Klonoa – 1997 Developer Interviews

Klonoa – 1997 Developer Interviews

In these two interviews from The Playstation magazine, several of Namco’s developers discuss the conception and making of the beloved 1997 PlayStation platformer Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, a game whose snappy and approachable controls, charming universe, expertly-crafted 2-on-3D visuals and unexpected mid-game tonal shift helped cultivate a loyal fanbase and several follow-ups.

Hideo Yoshizawa – Director
Tsuyoshi Kobayashi – Designer

—Tell us the story of how the Klonoa project got off the ground.

Yoshizawa: The honest truth is that I simply wanted to make an action game. When I sat down to think seriously about how to do that, and I looked at the Playstation market, there weren’t a lot of games that were playable for both children and adults at the same time. I wanted to make something that would fill that void.

Also, there were a lot of Playstation games with 3D fields you could freely walk around in, and those games tended to be confusing; players often don’t know what they’re supposed to do. That’s why we decided to retain 2D controls, but with a 3D-ish feel.

The idea for 3D backgrounds was there from the beginning, but I didn’t want it to be only for show—I wanted the 3D to have a purpose in the game. That’s where I got the idea for “information depth”. For example, in a 2D sidescroller you’ve got to keep moving forward (to the right) to see what’s next. But with a 3D screen, if we place something interesting deeper in the visual field, it prompts players to consider what’s there in the background, and explore whether it can be interacted with.

Also, once we started playing around with camera angles, like tilting the camera upwards so players can get a clear view around them, it turned out to be really interesting. Some of these weirder camera angles have never been featured before in an action game, I think, so it was definitely something we were excited about doing.

As I thought more about how to appeal to a wider demographic, I decided that the character shouldn’t be too serious, but should instead evoke gentle, nice feelings. That idea came, by the way, after soliciting the different developers at Namco for drawings of the character, in an informal in-house contest we held.

—How many years ago was this?

Yoshizawa: About two years ago, I think. At the time, most games were running at 30fps. But that tires your eyes out quickly. I really wanted to see if we could get Klonoa running at 60fps, and it was quite a struggle…

—Which did you create first in Klonoa, the world and story, or the gameplay systems?

Kobayashi: I think they were mostly created at the same time.

Yoshizawa: Yeah. We’d come with an idea for a gameplay or stage element that we wanted to include, then we’d find a way to smoothly weave the story around that—and then that idea would inspire some movement for the character, and so forth. I guess I did write the general outline of the story first, though, and we did our best to avoid creating inconsistencies in it as we went.

Hideo Yoshizawa (1997)

Kobayashi: For example, take the “The Temple of the Sun” which was outlined first in Yoshizawa’s story notes… we created the stage to match the image he had written out there.

—(looking at the concept art and notes) These are really incredible. They’re very detailed, almost to an RPG level.

Yoshizawa: A lot of these maps were created to match up with the story. We tried to replicate that level of detail in the in-game world, too.

Kobayashi: Unfortunately the players don’t always notice those details. (laughs)

Yoshizawa: There’s some things we’ve prepared for the game which are better enjoyed on a second playthrough. I don’t want to talk about those things right now though.

—So how did you go about creating the world of Klonoa, then?

Yoshizawa: One of our initial ideas, when we were soliciting character designs, was that you’d defeat enemies by inflating them. I thought the idea of “sending dreams to enemies to inflate them” had a nice humorous connection with “expanding your dreams”. (laughs)1

I’d also been thinking a lot about dreams before this. When you wake up in the morning, you forget your dreams, right? But where in the world do they go…? From there, I remember thinking, “In the morning dreams get gathered somewhere, and they become the energy which creates a whole world of its own.” And if people stopped dreaming, that world would disappear. That became the setting for Phantomile.

The aforementioned, unused player-character submission, in which the character would literally use enemies’ dreams against them.

—The things that the characters in Klonoa say are also very unique.

Kobayashi: Right off the bat, we knew we didn’t want them to use any existing human language. So we all worked together to create the language of “Phantomile-ese”. If you could have seen us all working on that, it was a truly ridiculous spectacle to behold.

