it comes to platform games is simply to repeat earlier levels over and over again until I have stored up enough lives to brute force my way through the levels that are actually difficult.

You can’t do this in Klonoa 2.  It was released during the era when games had to be hard enough that they couldn’t be completed during a rental period.  You can pick up extra lives by gathering 100 gems floating around the levels, and there are occasional 1UP items you can pick up, but they don’t respawn when you replay a level.  If you go back to the Klonoa 2 equivalent of World 1-1 after clearing it, there are no new gems to collect.

There is a level, not very far into the game, where you have to navigate a series of platforming challenges while being chased by a murderous death robot.  If it catches you, you start over.  Once you run out of lives, you can continue, but you start over at the beginning of the level with three lives.

I bounced off this level VERY hard, and eventually gave up.  I don’t often give up on a game I’m really enjoying because of a single difficulty spike, but this one just broke me.

In 2017 (I did say “much later”) I played Klonoa: Empire of Dreams and then the Wonderswan-exclusive Klonoa: Moonlight Museum.  Neither of those were nearly as bad, though I remember I did have to resort to some save scumming on Empire of Dreams.

It was also my first and only exposure to the Wonderswan hardware, which was a neat piece of tech for its day even if it dearly needed a 3.5mm headphone jack.

So, at this point I’d played through 4 of the 5 “mainline” Klonoa games and was just kind of resigned to, but annoyed by, the idea that I’d never finish Lunatea’s Veil.  I even considered emulating it to take advantage of save states, but had to give up on this because it was one of the few games you couldn’t play on the PS2 emulators of the time.

Then Namco (now Bandai-Namco) released a remastered version of both Playstation games, and I thought about it again.   It had been years since rental periods were a concern for publishers, so maybe they’d made it a little easier?  But since I have moved completely over to digital purchases, I didn’t want to buy it and find out that it was just as frustrating and then have the icon permanently mocking me in my Switch library.

So I broke down, and bought a physical copy.  The idea was, if it was the same level of pain I could at least sell it.

(And, technically, I am a little lax on my no-physical-games rule when it comes to Switch.  I have about a dozen, mostly Japanese imports and of course Ring Fit Adventure.)

It turned out that, yes, the remake is VERY different from the unforgiving original:

And maybe even a little TOO easy.  The “Easy” mode not only gives you unlimited lives – which is good – but also makes it so you can take 15 hits before losing a life, compared to three hits in the Normal mode.  I played through the first couple of levels like this and was starting to feel a little sheepish about it, then tested it and found that it was a toggle.  You can swap difficulties after any level, meaning that I could restart in Normal mode, play up to the level that stymied me years before (Volkan Inferno), go back to Easy mode, brute force my way through it after many many deaths and then go back to Normal mode to keep going.

It turned out that, barring Volkan Inferno, the game really isn’t that bad!  I was able to get through the majority of levels after that point only losing 1 or 2 lives per level, though I did have one more difficulty spike waiting for me when I hit the Kingdom of Sorrow level.

This is pretty late in the level.  I’d started the level with something like 45 lives saved, and I still had 37 when I got to this point.  This single platforming challenge was the biggest contributor to losing a total of 17 lives clearing this level.

Fortunately, this is followed by a relatively easy level, and then the final boss.

At this point, I’ll quote the highest-rated Klonoa 2 guide on gamefaqs here:

“Well, this is it. The big end-boss. Kinda disappointing, wasn’t as tough as I hoped he was. However, I’m sure he’ll offer a challenge that hasn’t played a ton of games like myself. Good luck.”

In total, the “kinda disappointing” end boss ate 22 of those carefully-conserved lives.  I hesitate to consider what a less-disappointing boss would have done to me.  Also, my hat’s off to you, Mr. or Ms. Raging_DemonTEN.

Anyway, it’s done now and I feel a sense of deep satisfaction.  I’m glad this got the chance to live again through a remake, though apparently it sold about as well as any Klonoa game ever does so we are unlikely to see any future entries in the series ever.

A bittersweet ending for gaming’s Best Boy.



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