Klonoa made his first appearance on the PsOne over eleven years ago under the direction of Hideo Yoshizawa who also worked on the original Ninja Gaiden games. The game is a platformer with a unique “twist”. Players explored 3D levels with a 2D sprite. In the Wii version scheduled to come out here later this year Klonoa has been updated to a 3D model.
Personally, Klonoa is most memorable for its charming character and tear jerking ending. In this interview Yoshizawa waxes about the ending’s metaphor, talks about a new feature for the North American version of Klonoa, and describes how Klonoa changed for the Wii.
How did you come up with concept for Klonoa as a character?
Hideo Yoshizawa, Director of Klonoa: First was the idea to inflate an enemy by shooting it and being able to carry it around to attack other enemies. We invited people from within our development department for character designs that fit the game’s nature and chose Klonoa. When our sales team saw the character they asked if he could fly by flapping his overly large ears. At first, the development team was opposed to the idea because the game would become imbalanced. However, we wanted to respect the opinion of our sales team and compromised by letting Klonoa float for a few seconds by holding down the jump button.
What made now the right time to reboot the Klonoa franchise?
Klonoa is a product that is loved and supported by many enthusiastic fans. I still receive many fan letters today. One of these fans happens to be Mr. Onozawa, vice president of NAMCO BANDAI Games. He came from Bandai after the two companies merged in 2006 and expressed a desire to bring back Klonoa. That was the start of the new project.
When did the team begin work on the project?
The project started in October of 2007.
How much of the original Klonoa Works team participated in the remake?
Members of the original Klonoa Works team include me as the development producer, Mr. Kobayashi as director, Mr. Arai as art director and Ms. Kakino as sound director. As for the development team, we have gathered a great group of passionate Klonoa fans and I believe their love of the game shines through in the final product.
What change are you most proud of? Were there any things that you wanted to do in the remake that you didn’t get to do such as adding new levels?
The technical limitations of the original PlayStation version forced us to limit or remove any faraway background art by clipping it or creating a wall to block it out. However, in this remake, we were able to really create Klonoa’s world as we imagined it for the original version. It was nice to be able to bring a more fantastic three-dimensional world to life, especially the water transparency, the sunlight and shadow of the trees. Also, while in development, we started to improve the controls to make the game play more comfortably.
Are the stages exactly the same as they were in the PS1 game? Did you have to change anything around to make the reverse levels more playable?
The basic topography is based on the original but we improved some places we felt could be more playful. For example, some enemy placement is different and the levels themselves a bit less rounded. Actually, the Reverse Mode was made without many problems. When you play the game in reverse you may become flustered because everything is backwards. It creates a new challenge. Also there are secret areas to explore in Reverse Mode. Make sure to look out for them.
I remember playing Klonoa on the PS1 and all the way at the end the game was very sad. Actually, Klonoa 2 was pretty sad too. How come Klonoa has such tearful endings?
At that time there were a lot of movie-like games were being made. I started to wonder if it were possible to make a story that could only be told in a game. As I thought about this, the idea of the game’s opening and ending suddenly struck me.
The story of Klonoa is structured like a fairy tale. There is the basic story that is fun for anyone, but there is also a deeper meaning behind it for adults to think about as well.
I also think that the sad ending of Klonoa could be a metaphor for how you feel after finishing a good game.
The Japanese version has voice acting in addition to Klonoa speak. Will the North American version have an option to switch between English and Japanese voice acting?
The North American version will have both English and Phantomile voice overs.
Are there going to be any changes or additions for the North American version?
In the North American version we added a new whirlwind attack when you shake the Wii Remote (the new feature is supported in all of the controllers). This attack creates a whirlwind around Klonoa and all the enemies slow down. We decided on this feature because we wanted to integrate the Wii’s unique control system into the game without destroying its balance.
Where did the idea for the “new” Klonoa design come from? Why did you feel Klonoa needed to be changed?
It has been 11 years since Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was released and I felt the original design was a bit old-fashioned. Since we wanted to make Klonoa more than just a simple remake, I asked the art director, Mr. Arai, to design Klonoa as he might look today and we ended up with the Klonoa we have now. If you are referring to the North American Klonoa design, we had a chance to change Klonoa for a new generation of gamers for North America who might think of Klonoa as too cute.
After the concept art was covered by the media we received a mountain of responses telling us not to change Klonoa. This show of support convinced us to keep the updated design that was used in the Japanese version. To tell you the truth, I was taken aback by the support from all the fans who have stuck with Klonoa after all these years. I remain eternally grateful to all of Klonoa’s fans.
Will the new Klonoa design be in Phantomile as an alternate costume?
The North American Klonoa design concept was dropped completely, but there will be hidden outfits to find within the game.
What’s next for Klonoa? Will you give Klonoa 2 the “Wii-make” treatment or would you prefer to make a brand new Klonoa game?
There are no plans at this time to remake Klonoa 2 or design a brand new sequel. I would really enjoy working on a brand new Klonoa game in the future, however. For the time being, please enjoy playing Klonoa as it is very close to our original concept for Klonoa: Door to Phantomile.
Klonoa has made lots of cameos like appearing in Namco X Capcom and he’s also in Tales of Hearts. Which cameo is your favorite and is there any particular game you would want Klonoa to make an appearance in?
We have many Klonoa fans within our company and I am happy to see Klonoa appear in their games. One of my favorite cameos is our PlayStation 2 version of MOTO GP from 2000. Klonoa looks like a stuffed animal, scurrying on the motorcycle in MOTO GP’s realistic race circuits with realistic camera work. It ended up being a very funny picture.