If the late nineties and early 2000’s, within the context of gaming, are synonymous with anything, it’s video game mascots. At the time, the console wars were in full effect. With each brand shining a spotlight on just about any anthropomorphic hero they could. In the late nineties, you had Crash, Spyro, Rayman, Banjo, and Conker. Then in the early 2000s, you had Sly Raccoon, Jak and Daxter, and Ratchet and Clank just to name a few. Not to mention the ever-present and timeless mascots like Mario and Sonic who popped up time and time again.
What we are getting at here is that the platforming genre was a saturated one, to say the least. Meaning that to really stand out, you had to tick every single box. However, for some games of the era, even that was not enough. For Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, this fierce competition would cast this incredible and quirky platformer into obscurity. A fact that seems rather unfair even to this day.
The title reviewed incredibly well and provided some of the most refined platforming, fleshed out mechanics, stunning visuals, and unique level designs ever seen at the time of release. So we want to explore what happened to this incredible title. We want to give it the time in the spotlight that it deserves and perhaps show the world exactly what it has been missing. This is our retrospective on Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil.
Setting The Scene
Now, we aren’t naive to the fact that this IP isn’t the most well-known property amongst the gaming community. Especially to the newer generations of gamers. So we will provide some background on this series as a whole. The series began in 1997 with a PlayStation title called ‘Door to Phantomile‘. This game was developed by Namco who are of course known today as Bandai Namco. The developer was best known for arcade games at the time. However, was looking to broaden their horizons within the industry. So they developed the Klonoa series as a means of doing just that.
The first title was a huge success considering it was a brand new and unknown IP. It took Japan by storm while selling reasonably well in the US and Europe. Leading to this title being the fourth best selling property of the year for Namco. A feat that is not to be sniffed at considering that the game had competition in the form of Tekken 3, Ace Combat 2, and Time Crisis 2 to contend with.
With this initial title selling so well, it allowed Namco to pursue new titles within the series. Then before long, this platformer had become a well-respected franchise. Admittedly, there were bumps in the road when a game under the Klonoa umbrella was developed for the doomed Wonderswan console. However, even this game was met with mildly positive reviews despite the hardware that would eventually give way to the much superior Game Boy.
A commerical Flop
Through the continued success of this series, especially in Asian territories. Plus the dedication of the creative team behind these titles. This IP would be granted the opportunity of becoming one of the first platformers to grace the PS2. An honor that was shared with Jak and Daxter: The Precursor’s Legacy, another title that was released in 2001. However, despite the prestige and the incredible team behind this game, the sales did not reflect the quality of the game which arrived in March 2001.
This game was awarded review scores of 89% by Gamespot, 92% by IGN, and an overall aggregate score of 91% on Metacritic. A fact that goes some way toward showing just how refined and impressive this title was within the era it released. Yet despite this, the game’s sales were underwhelming, with the title only managing to sell approximately 300,000 copies worldwide. To put this in perspective, its closest rival Jak and Daxter: The Precursor’s Legacy managed to sell 1.7 million copies by July 2006.
A Major Marketing Mishap
While some could argue that the reason for Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil not finding an audience the second time around could be due to a myriad of factors. We believe that it’s down to two key issues. The first being that unlike launch titles in this day and age, this game was sent out into the fray with little to no commercial backing whatsoever. Many will remember this game being showcased on one of the official PS2 demo discs. Plus, some commercials were released in Asian territories to market this sequel. However, when compared to the marketing campaigns of other titles, this game was essentially sent out to die. A fact that seems laughable considering the time, resources, and effort that the team put into this project. Here is a look at the only commercial for this title on record:
This was an issue that on its own would have been bad for the title. However, the final nail in the coffin for this title was the sheer volume of platformers on their way. Games that were new, fresh, exciting IPs that were being marketed heavily to the gaming public. Take the initial Ratchet and Clank, Sly Raccoon, Jak and Daxter, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger as prime examples of this. Hell, even Haven: Call of the King had a better run than this title. A title we would put it in the same category of undervalued platformers of their time.
It is this close proximity to other exciting platformers of the time that killed this game financially. That and the unwarranted confidence of Namco which was showcased through their marketing strategy. Combine this with the fact that this wacky and whimsical game had always been a hard sell to the non-Asian territories and that about sums up why this game fell flat at launch.
A Forgotten Gem
Putting the unfortunate sales figures aside, this game was an incredible success from a mechanical, visual, auditory standpoint. So like we mentioned earlier, we will be giving this game the spotlight it deserves. Pinpointing just why this game was so special despite its obscure and forgotten nature. So with that in mind, why don’t we begin with the absolutely beautiful visuals.
