The middle June has been the pinnacle of the gaming calendar since the 1990s. It’s those magical weeks when developers and publishers pull back the curtain on their biggest upcoming projects, allowing fans to finally see a bold new vision or long-awaited sequel. The main summer shows from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo tend to prioritize the next big thing, but one of my favorite games from Summer Game Fest Play Days was a charming duo of platform games first released in the late s. 90s and early 00s.
Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series brings together remastered versions of 1997 Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and that of 2001 Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, first released for PlayStation and PS2 respectively. (This was when Namco was still a swinging studio – the Bandai merger wasn’t official until 2006.) I’d never played these games when I was younger – I basically played everything my older brothers had around, and the Klonoa series was probably a bit too cute and kid-friendly for their cool 90s teen taste.
There’s something about this particular era of 2.5D platformers that is uniquely familiar and comforting, and Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series has those qualities in spades. Imagine if Chex Mix and Rice Krispies Treats were video games – it’s not the fanciest thing you’ve ever eaten, but something about it keeps you looking forward to it.
This is the kind of game that just about anyone can pick up and play right away. You can jump, defeat enemies and grab objects. clonoaThe core mechanics are rather Kirby-esque – you grab enemies and use them to traverse each level – some help you jump higher, some make you float or float, or you can throw a captured enemy at another bad guy, clearing a safer path to proceed to.
In certain areas, you interact with the background to explore new areas, solve a puzzle, or get hold of precious items. The environments and enemies are lively and cheerful, and the game steadily builds on its core dynamics by steadily adding new skills and ways to interact with the environment at a lively yet easily digestible pace.
A handful of thoughtful quality of life improvements make Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series more accessible than other platformer ports of its time. The first thing you notice is the ability to play cutscenes at 5x speed and skip them right away as well. (Why isn’t this more common?) The remasters also feature customizable difficulty levels that let you choose from one of three all-encompassing challenge levels, adjust Klonoa’s overall health and damage enemies inflict, and adjust your total number of lives. †
If you’re looking for a mellow platformer experience to while away the hot days ahead, Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is a charming return to simpler times, with more complexity than meets the eye. So an underrated retro gem is a sweet summer treat worth keeping an eye out for.
Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and Steam on July 8, 2022.