Until now, the PoPoLoCrois series of RPGs
(Role Playing Games) has been exclusive to the Japanese gamers
that have made the game such a hit there. We
can only assume that the game has been deemed too quirky for
American gamers over the years, given its lack of localization
efforts. Thankfully, Agetec has decided it was finally time
for US gamers to get a taste of the series that's become so
highly regarded in Japan. PoPoLoCrois for the PSP is basically
a combination of two previously released Playstation titles
with a few new wrinkles added to the mix. Although they're
two separate games, they're joined together in a perfectly
seamless fashion, so much so that you'll never even know where
one game ends and the other begins. The result of this hard
work and mammoth translation effort is one of the most unique
and charming RPGs released in years, not to mention a much-needed
RPG for the PSP system.
The story of PoPoLoCrois follows the adventures of Prince
Pietro and his band of friends, as they set out on an adventure
to protect and free their beloved city of PoPoLoCrois. Ten
years ago, an evil Ice Demon attacked the city of PoPoLoCrois
and its surrounding areas and devastated the land with its
frozen winds and snow. Out of nowhere, appeared a heroic white
dragon that fought and destroyed the evil Ice Demon. Unfortunately,
as the Ice Demon was being sent to the World of Darkness, the
white dragon was unwillingly caught and pulled there as well.
On that day, the queen of PoPoLoCrois, Pietro's mother, fell
into a deep sleep where she has remained to this very day.
Now, in a quest to awaken his mother, Pietro and his friends
set out on an adventure to solve the mystery of the World of
Darkness in the hopes of awakening his mother from her eternal
slumber. Along the way these mere children come together as
both friends and fighters as they set out to rid their world
of the evil Ice Demon once and for all.
For the most part, PoPoLoCrois plays
like most other turn-based RPGs. You move around through
different areas of the game, in a 3/4 view, with up
to four people in your party at one given time. You incur
random enemy encounters outside of towns and in dungeons
that you must either take part in or flee. As you defeat
enemies, you'll earn experience points, which will allow
your characters to gain levels and special magical skills.
It also earns your characters money, which you can use to
buy better weapons, armor, and specialty items. Along the
way you'll encounter enemy bosses that will test your party's
combat skills and occasionally bestow a required item needed
to continue on in the game. Needless to say, the majority
of your adventure will be spent on not only the exploration
of the many areas in the game, but also in doing battle with
enemies in order to make your characters stronger fighters.
The battle system in PoPoLoCrois is
turn-based, with a slight strategic twist. When you randomly
encounter enemies, the game gives you several battle options
and also presents you with a grid on which your characters
can only move a certain number of steps per turn. This grid
can play a very strategic role in the battles, as it allows
you to set up for different attacks at varying angles and
distances. Attacking allows your character to directly take
on an enemy using melee-style combat. This works great if
you're close enough to reach an enemy, but if you're too
far away, it only allows you to move a certain number of
steps towards the enemy. Special Skills allows your character
to use their magical special attacks. These are particularly
effective against enemies that are too far to reach with your
normal attacks and generally does more damage, although it
does use up varying amounts of magic points. The Flee option
allows your party to flee the current battle, but penalizes
you a small amount of money each time you use it. Your last
two options are to use an item in your possession, such as
healing herbs, and to sit out your turn in order to power up
for your next attack. It's worth mentioning that you can also
set the game to "auto" and allow the computer's AI
to carry out the battle for you, but this all but eliminates
the games strategic and utterly fantastic combat system. It
might be a nice feature, however, for beginners or those not
accustomed to playing turn-based role-playing games.
The intuitive combat system, not to mention the strategic
grid function, is obviously where PoPoLoCrois shines the brightest.
Everything about the gameplay has a very functional and easy-to-use
feel to it. It's a breath of fresh air in a genre that tends
to make everything so complicated that most of the fun gets
lost along the way. The only minor flaw in the gameplay system
comes with the unusually high rate of speed at which the main
characters move around in the game. Using the PSP's D-pad seems
to only make matter worse, while the analog stick seems like
it was made for the game, oddly enough. After an hour or so
of playing time, you'll become accustomed to this fast pace
and actually find it even helpful when you're trying to get
through areas flooded with random enemy encounters. Using items
and changing weapons and armor is made quite easy with the
well laid out options screen, however, the map screen, while
nice to look at, doesn't offer much in the way of guidance.
All things combined, PoPoLoCrois offers up a playable and user-friendly
gameplay system, that let's you spend more time enjoying the
game, and less time trying to figure it out.
