Recession left the ol’ wallet feeling somewhat barron? Fear not, for ‘tis time for another mosey down memory-loss lane and another peep at one of those lonely titles that time prematurely forgot.
It’s a peculiar phenomenon when a game is Unjustifiably Overlooked. In defiance of quality control and sense, it is destined for an early grave, to be buried beneath outdated sports titles within a bargain bin tomb. This time, we’ll be resurrecting and shining the spotlight on gaming misfit PoPoLoCrois. Nope, I didn’t just mash my fist against the keyboard, that is actually the title.
RPG adventure games are in plentiful supply for Sony’s portable system, so why swap your hard-earned cash for this cutesy number? Well, aside from it costing a mere song, it is actually rather good. You fill the tiny shoes of Pietro, prince of PoPoLoCrois (lucky him!). On your 10th birthday, you discover that the mother you previously thought dead is actually in a deep slumber, her soul held ransom in the underworld by the dreaded Ice Demon. Yep, the clichéd storyline is present and correct. But this can be forgiven, due to the game’s sheer playability.
PoPoLoCrois is a remake of the Playstation original and its sequel, which were both little known in the Western world. What this does mean is the story is immense. In fact, it’s nothing short of miraculous how developers G-Artists have crammed such a colossally detailed and epic adventure into such a tiny space (the box claims 30+ hours of game play)!
Whilst the graphics won’t blow you away, there is certainly an adequate and befitting quaintness to them. The bitmap scenery and isometric perspective are akin to a 16-bit adventure title, but the game’s story is spliced by intermittent anime cut scenes, which are a charming way of pushing the story forward. In-game animations, such as special attacks, are beautifully, but basically rendered, too, and all of this creates a visually attractive package that suits the PSP’s incredible screen perfectly.
For a game with a fundamentally basic foundation and admittedly clichéd plot, the story still somehow manages to draw you in. The dialogue can be very humorous and you do grow somewhat attached to the characters, who you witness grow throughout the 5 years during which the game takes place. The standard dungeons and cities that host your adventuring also evolve through time and this gives the game a great deal more depth and involvement.
PoPoLoCrois houses an innovative combat system, which blends the expected turn-based battles with a grid-based system, not unlike that found in Final Fantasy Tactics. The usual spells, potions and summons are at your disposal, too. One of the game’s major pitfalls, however, is the very high frequency of random enemy encounters (I’d say twice as often as a Final Fantasy title), which can be incredibly annoying if you’re systematically searching for something.
This can be doubly annoying considering how easy the game is, which is certainly my biggest problem with the title. None of the battles are particularly challenging and you rarely need to use the archetypal items to heal magic and hit points, as you will usually make it to a resting point before taking any significant damage. Thankfully, the frequent battles still manage to avoid infuriating you, as the characters level up and evolve quite well, adding additional arsenal to your magic regularly and keeping the action fresh and exciting, with an enormous number of enemies to fight.
Frankly, the map is useless, existing as little more than pictures of mountains and cities from very far away. Luckily, the game is suitably linear and pretty much every NPC will talk to you and provide you with clues to aid your progress, so you shouldn’t get too lost. In addition, there is a journal, in which you keep a record of all of the enemies you encounter, their traits and attacks and where you encounter them. If you wish, the journal can be filled as you “collect” data on all of the monsters, a la Pokémon!
The game’s audio is good, if not a little irritating. Spend too much time in a specific area, for example, and the looping midi track is likely to annoy you slightly. Saying that, there are a considerably large number of tunes to accompany you on your travels, each suiting the visual ambience and fitting the action quite well. In-game sound effects are basic, but definitely adequate and the voice acting is good, although it’s only heard during the cut scenes and when a character performs a special move during battle.
The game provides very little in terms of innovation, but what it does provide is a solid, traditional RPG experience. If you are looking for something entirely new, then perhaps the game is not for you. If you are a fan of the more conventional RPG, however, then the kingdom of PoPoLoCrois could be the perfect destination for your next adventure.
Beautiful but basic visuals and very quaint style.
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A traditional RPG formula executed well.
Can be repetitive, but a fairly good variety of tunes.
With 30+ hours, probably one of the longest RPGs on the PSP.
A cutesy but superb RPG. One for beginners or pros!