Yoshizawa: We first tried dividing the different emotional expressions up, by assigning specific onomatopoeia-like sound words for sadness, anger, happiness and so forth. Those meetings, though… it was basically us sitting there debating over things like, “hey, I think here instead of WAHOO! he should yell BAHOO!!”. To anyone looking on, it must have just looked like a bunch of buffoons shouting out absurdities, for hours on end. 

Kobayashi: At the recording sessions, the voice actors had to try all these bizarre voicings and inflections until we’d pick one: “that one! that one!” (laughs) It looked like they were struggling with it too.

Yoshizawa: When the sessions were over, the first thing one of them said to me was, “Finally, I get to speak human language again!” (laughs)

—Did the target demographic you chose influence the development?

Yoshizawa: I think really young children are probably still playing their Super Famicom or Game Boy. And the people interested in the Playstation are probably at that age where they’re consciously trying to act more mature and adult, right? So we didn’t think it would be a good idea to make Klonoa into something overly childish.

I also think children aren’t really into things that are too kiddy, or too directly aimed at children. We wanted a story that wasn’t consciously “aimed at kids”, but would rather be something that could raise kids up to its level, if that makes sense.

—Something within the reach of a child, in other words.

Yoshizawa: Right. And by the same token, something that wouldn’t feel off-putting to adults because it was “made for kids”.

—A solid action game.

Kobayashi: Right. We didn’t design it to be a simplistic game for kids. We thought of it as an action game a junior high schooler could enjoy.

Yoshizawa: A huge number of kids checked out the demo at the recent World Hobby Fair, and all or most of them could play it. They were a little unsure at first, but once they got the double jump down, it was easy. A lot of girls gathered around too, and they were interested enough to try it out, which made me very happy to see. 

Kobayashi: It was mostly younger kids at the Fair.

Yoshizawa: There were kids who made it to the boss and beat him, so everything seemed good. (laughs) It was the adults who had a harder time, to be honest.

A speedrun of one of Klonoa’s expert post-game areas by programmer Yoshikazu Hatou, originally uploaded on Namco’s official Japanese website for Klonoa in 1998, hence the absurdly low-quality footage.

—Those slow adult hands. (laughs) For children, I imagine it’s the text that could be more difficult.

Yoshizawa: We were very concerned about that, so we tried our best to not use hard kanji. However, there were times when we needed to use slightly difficult characters in order to evoke the proper atmosphere, but when it came to text that was critical to understand the story, we kept it simple.

There is some more mature content awaiting players who reach the ending, but that, I think, is permissible. It’s sort of like with movies you loved as a kid… sometimes when you watch them again as an adult, you realize they had a deeper story going on. It’s my hope that kids will experience Klonoa in a similar way—right now, they’re enjoying it as a grand old adventure, but I hope they come back to it as an adult too. 

—By the way, what is the goal of Klonoa’s adventure?

Yoshizawa: I don’t want to say much because of spoilers… but I will say that the first half and the second half are very different.

In the beginning of the story, Klonoa goes to a nearby mountainside only intending to look at this crashed airship, but he ends up finding a pendant, and then traveling on an errand to the forest village of Forlock. Up until then the story is fairly lighthearted and “pop”, but then something terrible happens. The music suddenly changes, and Klonoa is drawn into a battle… well, that’s the broad outlines for now.

—In the 2 years since you began making Klonoa, the Playstation market has changed a lot. With the release of games like FFVII, it’s become the top video game console.

Yoshizawa: I feel like there’s an awful lot of very dark games out right now. If you asked us at Namco where we stand on that, well, we want to make games that are more enjoyable for a wider variety of players.

—I feel a certain “Namco-ness” in Klonoa in that sense, too.

Yoshizawa: We weren’t really consciously trying to make Klonoa a “Namco-style” game. Actually it was the opposite—I wanted to make something that wasn’t the typical Namco offering—but to onlookers it looks like a Namco game in any event, I guess. For me, what makes a Namco game special is that feeling of not knowing what’s going to come next. Having your expectations betrayed, but in a good way.

—Finally, was there an overall theme or message you were hoping to convey with Klonoa?

Yoshizawa: Lately the “big hit” games have all been RPGs, but I think the most fundamental kind of video game is the action game, where you control the character yourself. I want players to re-experience, and know again, that kind of fun. “Hey, you know… action games really are great!” —that’s what I hope players walk away from Klonoa feeling.

