Not only is Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil
the best game you’ve (probably) never played, but it’s also my favorite game. As in ever made.
I’m not here to convince you that Klonoa 2
is the best
game ever made (objectively, it’s not), but I can assure you that you’ve never played anything quite like it. Beneath the façade of a child friendly mascot platformer, Klonoa 2
weaves an unforgettable experience that combines smart action-puzzle sidescrolling with a story that contains surprisingly deep themes that are reinforced by the accompanying visuals and music. Like any truly great piece of children’s literature (such as The Little Prince
), Klonoa 2
is not a game you grow out of, but rather, a game you grow to appreciate as you begin to realize the complexity of what is going on under the surface.
, yet commercially underwhelming
, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil
is a strong contender for the most under appreciated game ever made.
First, let’s take a moment to talk about how bold and innovative the console Klonoa games were for their time.
The first Klonoa
game, Door to Phantomile
, was released in 1997, a year after Super Mario 64
revolutionized gaming in an era when 3D mascot platformers were all the rage. Klonoa: Door to Phantomile
boldly strayed from the pack by pioneering the now-popular 2.5D perspective, and instead of taking the Mario
inspired jump-on-enemies-to-defeat-them route, it created its own identity with a gimmick that opened the door to clever puzzles that served to enhance the action.
Instead of outright attacking enemies, Klonoa is able to grab enemies using his signature wind bullet. Once an enemy is in his grasp, he can throw the enemy in front of him to attack an oncoming foe, or he can toss the enemy beneath him while midair to double jump. It’s a simple concept, but it’s constantly reinvented throughout the games with various enemy types and layouts that cause the player to reassess each screen individually to survive (or to at least not take damage). Plus, as anyone who has played a Klonoa game can tell you, quadruple-jumping off a tall ladder of enemies to reach the top of a tower never loses its charm.
While many platformers of the PS1/PS2 era tried to bloat their playtimes by forcing the player to collect a bunch of arbitrary objects to advance in the game or to unlock the “true” ending, the Klonoa
series instead dared to be short for the sake of maintaining a high level of quality that kept the game consistently fresh from start to finish. Although both the console Klonoa
games are certainly on the brief side, they also feel short because there is hardly a minute of these games that could be considered filler. At the time, this caused many gamers to choose other platformers to spend their money on over Klonoa
, but I can assure you that the Klonoa
games have stood the test of time much better as a result. Like a fine desert, both console Klonoa
games leave you wanting more, yet you also feel satisfied with the quality of what was on the table.
In short, the Klonoa
games played like indie style platformers over a decade before indie style platformers were even a thing. Both mainline games felt new and innovative while feeling familiar and nostalgic at the same time, and if you’re the kind of person who is begging for innovation in this modern era of gaming, then you owe it to yourselves to check out these games.
Of course, while Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was great, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil evolved the formula to create an unforgettable experience
. Released early in the PS2’s lifecycle in 2001, the production values in this game were outstanding. Not in an obnoxious way, of course. The cel-shaded graphical style looked stunning while keeping a silky smooth framerate, and although some animations are a little primitive, the art holds up remarkably well today. Both the visuals and the soundtrack are brimming with variety, yet they always feel cohesive because they actively work with the theme of the story: an introspective tour of the emotions of a dreamer.
The genius of the narrative is how it’s blatantly hidden in plain sight. On the surface, the plot seems like typical kids stuff. A cute animal hero and his two new friends go on a quest to ring four bells to get a special power before the evil sky pirate (!) does. And for the most part, I’m confident that this childish first impression was intentional. Yet as the game continues, the story gets steadily darker until it reaches a point which it’s impossible to ignore the change in tone, and this, again, ties in strongly with the nature of the story to that point. At one point, a character is eventually overcome with such feelings of ineptitude that the character actually says “damn it… damn it all”, which isn’t exactly profane, but a serious departure from the seemingly carefree nature of the first half of the game.
As the characters in game are confronted with a new reality as the plot goes on (don’t want to spoil it, after all), it becomes impossible to not see the previous areas of the game in a new light. While each “world” of the game could be vaguely identified by genre archetypes (ice world, fire world, etc.), each world in-game is actually identified by a particular emotion. As residents of each respective area overindulge in the emotion of the respective world, the player witnesses the problems with each particular outlook on life. Keep in mind that the game is still aimed at kids, so don't expect it to go into deep philosophy or anything. Instead, each respective mood is reinforced by the visuals and music so as to let the player feel
each emotion and let their mind fill in the details for how residents of each world must carry out life.
For example, the Maze of Memories level is located in an area defined by “indifference.” Before entering this level, Klonoa and friends talk with one of the residents who tell them that the world's citizens never bother to go outside, as they much prefer to stay inside and look at art and mirrors so that they can relive past memories. The level in general has an abstract art theme, and just by listening to the level’s music
it’s hard not to feel this sense of hollow emptiness that’s reaching out to try to feel something. As one resident of the area says, “Just as art is a reflection of the soul, these mirrors are reflections of the past. Why leave, if you can keep reliving bygone days?
” The player not only witnesses the pitfalls of overindulgence of one emotion, but the logic that actually ensues with it.
As the Klonoa
games make it clear that each game takes place in a dream world, it becomes clear that the characters (outside of Klonoa himself, possibly) are less fully developed dynamic characters and more representations of particular thoughts or themes. As modern games try harder and harder to be taken seriously, Klonoa 2
embraces the surreal and asks the player to suspend disbelief and enjoy the experience for what it is. Much like an actual dream, Klonoa 2
doesn’t try to make sense, but this makes the moments of profound clarity richer when they come. Akin to many people you may know in real life, Klonoa 2
holds a surprisingly amount of substance beneath a seemingly shallow exterior.
Unfortunately, the Klonoa series never found the traction it deserves and, nowadays, is all but dead.
Of course, the blame is just as much the publisher’s fault as it is the fault of gamers. While many overlooked the console Klonoa
games due to their brevity, the marketing for the series never came close to try to appeal to older and experienced gamers. Perhaps if more gamers knew that the console games were directed by Hideo Yoshizawa, the man who directed the NES Ninja Gaiden
trilogy, it may have gained a little more interest. On a shelf next to other platformers, Klonoa
hardly looks particularly distinguished, and undoubtedly gamers had their hearts set on true 3D games and would ignore something that is more or less a sidescroller that could be played with an NES controller. The only time the series experienced any kind of mild success was with the lower budget GBA spinoff
titles which, while definitely good, lacked the fantastic presentation and stories that made the two core games so wonderful.
It’s a shame, because I strongly believe there’s an audience for all Klonoa
has to offer; they just don’t know it exists yet. With the direction the series seemed to be going in with Klonoa 2
, who knows what a third installment might have offered? As it stands, Klonoa 2
isn’t even available as a PS2 classic, and at a price of $10 this game would be an easy impulse buy. With so many fanbases revitalized with rebirths of their favorite franchises (Shadowrun
, etc.), it seems almost criminal that Klonoa
has been left in the dust at every opportunity for a revival.
Perhaps a game like Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil
is a hard sell for teenagers and adults, but as time goes on, the game is becoming increasingly harder to obtain. If you happen to stumble on a copy, I wholeheartedly recommend picking it up. Perhaps the series’ fate was to end after two main installments, but it does not deserve to be forgotten. At worst, you might start to feel like a kid again, but I doubt that’s such a bad thing.
And if you’re still not convinced, I’ll ask you to listen to this sexy big band secret agent style track
. Just try to tell me that you don’t want to play this game right now