While Sony's always made it a point to discourage developers
from using 2-D graphics on its systems, it's games like PoPoLoCrois
that keep proving that 2-D gaming still has a place on the
current generation systems. Absolutely gorgeous cel-shaded
graphics come together to make up the storybook visuals found
throughout the game, making the world of PoPoLoCrois seem to
jump right off of the PSP's screen. At times you'll swear your
looking at pictures in a fairy tale book. The anime cut scenes
in the game are fantastic, and look like they were taken straight
from the Japanese anime TV show, not to mention the amazing
special effects you'll be treated to each time your characters
cast a magical spell. There is some slight ghosting in certain
areas of the game when you have very dark colors mixed with
very light backgrounds, but it's really nothing that takes
away from the normally crisp and colorful visuals. PoPoLoCrois
is living proof that the PSP can shine, even when it's not
churning out millions of polygons per second.
To say that the musical styling in PoPoLoCrois is all over
the map would be an understatement. Ranging from country and
western themes to reggae-influenced tracks, there's about as
much variety in the different musical selections as you could
possibly imagine. While you'd think that this degree of variety
would cause problems with the consistency of the soundtrack,
it actually works in its favor. Each area has its own musical
track that somehow seems to fit in like a glove, and it's nice
to hear a new song each time you enter a new area. The tunes
are extremely catchy, and you'll likely find yourself humming
them long after you've put the game down. All of the impressive
anime sequences feature actual voice acting that's almost as
superb as the soundtrack itself. You'll also be able to catch
a few more instances of the voice work when casting the special
skill spells during combat. It's not much, but it does give
the combat sequences a little added personality. The music
in PoPoLoCrois may be wildly varied, but it still manages to
deliver a captivating and inspiring RPG soundtrack.
There's no denying that PoPoLoCrois is a quirky
and offbeat RPG, and certainly not the usual type of RPG we see released
here in the US, but don't let that scare you off. Behind the fairy
tale styling and the obscure musical tracks is an absolutely brilliant
RPG experience. A solid combat system, endearing characters and a
riveting and often heartfelt storyline come together in one RPG package
that should absolutely not be missed. The game also features a huge
30-40 hour quest that should keep even the most veteran RPG gamers
busy for some time. So while PoPoLoCrois may not be one of the big
name and recognizable RPGs everyone is waiting for on the PSP, you
certainly wouldn't know it from playing it.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Controlling your main character using the PSP's D-pad can be more
trouble than it's worth. The analog nub tends to feel more responsive
and works perfectly as an 8-way joystick.
- If you find yourself stuck on a particular boss, you might try
going out and doing some fighting in order to level up your characters.
It works wonders.
- Don't be afraid to spend your well-earned money to outfit your
characters with the best weapons, armor, and special items. It will
really pay off with some of the stronger enemies you'll face later
on in the game.
- Don't waste your character's special skills on every enemy you
encounter, as it's better to save your valuable magic points for
the stronger enemies and bosses.
- If you find yourself stuck and don't know what to do next, remember
to make sure you've talked to everyone in the area your in as they
generally can offer you some valuable advice on what your next task
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
The cel-shaded visuals of PoPoLoCrois
have a very colorful and unique style that really shines on
the PSP's screen. The attention to detail in the game is impressive,
and the sheer variety in all of the different areas of the
game is staggering. 2-D graphics have never looked better on
the PSP and make this game one of the best looking portable
While the music in the game may seem
a little "out there" at first, it has a funny way
of growing on you over time, and the fact that the music in
the game tends to get better as the game goes along means you'll
always have something to look forward to in the next area.
The outstanding voice acting also adds even more personality
to the endearing storyline.
The fairy tale storyline and strategic
combat system make playing PoPoLoCrois a real treat. The voice
acting and anime cinemas make the story unfold in a way that's
just never been done before on a portable game system. The
game is a little on the easy side at first, but the difficulty
does pick up quite well after a few hours of playing time.
The game also sports a "save anywhere" feature that
makes it work great for short spurts of portable RPG gaming.
The sheer size of this adventure is remarkable.
It will most likely take the average gamer at least 30-40 hours
to complete the entire game, and even longer for those not
as accustomed to playing traditional RPGs. The storyline and
loveable characters in the game will keep players coming back
to this game for years to come, and hopefully more developers
will take a good long look at the combat system found in the
game and see exactly what makes up a really great RPG battle