Kobayashi: It’s undeniable that the popularity of action games has waned. But we wanted to show players how fun they still can be. We also took great care throughout the development to make sure Klonoa wasn’t confusing, and was easy to understand. We’ve been very thorough, and we don’t want players to feel like they’re being forced to do things they don’t want to. 

A spoiler-free snapshot from the climax of Klonoa’s story… if you know, you know.
Klonoa – 2001 Developer Interview

originally featured in Game Hihyou magazine

Yoshihiko Arai – Born in Yamagata in 1969. Joined Namco in 1993. After working on Wagan Paradise, LiberoGrande, and other games, he worked as a graphic designer on Klonoa.

Tsuyoshi Kobayashi – Born in Osaka in 1970. Joined Namco in 1994. In 1997, the first game he planned himself, Klonoa, was announced. He has continued to work on the Klonoa series as planner and director.

—Kobayashi, I understand you were hired by Namco as a planner?

Kobayashi: That’s right. And I continue to work as a planner/director today. The truth is, I took Namco’s company entrance test without being too serious about it… “Gee, how cool would it be if I got to be a game planner?!” I’m sorry. (laughs)

Arai: Seriously? (laughs)

—Was there some other work you were hoping to get into?

Kobayashi: I only took hiring tests with companies that developed creative products. (laughs) I was extremely interested in that kind of work. I’d always loved modifying and making my own special rules with games. Like with board games and card games, or for video games like Street Fighter II and Super Soccer, I’d make up my own limitations (like you can only play with your left hand) and house rules, and play that way with my friends.

—And you, Arai, were you always hoping to work as a graphic designer for video games?

Arai: Well… kind of. (laughs) I loved movies, and wanted to find a job in that industry, so I looked around all over. At the time, Namco was in the middle of making the Mirai Ninja movie. I thought this would be a cool opportunity to work in both games and film, and so I joined Namco. Only later, when I asked a fellow employee how the movie business was going, was I told “Oh, we’ve stopped making them.” I was like, “wtf?!” (laughs)

—What games have you worked on, then?

Arai: The first work I was given was for Wagan Paradise (SFC). My suggestions were mostly naive, but a few of them made it into the game. After that experience I started thinking more about how to fuse the characters and setting into a pleasing whole.

—In terms of your work as a graphic designer, have you felt a big difference between the two mediums of film and video games?

Arai: No. At that time, the whole idea of a “cinematic video game” didn’t exist to me, nor did I play games very seriously either. (laughs) In those early days I was mainly just searching for what was actually possible in the medium of video games. It turned out that Yoshizawa (Klonoa Producer) also loved movies, so at the end of Wagan Paradise we put in two songs to try and make it more cinematic. (laughs) Simple stuff, but we were having fun with it.

Storyboards drawn during the early production of Klonoa.

—How did the work get divided up on Klonoa?

Arai: Yoshizawa and I thought up the world, setting, characters, and story, while Kobayashi handled the game design. After that we had a lot of talks together to calibrate our ideas and make sure they fit together well.

Kobayashi: I remember with the first Klonoa game, we actually started by asking ourselves “what should we do for the ending?” Yoshizawa was involved in that too.

Arai: I think it was Yoshizawa’s taste, but from the start he planned to have a twist ending that would make the player go “what?!” That was both our starting point, and the premise which we intertwined the rest of the story around.

—You also knew the characters before starting the game, I heard.

Arai: Yeah. We solicited character ideas and designs from our in-house devs, only telling them that it would be a 3D game with 2D controls.

Kobayashi: We already had a working game at that point, actually. We had something working that used characters from another copyrighted IP, but we had to stop using it.2

Arai: Once we were no longer bound by that IP’s restrictions, we were free to design something based around our own gameplay ideas. And if that was the case, then we decided we wanted to make a game that would fuse the characters and story in an interesting way.

—How did you end up settling on Klonoa as your main character?

Arai: Originally we were thinking of having a kind of weird robot character. Unfortunately we realized that would limit the game’s audience too much.

Kobayashi: Another problem was that the overall atmosphere was darker too. Eventually we realized it would probably be better to do something with a more universal appeal. That’s when we changed our game to be more of a “mascot character” type of game, and that’s when Arai first drew Klonoa.

