When you have a system thatís got a full library of games that consist of extreme sports and driving titles, itís nice to see some variety in the form of an RPG once in a while. Especially when you're competing against the rather RPG-heavy GBA. PoPoLoCrois lends itself to being on of the few RPGs available for the PSP and while it may not be a 3D powerhouse, it harkens back to a time when RPGs were simple, easy to follow, and random encounters were plentiful. Hardcore RPG fans may shrug the game off due to said simplicity, but PoPoLoCrois is ultimately an enjoyable and lengthy game and coupled with a handy ďsave anywhere and quit anytimeĒ feature, PoPoLoCrois is great for the gamer on the go.
The story follows Prince Pietro who is celebrating his tenth birthday. After discovering that his mother is suspended in a deep sleep, he sets out (against his fatherís best wishes) to destroy the demon that has imprisoned his motherís soul. Along the way heíll come across a bunch of colorful characters, both playable and non-playable, through two books and ten chapters which span about five years all together. Overall, the story is pretty interesting once things pick up after five hours of play, though itís not without its quirks. Characters seem to come and go as they please with the worst of excuses and there are a few grammatical mistakes in the written dialog. Youíll also notice that the errands youíll be doing for townspeople involve a lot of backtracking and may seem like busywork at times. Despite a couple of holes, the story is enjoyable. While the game takes about twenty hours to beat, the story is so simple and linear that youíll never forget where you are in the timeline no matter how long youíre away from the game which works well for a game on this kind of platform.
The majority of the time youíll spend with PoPoLoCrois lies less in cut scenes and story and more in exploration and the countless random battles youíll come across. Thereís a large map for you and up to three other characters to explore with plenty of hidden treasure chests and items. Exploration comes at a price however, namely in the form of random encounters that pop up every ten seconds Ė or at least thatís what feels like. Battles play out like a mix of strategy and traditional RPGs. Characters are free to move anywhere during battle as far as their movement grids will allow during each turn. This allows some strategy to be used so that you can move healers away from danger while the heavy hitters can get in close. While battles arenít difficult by any means, the tedium can get to you after a while. Fortunately, you can set all of your characters to fight automatically which can take the edge off of the tedium, but will leave you without much to do in the meantime. Each character has their special quirks, for instance, the White Knight has different kinds of swordplay while other characters like the Gami Gami Devil focus more on technology and attack with missiles and beams. Special attacks feature some minimal, but neat effects that at least show that the game is running on the PSP instead of a GBA. The gameplay isnít seamless, however. There are some short, yet frequent load times that pop up when you enter new areas, perform special attacks, or attempt to bring up the game map or bestiary. While these load times are just a few seconds, the frequency of them is enough to break the flow of things. In essence, this is the only major drawback to the game.
Visually, the game features a nicely drawn 2D storybook style that works great with the overall tone of the story. Major plot points are revealed through anime-styled clips which are all great, but not too frequent. Character design is well done, though as the characters age through the story, itís not reflected in their looks and all retain their squatty charm throughout the game. As far as sound goes, thereís a wide variety of music to accompany each area of the game and none of it is offensive by any means. There is some dialog spoken during the animated cut scenes and all of it is well done with each voice faithfully representing each character. Youíll get some sound bytes during battles each time a character performs a special move with can get pretty tiring after ten plus hours of gameplay. Battles feature the standard sounds with swords unsheathing, fireballs flying, and characters getting damaged. They all serve their purpose well.
Any PSP owner who is a fan of RPGs, especially from the 16-bit era, should give PoPoLoCrois a spin. Given the lack of RPGs on the platform, it certainly wouldnít hurt. While it may not knock you out with its visuals or simple fighting system, itís a great classic RPG with an attitude and style thatís all its own.
- Jerily Robinson, SwankWorld Media
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