PUBLISHER: Namco (JP, US), SCE (EU)
RELEASE DATE: 03/22/01 (JP), 07/25/01 (US), 11/09/01 (EU)
Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil is a game I feel I should love more. On paper, it hits all of my sweet spots. Quirky Japanese platformer on a beloved legacy console? Check. Cult classic that few played upon release? You know it, bro. Super cute characters that ooze visual charm? Just hook it up to my veins. Despite these positives, there’s an emptiness to both Klonoa 2‘s characters and world that leaves me cold and detached from the game as a whole.
Why not both?
Klonoa is a dream traveler, summoned to the world of Lunatea through the cries of an unknown person. Upon arriving, he meets Lolo, a priestess-in-training and her friend Popka, at the Sea of Tears. They inform him that Lunatea is in danger. Monsters have appeared and are ravaging each of Lunatea’s four main kingdoms. Each kingdom (names include Tranquility, Joy, Discord, and Indecision) has a Harmony Bell that maintains peace. In order to set things right, Klonoa and his newfound chums must ring all four Harmony Bells before the Chaos Bell and the Kingdom of Sorrow rises from the ocean and plunges Lunatea into eternal sadness.
Klonoa speaks for us all.
I just gave you the abridged version of the story, and that’s part of the problem. Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil relies heavily on overly dramatic, convoluted nonsense. After every level, there’s at least one cutscene, and… ugh. I feel bad, because you can tell Namco and the Klonoa team want you to be invested in everything that’s happening on screen, but I just didn’t care. I would completely expect to be overwhelmed by pseudo-philosophical ponderings if Klonoa 2 were a JRPG (or The Bouncer), but it’s a platformer. Few come to platformers for bracing stories, they just want to hop and bop in well-crafted levels.
The neon coral beckon you.
Thankfully, Klonoa 2‘s solid platforming does its best to wash the story out of your eyes. You control Klonoa through a variety of 2.5D environments called Visions and use a special ring to capture any enemies that show up along the way. Said ring contains the body and soul of Lolo, the aforementioned priestess-in-training who helps you capture them. Without her help, I’m not sure Klonoa would be able to do much of anything. He can’t even bounce on enemies without taking damage! Poor guy.
That big boy means business.
The enemies Klonoa collects help him reach higher platforms and either collect items or progress forward. You can also throw enemies to hit out-of-the-way items in both the background and foreground, a nice touch. Initially, using single enemies to bounce upwards is a cinch, but later levels require you to use multiple enemies, one after the other, to either hit switches to progress or ascend upwards. Precise timing and reflexes are key. Heart pieces, Dream Stones (green and blue gems that give you lives per 100 you collect), and Moon Stones (collectibles that unlock secrets) also litter each Vision and assist in giving Klonoa 2 a little more replay value.
I’ve come here to punch sorrow in the face, my dude.
In addition to the platforming levels, there are also surprisingly fun hoverboarding segments peppered throughout the game. Why hoverboarding? Well, Klonoa 2 was released in 2001, a time when board-related hijinx (SSX, Tony Hawk, etc.) was everywhere within gaming; Klonoa just wanted to be hip with the kids. These hoverboarding levels take place on snow, water, and even interdimensional portal tubes. Mostly, you just hover from one end of the level to the next, jumping over chasms and collecting gems, but they feel great to play and are a nice break from the platforming.
Grinding on frequencies.
The Kingdoms of Lunatea are a strange and soulless bunch. The Kingdom of Tranquility, with its soft music and beautiful electric colors, is by far the most beautiful. The Kingdom of Joy, however, is a bizarre carnival land that feels much more unsettling than it does joyful. The Kingdom of Discord is a land under constant war and oppression, so naturally it resembles a Communist nation. Discord does contain some of the best level design in the game, however. Bouncing springs a la Sonic blast Klonoa above the carnage for breathtaking views of the ruined Kingdom. The Kingdom of Indecision has one excellent puzzle-driven level, the Maze of Memories, and not much else. The levels in these Kingdoms often feel great to play, but they leave your mind as soon as you’re finished.
Sonic wishes he had moves like this.
Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil employs unique platforming mechanics, adorable character design, and a surreal, dreamlike vibe that’s wholly its own. Even after beating the game, however, I find myself dissatisfied with the overall experience. The main characters’ personalities are mediocre Saturday morning cartoon fare, the world of Lunatea is weird and unwelcoming, and the story takes itself way too seriously. None of the latter would be a big deal if the game didn’t push the story on you throughout the game. My advice: skip Klonoa 2‘s cutscenes, embrace the platforming, and you’ll have a decent time.
Listen to our Klonoa 2 podcast here.
At least Klonoa 2 is polite.