Before playing Klonoa: Empire of Dreams for the Game Boy Advance, I had never played any Klonoa game before. I never really felt like I was missing much, even though I've heard good things about the series, because I've missed quite a few good games and Klonoa never seemed particularly important. With Gamestop clearing out their used GBA games, I picked up this and three other games for cheap, so even though I was generally apathetic towards Klonoa, it seemed worth the couple of bucks I spent on it.
Klonoa is a weird series for a lot of reasons. It started with as the first 2.5D game on the Playstation, and it's roots as a game in the middle of the transition from 2D to 3D sort of defines it. As a game that came out in the late 90's, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was too late for the early 90's mascot 2D platformer craze that brought us Sonic and a million other characters nobody remembers, and it was too early for early 00's 3D platformer renaissance that brought us Sly Cooper and stuff like that. In a lot of ways, Klonoa seems like Namco's answer to Sonic. I mean, the character's design is similar to Tails, though Klonoa has clothes, presumably because he has some decency.
While the series started on PS1 and eventually got a sequel on PS2, it has the most games on GBA, and Klonoa: Empire of Dreams was the first of those. Since the GBA was not capable of 3D rendering the original game used for its backgrounds, this title is a more traditional 2D platformer. I played through the entire first world, and I just didn't have the urge to keep playing after that. My first major complaint is the difficulty, which is way too easy. Admittedly, this is something that could ramp up significantly further into the game, but it was just so easy that it felt bland. All the enemies were just walking around and going about there business, and they seemed to be there as ammo to allow Klonoa to do his double jump. That system is neat, and I like the idea, but since enemies infinitely respawn, there is no pressure because if you mess up a double jump you can keep trying without much problem.
The game looks and controls like a platform game, but the actual level design and goals for most levels are more like a puzzle game. You need to figure out where to put blocks and where to use enemies, but the problem with this is that the puzzles aren't hard to figure out. There was never a time when I had to stop and think about how to get from point A to point B, all the puzzle elements were obvious. It is monotonous because most levels are just: go through level, pick up stars, exit level. To break up these slower stages are boarding stages where all you need to do is live. It's nothing that hasn't been seen in platformers before. The same could be said of the autoscrolling levels. The boss I fought was okay, but nothing memorable.
My other major gripe is with the story. Particularly, that it has one. I believe that platform, and particularly mascot platform games should not have a story, or at least not overt story with cutscenes, text, or anything that pulls you out of the game to explain things. Sonic 3 & Knuckles has the perfect amount of story for this type of game. There is no dialogue, just short events that move the game along while also showing that Robotnik is a prick and Knuckles is up to something. Nobody cares about the socioeconomic repercussions of destroying one of Koopa's castles, they just want to move on to the next level and stomp some more goombas. Also, nothing is more painful than video game creators trying to write funny cutscenes. If you have a charming character design, people will perceive the character as charming, you don't need exposition to do that. Attempting to add character and story to Sonic is part of the reason why so much of the Sonic fanbase has turned into something so fucking terrifying.
Anyway, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is a decent game, but it's mostly just boring.