Some twenty years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for publishers to create sporting spin-offs that starred either their own characters or whatever licensed properties they happened to hold at the time.
A few examples that spring to mind are Droopy’s Tennis Open on GBA, the Game Boy Color’s Snoopy Tennis, and Baby Felix Tennis on PSone. Whether these characters were ideally suited for sporting outings is up for debate. Indeed, it seems that this was the last thing on a publisher’s mind.
In short, it was a good way to get some extra mileage from a character or license, with arcade-style sports games usually being quick turnaround projects.
This line of thought resulted in 2002’s Klonoa Beach Volleyball on PSone. Pitting Klonoa against rivals in volleyball matches made a tad more sense than Droopy playing tennis – volleyball involves lots of jumping around, which Klonoa is renowned for, and it’s also a sport that relies heavily on friendly teamwork.
Aimed at younger gamers, it featured simple controls and had a focus on using flashy super moves to secure points. 2v2 matches were the order of the day, taking place across five-match tournaments that featured locations from past Klonoa games. A dozen characters were playable – eight available from the outset, and four unlockable – and it also had a unique four-player ‘share mode’ that used just two controllers.
It’s fair to say that Klonoa Beach Volleyball isn’t too well-known, and the reasons for this are rather obvious. Firstly, it was only released in Japan and Europe – published by SCEE themselves in the west – meaning America missed out.
Secondly, it was a very late release for the PSone, launching a year after Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil on PS2. 2002 was the last major year for the humble console – that winter saw the final big-name releases, with nothing but budget games thereafter. Most publishers had turned their attention to the PS2 by this point.
This brings us to the third reason behind its anonymity – not many gaming outlets were covering PSone games still in 2002. We managed to find news stories from IGN and Eurogamer – with IGN duly claiming the PSone was “well and truly on its way out of the spotlight” – but nothing in the way of critical reviews.
It was at least covered by the official PlayStation magazines – OPM US gave it the preview treatment, suggesting a US release was once planned, while OPM UK covered it in full, including footage on a demo disc. They scored it 7/10, claiming that it offered short-lived fun.
It seems that it’s fondly remembered these days – user reviews online are mostly positive. Sadly though, it’s another PSone game that sells for a lot of money nowadays, with prices varying from £50 to £80.
Proving that Klonoa has a richer history than many realise, this sports spin-off isn’t the most obscure game starring the floppy-eared critter. It’s a tie between the Wonderswan’s Klonoa: Moonlight Museum and the Japan-only GBA action RPG Klonoa Heroes: Legendary Star Medal that takes that accolade.