—Klonoa has an animal-esque design, but does it perhaps speak to some personal attachment or fondness of your own…?

Arai: Yes, he’s a complete reflection of my tastes. (laughs) I started by just drawings things I like, plumbing those depths. At first I thought Klonoa’s design would have more “jangly” and elaborate ornamentation, but I suspected that a simple design would probably be best for a video game character.

—Klonoa’s design changed a bit between Klonoa 1 and 2, as well.

Kobayashi: We made him taller, because we wanted his movements in a full 3D environment to feel more lively.

Arai: Klonoa’s color scheme was more chaotic in the first game, but we realized that made it hard for people to remember him, so we gave his outfit a more unified blue design.

“Amenty”, the original dogu-esque robot character, whose color design and other concept sketches were revealed in an interview for the now-defunct website 1UP which has been archived here.

—When it comes to the methodology of game design, would you agree that the gameplay mechanics and the characters are two indivisible elements of a whole?

Arai: If all you want to do is put your character up there on-screen, you might as well just use pre-existing licensed characters. But doing that in a way that is compatible with actual good game design, now that is hard. Plus you’ll have to deform things in a way that makes sense for a video game. On the other hand, if you make your own original game character, those “deformations” can be worked into the character design from the get-go, and I think that’s a definite strength.

—Do you not like the so-called “character games”?3

Arai: No, I like them. Give me a Gundam game and I’m happy enough. (laughs) I think the main point is the player’s “love”. In a licensed character game, that love comes from something that precedes your playing the actual game, and the game design process is all about how faithfully you can distill that into game-form. With original game characters, that love is something you have to create from scratch. In the end it comes down to finding a place in the player’s mind to lodge your creation.

—And in Klonoa’s case, where would that be?

Kobayashi: Basically, it’s the fact that Klonoa == the player character, but it’s all in the way we handle it, by never making that explicit.

—Would you say Klonoa was an avatar for the player himself, then?

Kobayashi: Yes.

—It seems that the story kinds of hint at that too.

Arai: In the first Klonoa game, we wove that into the ending.

Kobayashi: And with Klonoa 2, we saw it as more of the starting point. Thus, given that Klonoa is the player’s representation within the game world, it was paramount for us as we designed the game to always remember that the player should be able to move him as he wills.

—Right, and the Action Button (pressing L1 and L2 to perform gestures like waving around Klonoa’s hat) would be one part of that design choice.

Kobayashi: That was a big part of the intention behind it. It’s meant to help the player more fully identify with Klonoa, to feel like he really “is” Klonoa.

—Klonoa’s world has a certain cozy, heartwarming atmosphere to it. What were some of your concerns and priorities in designing this world?

Kobayashi: I think the world of Klonoa has a classic “fantasy” image, the kind of fantasy everyone imagines when they think of the term. Bringing that unique feel out in the game was our goal. For example, the way the clouds move diagonally towards the horizon line, little touches like that.

Arai: We were very insistent on that aesthetic, and our designs tried to evoke that sense of wonder, with things that *almost* seem real but are somehow just a bit magical or fantastic.

Taken from the in-game gallery for the 2005 NamCollection port for PlayStation 2, a handful of Yoshitaka Arai’s concept pieces for Klonoa.

—I’d like to shift gears now and ask about your formative experiences as game developers. What were some of your interests as children?

Kobayashi: Well, I already mentioned it, but I loved making up my own rules for games. Also, I liked games you play with other people. When I was a student, after tennis practice was over I’d go home and play big 8-player games of Koei’s Sangokushi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) on my PC with friends. I played a lot of head-to-head racing games at the game centers too.

—Did you like competitive games, then?

Kobayashi: I would say more than competition, I enjoyed that atmosphere of everyone being there playing a game together. I was also interested in computers. My Dad had a MZ series Sharp computer, and I would manually write out the programs that amateurs contributed to magazines like Bemaga. Once that bug bit me, I actually drifted away from console games for a long time, but when I entered college and saw the Super Famicom in action, I was impressed: “Wow, console games look really nice now.” I hadn’t owned a console since the original Famicom, you see.

—Do you feel like these experiences inform your work as a game developer today?

