Klonoa Heroes - Densetsu no Star Medal Review by: SWTerraKlonoa Heroes: Is this GBA RPG of Namco's animalian mascot worth it?
Wow, I didn't think I'd post my first overall review on a game that can solely be played in a language I don't understand...
Even with the language barrier, though, it's hard for me to ignore this game's bit of charm, but let's see if I can put that into words.
An advance warning: I realize that this review is probably sub-par, so be warned, and please let me know what I can do better for, potentially, a next review.
Klonoa Heroes: Densetsu no Star Medal (translates roughly into Klonoa Heroes: Legendary Star Medal) is a fairly barebones RPG game that was only released in Japan, and therefore, can't be played in English. While there have been some attempts to fan translate the game, the best one I was able to find was still only about 3/4 complete, and contained very broken English (most likely, it was done through direct translations, straight from the original text).
While I do know that for most, a basic RPG can be somewhat of a letdown, especially if you're an exceptional fan of such games. However, to me, this was actually quite the opposite; it was a relief. This seems like a rather neutral point in the vast general public, though: on one hand, RPG fans are used to more lengthy and open-ended RPGs, while on the other hand, most people who may not be fans of the genre will find enjoyment in this game's simplicity.
A quick note before I continue: The story is rather decent to what I have translated (albeit poorly) on hand, but I sadly can't deem a score without knowing the full thing, and many portions seem to be missing from the climax in specific, which is easily the most important thing in the story (with the buildup being a close second). If I don't know that, I don't feel that I can give the story an accurate score. Despite this, I feel that I can judge the other aspects of the game well enough to give a rather accurate overall score.
Let's be honest here. One good look at the preview screenshots of this game tell you that it certainly isn't top-caliber aesthetic, even for the Game Boy Advance. However, the sprites are, for the most part, identifiable, very detailed, and colorful; all of these are key things for a very nice aesthetic. Couple that with relatively smooth animation, and you have yourself a very pretty game for this handheld.
The character portraits in the game also have a lot of work obviously put into them. Every major character comes with a variety of expressions that are not only used throughout the explanation of the story, but are also used during the Visions (which are this game's version of levels, essentially) whenever said character (one of three playable) is hurt, got a critical hit, etc. It's a small touch, but a nice one at that, and certainly a welcome one.
My biggest complaint has to be the backgrounds on some of the world maps, which can be downright disorienting at times. Other than that, the graphics, for anyone familiar with Klonoa at all, is something you've come to expect to be up there with some of the better games on the same console in the big picture.
As someone who's been a fan of the Klonoa series's OST, it comes as a great disappointment to me that Densetsu no Star Medal's soundtrack is perfectly mediocre. Most of the music feels either generic, far too simple, or, in some cases, just not fitting the mood. That is not to say, however, that there aren't exceptions. I, for one, enjoy the boss battle BGMs that are in this game, and some of the chapter vision BGMs are also somewhat memorable. However, on average, the soundtrack simply falls short of standing out in any sort of way.
Simplicity can certainly be blissful, so why not have a simple game go out and be addictive? It can work, and does work in this game's case. Simple gameplay, simple control, and simple stats all end up leading to a fun experience that I absolutely wouldn't mind playing a second time over.
It’s hard to identify exactly what gives it its replayability and addiction. Then again, look at games such as those in the Mario and Kirby series, and the answer seems to lie there. Simple, easy-to-understand gameplay combined with decent game atmosphere just works.
Ouch, the depth really didn’t get much love. This is unfortunate because this is easily the most damaging part of the game. Most of the game’s length comes from its overbearing tedium of having to defeat almost every enemy around you; otherwise, you risk having to do some serious grinding when the difficulty suddenly ramps up near the climax of the story, which is one of the worst times to have a sudden difficulty spike.
Most of this game’s “length” is purely artificial. And that’s the worst kind of length in a game. That could fly in the 80s, and perhaps even the early 90s, but it’s impossible to excuse and just comes off as a lazy way to add “depth” to a game.
That said, it still gets a slight pass from me due to it being very dependent on your ability to cater your stat points to each character’s strengths, and each passing level, as the stat points are tangible and can be reassigned as many times as needed. Also, there are a good number of weapons you can try for each character, with Klonoa having the most of them, each with various strengths and weaknesses; these allow you to change up the gameplay a bit if you so desire.
Klonoa Heroes is a good example of a consistent difficulty curve in a game. From start to finish, it gets more difficult at a steady pace, following your projected experience gain and character levels rather well. However, with a small window of invulnerability per hit, in combination with the RPG standard of critical hits and misses, a part of the difficulty comes from your lack of ability to alter the ever-so-dangerous random number generators of the game.
At the same time, the small window of invulnerability also affects the enemies, so there are some weapons that can easily rip through enemies due to their consistent damage hitbox they deal (Klonoa’s double-tap hammer attack is the best example of this). Due to this, the balance of the weapons seems oddly broken, and Klonoa, who was meant to be a glass special attacker cannon, suddenly becomes the best attacker.
To be fair, there are several portions where only one character is allowed in a Vision, throwing a curveball if you’ve only leveled up one character and punishing you for not dividing the use of the characters; however, this shouldn’t prove to be too much of a task, as the three playable characters complement each other quite well, and each have something that they excel at quite well, making them all useful in certain situations. The difficulty becomes more than manageable if you learn to manage which character is best in which situation, which may take some trial and error if you don’t know Japanese.
The controls are also very basic, but that’s to be expected from a GBA game; there are only six buttons (and that includes the s
elect and start buttons) to use. However, use of the controls is rather intuitive once you know what they are. Once more, the biggest difficulty—I obviously didn’t contribute this to my score—is learning this if you cannot understand Japanese.
==Final Result: 8/10==
This is clearly not the best game in the world. It has shaky sound and depth, even for a GBA game (if you’re looking for an example of these two done right, look at most of the first party games on this handheld such as The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap). However, it saves itself with a surprisingly strong replay value, intuitive control, and fun graphics/characters. Ultimately, it’s nothing to write home about, and is certainly a game you wouldn’t miss out on much if you end up not deciding to play it, but if you get a chance, I suggest you give this a try. There’s a charm to this that not even I can put on paper, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you see.