Klonoa returns to the GBA after a four year hiatus.
Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament is the sequel to the first Klonoa GBA game, Empire of Dreams, which came out in September of 2001. This sequel actually released three years ago, in 2002 in Japan. Why it’s taken so long to make it to the states is a mystery.
In Dream Champ Tournament, Klonoa has entered a tournament to prove who is the best adventurer. The game progresses much in the same way the first title did. There are several worlds that are each comprised of nine levels. Of the nine levels, six of them are standard platforming; one of them is hoverboard based; one is a forced-scrolling level; and the last is a boss stage. Klonoa must make his way through these zones and complete the boss stage to advance to the next world. There’s a story in there somewhere tying everything together, but it’s really quite irrelevant and takes a totally absurd twist near the end, so we’re just going to ignore it all together and say it’s an excuse for Klonoa to have an adventure. It will be better that way, trust me.
The platforming levels follow the same formula as they do in every Klonoa game. What makes the series unique is how it is played. Klonoa can run, jump, and grab enemies. While he’s holding an enemy, he can use it to make a double jump. So, unlike a Mario game, where Mario can avoid or destroy his enemies to reach his ultimate goal, Klonoa takes on a puzzle element in using the enemies as tools to complete the levels. As the game progresses, more enemy types are introduced to change up the gameplay. These enemies have special abilities. For example, one of them is a bomb creature that blows up after a set amount of time. Another will bounce back and return to you when it hits another baddie. The puzzles also gain more elements and become more difficult.
Controlling Klonoa is a breeze most of the time. The game plays very naturally, and the controls become second nature rather quickly. The only fault is the ladder controls. For some reason, it’s really easy for Klonoa to slip off ladders and vines, which can be a real pain during some of the time-critical levels.
To spice things up a bit, there are some different level types. The hoverboard stages and forced-scrolling levels, both of which do not need to be completed to beat the game, offer some variety in the game play. Unlike Empire of Dreams, the hoverboard levels in Dream Champ Tournament are forward scrolling, and take advantage of the GBA’s sprite scaling and rotational features. They’re more fun than those in the original game, which were a good deal of fun in their own right. The forced-scrolling levels are akin to the regular platforming zones, only there is the constant pressure of the level disappearing behind Klonoa as he sprints for the goal. Because of the scrolling, it’s much harder to get 100% completion on these levels. The same holds true for the hoverboard stages.
Unfortunately, there are a few lame stages in the game. There are a very few levels that take place underwater with Klonoa in some sort of crazy SCUBA contraption. The only difference between the land levels and underwater levels is that the aquatic ones are basically just slower versions of the terrestrial ones. It seems useless to do this, and only serves to make the marine levels an absolute chore.
The big change in Dream Champ Tournament is the boss stages. Unlike the previous GBA title, which simply had Klonoa and the bosses duke it out, you now have to race the bosses. This fits well with the “tournament” aspect of the story, if you’re paying any attention to it. The fights are varied and usually contain a multitude of objectives. The overall objective is to beat your opponent to the goal. Although you never actually see your foe, you can freeze his progress in some of the levels by firing cannons at him. As Klonoa works through the various worlds, the boss stages become tougher. The first boss fight is as simple as outrunning a large monster to get to the goal. Later fights have Klonoa squaring off against large dragons and other such beasts that are holding keys to the next section of the stage. Trying to defeat a large dragon while at the same time making sure your rival doesn’t catch up to you is a lot to handle, and will be a challenge for some players.
Speaking of challenge, it was severely lacking in Empire of Dreams. These new boss battles amp up the difficulty for the game, which is a change for the better. The overall gameplay itself is only marginally more difficult than it was in the first game, but any increase in complexity is both warranted and welcomed.
Klonoa fans will appreciate the fact that the core gameplay elements remain unchanged, and should have even more fun with this title than its GBA predecessor. Just enough changes have been applied to make it feel familiar but also fresh. For those who have never tried a Klonoa game before, Dream Champ Tournament is an excellent introduction to the series for any fan of platforming games.