Kobayashi: Well, I like action games, but I’ve never been a huge fan of them exactly, so maybe that’s why I wanted to include a lot of puzzle gameplay in Klonoa.

—Spoken like a true “idea man”, I see.

Kobayashi: I wanted to make something where players could have fun playing around within that world, if that makes sense.

—And how about your childhood, Arai

Arai: I was a maniac nerd to my very core. (laughs) I loved both anime and manga.

—How about games?

Arai: I didn’t have any money as a kid, so I’d go up to the arcade games on the department store rooftop level and play Sega’s Tranquilizer Gun, which only cost 30 yen. That was about it though. It was only after I enrolled in college that I bought a Famicom. The first game I played was Dragon Quest III. At the ending of DQIII, during the credits it shows pictures of all the different villages throughout that world. “Look at all the adventures I’ve been on…!” I was very moved, and before I knew it I even had tears welling up. It was then that I realized, “If a game can be this moving, I know what I want to do with my life!” (laughs) Before that I had never once thought of games as a medium for telling stories.

Tsuyoshi Kobayashi (left) and Yoshihiko Arai (right)
Klonoa – Developer Commentary

originally featured in the Klonoa Official Guidebook (Famitsu)

Hideo Yoshizawa (Director/Screenplay) – I was the main planner for this game, and seeing as it was my 10th game development, I wanted to put an extra level of effort in: no half-measures. For that reason alone, I was overjoyed when we finished Klonoa. I think it’s the perfect game to commemorate the occasion. Ah… it wasn’t just a dream!

Tsuyoshi Kobayashi (Game Design) – So, have you tried the EXTRA VISION yet? If you’re someone who’s managed to finish the main game, I think it will offer a very fun challenge. Definitely give it a go and test your abilities! Also, once you’ve collected all 150 dream fragments in the EXTRA stage, be sure not to skip the puppet display. There’s something very important there you won’t want to miss!

Takuya Iwasaki (Game Design) – To all the adults out there who think, “Well, I’ll play RPGs, but action games, I don’t know…”, Klonoa is just the game for you! Likewise for those who think “I love picture books, but I have no interest in games”… I think Klonoa would be right up your alley.

Hiroyuki Ichiyanagai (Game Design) – Did you know you can stay in the air indefinitely by using the enemies for double jumps? A good place to practice it is outside the ruins of Vision 4-1. If you can manage to do 100 double jumps in a row, I tip my hat to you.

Yoshihiko Arai (Graphic Designer) – Drawing Klonoa was tough. The other artists complained to me about my designs, saying “I can’t draw this.” Then I was often told my own drawings didn’t fit too. We just drew so many different versions of Klonoa, and each reflects the individual moment and creator. Klonoa, of course, was always meant to be the player himself. So why not try drawing him sometime? What you capture will be Klonoa as he exists in this very moment, and this version of yourself. Well, in any event, those are the thoughts I assuage myself with now.

Yoshikazu Hatou (Special Thanks) – I’m grinding away everyday on the time trial in the EXTRA VISION. By the way, if you see a red shooting star on Vision 6-2, lucky you! You’re granted 3 wishes.

Hideki Tanami (Graphic Designer) – Since this game takes place in a world of dreams, I got to draw tons and tons of weird, illogical characters. The fact that I was able to draw 50 bizarre characters is no doubt owed to the electromagnetic waves from my computer scrambling my brain. Just kidding.

Mika Tominaga (Graphic Designer) – I worked on the background graphics. It was veryyy tough! I’m gonna take a vacation now and kick back!

Hideyuki Mitani (Graphic Designer) – Did you enjoy the game? Klonoa was a result of a very long process of repeated experimentation and trial and error. We put a lot of effort into this, trying to make something genuinely good. There’s a lot I still have to learn as a designer, and I’m not 100% satisfied with the results here, but I think we built it up into a fun game. I sincerely hope you all enjoy it.

Hideo Teramoto (Game Design) – In Jugpot Kingdom, ruled over by King Seadoph, there’s a single Mu who, if you surprise him, will accidentally fall into the waterfall and be swept away. Try and find him! (hint: check near one of the entrances)

Originally Ghadius was called “Rarapuupu”, with a title of “Kyoumatei” (“Evil Demon Emperor”) or Taikou (“Archduke”), depending on the concept art. Very early on he was conceived as a funky, magician-esque clown as shown above.

