Despite being TheGamer’s defacto platformer simp (a title you receive once you get Raz from Psychonauts permanently etched into your flesh), I never played Klonoa growing up. I knew about it thanks to countless YouTube videos telling me what an underappreciated gem it is, but I wasn’t able to try it out until the recently released Phantom Reverie remaster.
After hearing for so long that Klonoa was one of the best platformers out there, I was admittedly a bit underwhelmed while playing the first game. The wind bullet mechanic was unique, the vibes were perfect, and movement was tight and responsive, but there was a lot of waiting around and some parts of the game felt archaic – it is 25 years old to be fair.
Still, even if Klonoa wasn’t blowing me away, I was happy I gave it a go and could see why so many people were fond of this wahooing rabbit cat… thing. As I approached the end, I thought that Door to Phantomile was good fun, if nothing too special.
Then the ending happened and I haven’t recovered since.
Klonoa and his best friend Huepow manage to save the world together, defeating the final boss with every friend they’ve made along the way. After all of that chaos, the two sit atop a hillside to celebrate their victory, but there’s a weird amount of tension in the air for two people who have just fulfilled their destiny.
As our hero tells Huepow how happy he is that they’ve saved the world and can finally play together, Huepow is noticeably quiet and unresponsive. When Klonoa finally picks up on the awkwardness, Huepow reveals that Klonoa doesn’t belong in his world and that he was brought there and implanted with fake memories to make sure that he’d help.
As he’s told this, Klonoa shouts and cries that he doesn’t believe him and that he remembers his whole life in the sleepy town of Phantomile. It doesn’t matter though, because as the rescued Lephise starts to sing, Klonoa is sucked into the air screaming and crying for Huepow as he’s ripped away from everything he thinks he’s ever known. All of this is done in a made-up language of squeaks, cries, and little noises but you can still hear the moment that Klonoa’s heart breaks in two.
Tragically, Huepow realises far too late what he’s done and tries to drag Klonoa back, but he can’t stop his friend from going back to his own world. As the song continues and the credits roll, Huepow smiles as Phantomile has found peace, even if Klonoa is no longer part of it.
It’s a gut-punch of an ending from something that seemed so happy and thoughtless for most of its playtime. It made me realise that I’d not been paying full attention to everything going on, as a second look at some cutscenes shows that Huepow is hesitant around Klonoa in the final hours, and the whole theme of the game is about the reality of dreams, hinting at Klonoa’s position as a Dream Traveller who is not really from that world.
Klonoa already proved it had some emotional chops in the first few hours when Klonoa breaks down in tears after watching his grandad get killed, but it’s nothing compared to this. In fact, it’s made so much worse when you remember that scene and realise that every tear Klonoa shed was based on a lie.
Although Klonoa looks like a standard cutesy platformer, so I didn’t expect to start thinking about betrayal, the cost of saving a world, how it would feel to have lived a lie, and the responsibility of being something great whether you want to be or not.
Impressively, Klonoa 2 expands on this ending and gives Klonoa some major character growth. He becomes even closer to his companions in the second game, but when it’s time for him to leave that world behind because his quest is complete, he doesn’t cry and scream like he did before. Instead, he tells his friends that they’ll always be together no matter where they are. He accepts his responsibility and he moves on.
I’ve played a lot of platformers across a lot of different consoles and eras of the genre, but I’ve never seen anything quite as mature and heartfelt as Klonoa’s ending, and it’s endeared me to the character and series more than I ever expected.
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