This game looked absolutely spectacular at the time of release, introducing new generations of gamers to the bubblegum aesthetic of the Klonoa series. The game offers a selection of levels that are vibrant, wacky, ambient and even in the light of 2021, this game hasn’t aged poorly at all. Admittedly, some textures are a little jarring and can take less forgiving players out of the overall experience. However, in terms of general aesthetic, attention to detail, and creative flair, this game has it all in abundance.
The most terrific aspect of this is perhaps the cinematography that was at play even back in 2001. Many players will be familiar with the Jungle Slider surfing level that was present on the official PS2 demo disc. This level is perhaps the best way to demonstrate what amazing camera work was on show within the entire campaign.
Throughout this scene, you would be treated to cinematic jump off ledges with panning camera angles. You would have side-scrolling sections along with narrow platforms. You had your standard behind-the-character moments with oncoming obstacles to avoid. Then much like the Crash series, you had the camera in front as you tried to get away from large enemies chasing you from behind. These moments were wonderful and plentiful throughout the title. Demonstrating just how polished this game was in the primitive days of gaming in 2001.
A Mechanical Marvel
Not only did Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil present itself beautifully. It also had a series of game mechanics that were simple and accessible, yet clever and fleshed out throughout the campaign. The game never offers the player any other actions than running, jumping, and grabbing. Yet through the game’s enemies and obstacles, the player will be tasked with using every fiber of these mechanics to get from start to finish.
The best examples of how the game fleshes out these mechanics are through the environment and through the enemies themselves. With regards to the environment, the player will be able to interact with objects to affect other areas within the scene. A pretty simple concept but through the game’s fluid switches between 2D and 3D, this becomes a very pleasing experience indeed. Take the pendulum that can be found in the second area of the game as a prime example.
This 3D asset at first glance seems like a means of providing an aesthetically pleasing backdrop. However, when you find a high ledge blocking your path on the 2D plane, you suddenly realize that you can interact with this object, allowing you to swing it around and knock down the obstacle in your way. It’s this ability to think outside of one plain to consider another that makes this game special. We can only think of one game that perhaps does this better, that being Super Paper Mario.
Simple Yet Effective
Then with regards to the enemies, the core concept of defeating or bypassing these jolly vibrant blobs is simple. You either pick them up and throw them at the others, or you use them as a platform when jumping to defy physics and jump on their head to reach higher ledges. The first level offers the player their training wheels so to speak. Then sets about making this simple concept as complex as it possibly can be.
Throughout the game, the player will be tasked with throwing enemies in all directions on a 2D plane, combining different colored enemies to act as keys to new areas, using enemies with propellers to reach new heights, and even using special enemies to surge like a lightning bolt, not only having you jump higher, but also leaving all enemies in your wake burned to a crisp. The game is brilliant at consistently offering progression to these simple ideas, making this an ideal game for kids and adults alike, provided said adults can deal with the cringe-worthy narrative moments.
A Sleeping Giant
Overall, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil leaves behind a legacy that is buried in obscurity. The game offered some of the most incredible gaming moments on offer for the period and thanks to some poor decisions from Namco, many gamers never got to witness this blissful romp for themselves. While most Playstation 2 titles can be purchased at a bargain bin price of a few dollars, this game still sells in many circles for upwards of $50 at the time of writing. A fact that perhaps exemplifies just how incredible this game is even by today’s standards.
The series would continue after Klonoa 2, with Bandai Namco opting to move to the handheld market once again with mixed success. Then finally making a last-ditch attempt to revive the series with a game made for the Wii, which once again was met with mixed reviews. It’s a shame that this series never got the love that it deserved after the turn of the millennium.
This game had all the qualities of a mascot platformer like Jak, Ratchet, or Sly but sadly, it was through this close proximity to these elite performers that this game would find itself chasing its own tail before eventually falling off the face of the earth. We may never see a return for the Klonoa series but if we can ask you to do one thing, we urge you to play this forgotten gem and claim back the memories you were robbed of in the early 2000s.
So that’s our retrospective breaking down the forgotten gem Klonoa 2. What do you make of this title? Why do you think this game has never seen the success it perhaps deserved? How does this game rank amongst the other platformers of the era? Let us know in the comments section below. Plus, if you liked this piece, then why not check out our top five list of the most influential platformers ever. Or alternatively, check out our news on another stunning platformer, Celeste. Thank you for reading VeryAli Gaming.