Manabu Okano (CG Cinematics) – I did the modeling and animation for Huepow in the ending movie. I also did the light spheres that fly around the great hall in the Moon Kingdom. Our graphical theme for that ending movie was “emotional expression”, so I expended a great deal of effort trying to create characters laughing, being sad, and dancing and singing.

Kei Yoshimizu (CG Cinematics) – I worked on the CG movies. While there was a significant amount of work and technical challenge in this project, I have to say that creating the fun, joyful animations we did for Klonoa and Huepow, as well as just the depiction of the fantastic dream world environment itself, really made the challenge feel worthwhile for me. If you watch these movies and something inside you feel something of the world of Phantomile, then I’ll be very happy.

Akinari Kaneko (Graphic Designer) – My 2nd development! If “Klonoa 3: Densetsu no Shinden” (The Legendary Temple) comes out as planned in 2002, I’d like to work on the bosses for that.

Akiko Nakazawa (CG Cinematics) – I spent everyday making Klonoa and Huepow run around and tumble all over the place. The development room itself certainly had a strange atmosphere, with all the unfathomable Phantomile-language floating about. Even I remember shouting out “Funyo~!” when I banged my thumb or hurt myself while working.

Kaori Shinozaki (Graphic Designer) – Did you all make it to the very top of Balue’s Tower and meet Lephise??? If you haven’t yet, keep at it! You’ll reach her! I promise something good will happen. Well, until we meet again. for your phantomile…

Shiro Wada (Graphic Designer) – All the boss fights in Klonoa are so fun because each one is unique. And if you’re someone who can see through Joker’s transformations and predict the pattern of how they change, well… I salute you.

Koichiro Maeda (Graphic Designer) – I joined this project for the latter half only. It was a short period, but I had a lot of fun.

Minoru Takayama (Programmer) – I did the programming for Klonoa’s and the enemies’ movements. The characters I have the most attachment to, of course, are the Mu. Of all the enemies Klonoa faces I think they have the most personality. They’re total weaklings though…

Kanji Nakano (Programmer) – The fact that this was Namco’s first original action game in a long time played a big part, but we had to build everything up from scratch. It was a huge struggle. Then you have the 2D and 3D fusion, the controls with their 60-fps framerate, the innumerable stage gimmicks we had to come up with, and all the high-def, beautiful special effects… I guess the point is that we really went deep on every detail, and worked to make this a game you could enjoy in full from the start all the way to the ending.

Tomoaki Toma (Programmer) – Klonoa is a game abounding in small details. Personally I recommend checking out the cave in 2-2. How fun it would be to pop in here for a refreshing dip sometime! I mean, it’s winter right now, but you know what I mean. It was the first area in which I played around with the environmental sounds, and experimented with the CD, so I have a lot of attachment to it now.

In the beginning of the development, there were actually 7 kingdoms planned for Phantomile, one of which was ice / snow / Christmas themed. Although the area was removed, a remnant of its design was carried over in the Nagapoko characters who appear in the Temple of the Sun and carry eggs in the between-stage cutscenes.

Takanori Nakamura (Programmer) – Sup! Call me chuu-pi. I’m the genius who created the puppet display! There’s one special place in the game where if you do a certain something, you get some different dialogue. Why not look for it if you’ve got some free time?

Ayako Murakami (Programmer) – I handled the FINAL VISION stage. The last boss and his Mu underlings may be acting poorly, but they’re actually good kids. Please try and get along and make friends!

Yoshiaki Okano (Programmer) – I mostly helped out with the special effects in Klonoa. Oh, and I also was in charge of the CD-related work in the latter half. You know, all the projects I had worked on before Klonoa had ended up being canned, and I was honestly thinking that if this one doesn’t go through, I’m probably not cut out for this work. So I was thrilled, to say the least, that it actually made it to release!

Junko Ozawa (Sound/Composer) – Ah, what a long development that was. I think it was the longest I’ve ever been involved in. During that time I became pregnant, became a mother, and had my kid grow up to where they’re practically independent. We speak Klonoa-ese to each other now.

