|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 5, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
December 22, 2008 - In case you missed it, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was one of the most endearing and critically well-received platformers for the original PlayStation. Taking traditional side-scrolling action and running away with it in innovative, not to mention incredibly fun, ways made the game a cult hit among system owners. Though highly regarded, the original Klonoa never managed the sales numbers it truly deserved. Moderate success, however, led to a follow up on PS2 in 2001 - Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil - yet the franchise has been missing in action (here in the States) ever since.
Fast forward to the present, and Namco is now gearing up for the release of their full remake of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile on Wii. Headed up by original director Hideo Yoshizawa, this complete re-envisioning of the game will be coming to American Wii owners next spring (Nintendo Power vol. 237). As of this writing, the game's already been released in Japan, and once again the reception has been a warm one. But what can U.S. gamers expect?
Before we get into what's new, however, let's catch back up with the basics of the game. Klonoa is a floppy eared, feline-type creature rendered with the same gumdrop sweetness as Kirby, Sonic, and other kid-friendly icons, and like those other characters, Klonoa's adventures take him through various side-scrolling levels where it's all about navigating platforms, avoiding obstacles, and dispatching baddies. What made the original Door to Phantomile such a success was its winning formula of unconventional platforming and enemy exploitation. Players would have to use simple moves in clever and creative ways in order to create a series of seamless actions. According to Yoshizawa, the Wii remake will maintain all the goodness of the original, yet the developers have tweaked various mechanics in order to make for an even smoother gameplay experience.
Door to Phantomile's story is as interesting as its gameplay. Klonoa one day wakes from a dream only to find his dream has become reality. The world of Phantomile is one created and kept churning by the forgotten dreams of the sleeping masses. Klonoa will adventure through a variety of "visions," and the game's dreamy and off-the-wall environments are an integral part of what makes Door to Phantomile such a unique and enjoyable adventure.
Namco has updated the lush and fantastical world of the game to present players with another very attractive-looking Wii title. Little has changed in terms of the story progression and level design, but rest assured this is no mere port of the PS1 version.
Better still, the Klonoa formula is as original today as it was when the game first released in 1998. Though the gameplay mechanics are actually quite simple and straight forward, the variety of ways in which the game challenges players make for a platformer that is, still to this day, like no other.
Klonoa can jump or grab enemies, but it's the way in which you combine these two simple actions that makes running through levels so much fun. You'll often have to grab enemies and bounce them into the ground in order to make your way up to otherwise unreachable platforms. Using Klonoa's floppy ears for a bit of air gliding also comes into play, and the platforming is always inventive and challenging. Considering the cutesy vibe and look of the game, it's easy to write off Door to Phantomile as a tame, adventure romp for the younger crowd. However, as with the original version, the Wii remake will gently walk players through the basics and then slowly ramp up its level of difficulty as the journey unfolds.
Features exclusive to the remake include mirrored versions of each of the game's levels, as well as "time-attack challenges" hidden within those levels. A host of other cool unlockables will round out the package - additional costumes, a music player, a place to view models of the game's characters, and more.
The North American audience, however, will get the added bonus of motion-based gameplay. Though players can choose from a variety of control options, including the use of the Classic Controller or turning the Wii Remote sideways for a real, old-school experience - using the Wii-mote and Nunchuk will give players the ability to throw captured enemies with a tossing gesture. It promises to be a subtle but fun addition to Phantomile's traditional gameplay.
As home to platforming's most beloved hero, Mario, one might expect there to be countless quality titles in the genre available for Wii gamers. Unfortunately, when it comes to great action games of this sort - especially of the old-school, side-scrolling variety - the pickings are surprisingly slim. Because of its potential to appeal to a broader audience, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile seems like a perfect fit for Wii, and we're delighted Namco has chosen to give gamers another opportunity to travel through its magical world. Door to Phantomile will be hitting our shores in spring of 2009.
CCC Freelance Writer