2001 would prove to be a crucial year for the PlayStation 2 as the software that truly showed off the system’s potential and made early adopters proud of their purchase would finally arrive. While the early months after launch were barren by June 2001 games like Gran Turismo 3, Twisted Metal Black and Klonoa 2 made Dreamcast owners jealous. Klonoa 2 in particular is interesting; despite Namco’s hopes it flew under the radar which is a shame as it is one of the system’s best games.
Not much has changed when it comes to the core gameplay which is good as the series already had a solid foundation. Klonoa can grab enemies with his crystal ring and carry them around to use as a projectile or as a stepping stone to jump higher. For the most part the game doesn’t evolve any further than that with the exception of a few new enemies that can be used as a propeller or time bomb.
While Klonoa’s moveset is simple the level design is definitely the game’s strongest point and provides a multitude of unique situations to apply your skills. The level design incorporates far more switch pulling basic puzzle solving and interactivity than before which is great as it makes the beautiful backgrounds more than just set decoration. One of my favorite levels, the Maze of Memories, employs a gravity switching mechanic that will also invert the level. You’re still in the same rooms but a simple mirroring can cause confusion and loss of direction, which sounds insane since you are on a linear path. It really shows just how strong each individual level has been crafted and while it is true that not every level has been created with that much precision (the surfing levels in particular are weak) as a whole Namco has done a fantastic job of instilling a sense of variety in the game.
To a large extent the game employs the same constantly changing camera angles as a Sonic Adventure but succeeds where that game fails by always adhering to its strict side scrolling format. Any changes in perspective are strictly for spectacle or are a crucial element of a given segment. The boss battles are a prime example of this. The battle against the Mobile Tank heavily relies on skewing the perspective so that you can properly target its head once you are airborne. And then there are times where it’s just to create those great “holy crap” moments that are just awesome to see in motion.
The only area Klonoa 2 comes up short is in its challenge and length. The game is incredibly easy to the point where you would have to go out of your way to even die. Life restoring hearts are spaced out perfectly and extra lives can be found at a decent clip which negates the impact of death. The boss battles are the rare exception as each goes through multiple phases with little chance to recover in between. But these encounters aren’t abundant. Although there are close to 20 levels (or Visions as they are called) I wager any decent player will finish the game in a few hours. That being said the entire experience is so enjoyable you’ll revisit your favorite stages multiple times.
Visually Klonoa 2 looks spectacular. The use of cel shading truly allows the world of Fantasia to come to life as the set pieces are bigger and more fantastical in their design. Namco’s art direction deserves a lot of credit as this shares a lot of the same level themes as the first game yet it never feels like a retread. The camera work especially serves to highlight some of the game’s best graphical moments; there are plenty of cannons that send Klonoa rocketing into the air with the entire level sprawled out below. It’s breathtaking at times and assists in showing that despite the visual complexity of each stage they still naturally loop around and make sense. Klonoa and his enemies are highlighted with a slight black border to stand out from the backgrounds but not to the extent of say Jet Grind Radio; it’s just enough that they are easy to spot without completing blending in. At times the game does have a low polygon look that gives away its first generation roots but the entire package has withstood the test of time extremely well.
Klonoa 2 is blessed with an excellent soundtrack, one that is both bright and happy yet ambient and menacing when dealing with bosses or in caves. The music varies in tone throughout the game with the Volk City levels evoking a carnival like atmosphere perfect for its setting. The few “vehicle” stages are manic to get your heart racing but by the final few levels the music has become incredibly somber for reasons I won’t spoil. The denizens of Lunatea speak a gibberish language that is incredibly goofy in retrospect. I can see what they were going for but it isn’t as charming as Banjo Kazooie or the Panzer Dragoon series.
Every game in the Klonoa series has been spectacular with this second outing being its greatest. And yet time and time again these brilliant games struggle to find an audience. Klonoa 2 is one of the PlayStation 2’s best platform games and an underrated gem in its library. If you consider yourself a fan of the genre you owe it to yourself to track this down as soon as possible.