Eriko Imura (Sound/Composer) – ‘Twas a long, hard road, this one. I think the struggle was all worth it, though, as the songs came out very well I think. (sorry for the self-praise). On that note, I will be awaiting your thoughts, fan letters, and yes, presents. Thanks!

Kanako Kakino (Sound/Composer) – Finally, we’re done! My main contribution to Klonoa was the tree village and the sun temple music, and sound effects. I also worked on the sound for the CG movies. The most challenging thing was the sound effects for those movies. I sampled all manner of items: chopsticks, an apron, baby star ramen, slaps, whiskers, and more. Now, let’s see if you can guess what sounds these were used for…!

Tetsukazu Nakanishi (Sound/Composer) – The world of Klonoa is a mysterious one. How is it that despite speaking different languages, everyone can understand one another? And they’re all babbling nonsense on top of that! Geez, come on… speak Japanese! Signed, a music maker who wishes to remain unnamed.

Kota Takahashi (Sound/Composer) – I wrote several songs, and did the puppets for Huepow, Ghadius, and Seadoph. I had the hardest time coming up with the lines for the puppets.

Hiromi Shibano (Sound/Composer) – I created the music for two songs: the scene in Vision 4-2, when the old man’s house is destroyed, and then the scene in 6-2 when you face off against Ghadius. The schedule gave me a little under a month to complete both songs, and for a slowpoke like myself this was way above my normal working pace. As such, I sometimes worked so much that I missed the last train home and had to line up the chairs for a makeshift bed at the office.

Hiroshi Okubo (Sound/Composer) – I helped out by composing the music for Nahatomb. I gotta say, I don’t think there’s been many games that have put as much of a priority of music as Klonoa does! The amount of music and sound effects is impressive! Please be sure to play it on a system with decent sound.

Tomoko Tatsuta (Sound/Composer) – When you’re sad or blue about something, music can be a great way to pick yourself back up, you know? I imagine Lephise’s voice to have the same mysterious, gentle power to it. I hope you enjoy singer Natalie (in the planning department)’s beautiful voice.4

Bonus Illustrations

These select images, taken from the official Japanese guidebook, offer a few glimpses at characters and ideas not seen in the final game.

An early concept for Klonoa’s attacks that preceded the Wind Ring; Klonoa would interact with enemies via a leash-and-collar chain attack and harness the attack powers of various creatures when leashed.
Originally there was an idea to include “rival” characters for Klonoa who would be independently adventuring around the world of Phantomile, but the idea was abandoned as more of the story got written. The rivals were supposed to ride around on dragons, as shown here; the dragons got dropped but the large fish designs remained for Pamela and Karal.
Unused sketches for a proposed rival to Klonoa; he was designed as a wandering seafarer-type character that exuded confidence and experience, in contrast to Klonoa, and his pointed ears were an identifier of his exotic origins. Incidentally, this design bears some resemblance to the redesign proposed for Klonoa himself when the game was being remade for the Wii.
An early female heroine design (right), and a design for a female rival (left).

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  1. The humor here depends on the shared usage of the Japanese verb “fukuramaseru” in the two quoted lines above, which is lost in English.

  2. As mentioned in this interview, the game that eventually became Klonoa originally began as an adaptation of the Shogakakun-published manga/OVA Spriggan.

  3. He’s referring to licensed character games here, like the Disney games produced by Capcom, or the ubiquitous movie tie-in games.

  4. I’m not entirely certain who Natalie is, or if she was in the planning for Klonoa–it’s a cryptic ‘kikaku’ (planning) that’s written in parentheses here, so that’s my assumption).

1 comment

  1. OH MY!!!!

    Im a character designer / concept artist and today I wanted to gain more insight into one of my inspirations, Klonoa! I was having so much trouble finding old interviews that were still functional. Broken links, out of context quotes, dead websites. I lamented how many interviews I and many others will never get to read because they’re lost to time. What lessons and stories were lost.

    But here I found a beautifully archived compendium of TRANSLATED interviews complete with helpful notations AND concept art!? I spent 3 hours reading every word!

    I’ve gained such beautiful inspiration, understanding, and newfound appreciation for the game AND its many creators. From the very bottom of my heart — THANK YOU!

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