In essence, the Klonoa series – created by Namco – defines simplicity in play control but also challenges the brain with its puzzles. Even though Empire of Dreams was first released in 2001, it still stands as a fun and original platform title on the GBA. Quite simply, the more this game is played, the more it will be appreciated.
The player assumes the role of Klonoa, a black and white floppy-eared, kitty-bunny. Klonoa gets into trouble by dreaming up a fantasy in a world where dreams are illegal. However, the ruler of the land makes Klonoa a deal: if he destroys all the monsters in the land, dreams will no longer be outlawed. The story, though slightly ridiculous, aptly retains the mood and mentality of the game.
Thanks to its simple controls, Empire of Dreams exists as a game befitting the pick-up and play motif. Two moves are given to the player: jump and wind-bullet. What is a wind-bullet? Well, it’s a ring that Klonoa wears to grab enemies and other objects. Once held fast with this ring, enemies and objects can provide Klonoa with an additional jump. While these two elementary moves may make the game seem a little limiting, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams’ true depth lies in the level design.
Each level, or ?Vision’ as the game calls them, will see the player collecting three stars and numerous gems in a side-scrolling fashion somewhat similar to any 2D Mario game. Once these three stars are collected, the level’s final door will unlock, allowing passage to further areas. The game’s pacing is set at an appropriately evolving rate: opening levels hold the player’s hand while later levels will twist the brain.
Occasionally, some mini-games such as forced-scrolling levels or high-speed snowboarding stages will give the player a little something extra to do. Boss battles also finalize the end of each world. These boss battles are not especially challenging, most will be conquered easily on the first try, but they are fun nonetheless.
The game’s graphics, while bright, colorful, and detailed, might leave the player wanting a little more. Everything is well animated, but the game could perhaps have benefited from pseudo 2.5D graphic elements. Because the PlayStation 2’s Klonoa had some wonderful camera rotations, you may find yourself hoping for more than you’ll find in the graphics department. If something as rudimentary as objects falling from the background – like in Yoshi’s Island (SNES) – had been implemented, the visuals would have felt a little more complete in Empire of Dreams. The audio track, like the rest of the game, is simple but perfectly fits the game’s structure. The surreal, but moody, musical tracks blend in well with the game.
Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is a game that old-school platforming fans will appreciate. The basic, but entertaining gameplay will surely tickle any gamer’s funny bone. Recently, Namco announced a sequel for this GBA edition of Klonoa. Hopefully they will add a few new graphical effects as well as a wider variety of enemies. Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is a solid platform title for the GBA, and can usually be found at a discount price due to its age. If you’re a GBA owner looking for an original (non-remake or port) 2D old-school side-scrolling adventure, then look no further than this. And you may also want to check out the PS2 version, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil as well.