Developer: Epics | Publisher: SCEI | Release Date: 2005 | Genre: RPG | Website: n/a | Purchase: Amazon
The game opens with the ten year old prince of Popolocrois, Pietro, discovering that his mother is not dead as he was initially led to believe but is instead in a magically induced coma. It would seem his mother protected the country from an ice demon, but lost her soul to the world of darkness in the process. Pietro is determined to save his mother and thus sets off on a quest. That is only the first Playstation title, called “Book One” in this PSP compilation with the sequel tucked away as “Book Two” waiting for adventurers upon completion.
If all of this sounds a bit fairytale-ish and childish to you then you would be correct. Popolocrois is as unthreatening as they come with cute and cuddly enemies and a whole cell-shaded art style that makes it look a bit like a children’s book. Cute as they are the graphics are really dated and pixilated quite severely, especially when the game insists on zooming in a lot of the time. The whole visual style and animations in particular is still pretty good, but as a whole this game is firmly rooted in the 16bit era. The game features some animated sequences from the Japanese cartoons and these look decent, but only make the actual gaming sections look even more dated. The character designs are nice and really different from the usual Japanese RPG fare, but things have definitely come a long way since then.
The gameplay itself is also from a previous era and might not suit the taste of modern gamers. In fact, the game’s biggest failing is that it’s just way too easy. This, coupled with the frequent and annoying random encounters makes this game feel boring at times. Battles can be resolved automatically without player input, but that’s hardly a fun way to play a game. There are some interesting combat elements like the ability to combine attacks or summon monsters in battle, but most encounters are so easy you don’t even have to bother.
Another problem I had was that the storyline wasn’t very engaging. The plot picks up considerably later on but by then less dedicated players may already have given up in boredom. The extremely childish look and feel will also scare off most players.
The controls and interface is pretty straightforward and everything is easily manipulated. Pietro and his party members run around the gameworld like they had one too many energy drinks, but sadly this doesn’t cut down on the amount of random encounters. Speaking of maps I didn’t find the one in this game to be very useful and it’s all too easy to get slightly lost unless you play careful attention. Just a short stroll from town A to B can be tedious due to the amount of random battles. I would also recommend keeping notes about your quest objectives as the game doesn’t have a built in quest log. What this means is that you can easily forget what your objective was after coming back to the game and then wander around aimlessly trying to figure out what you are supposed to be doing. The music and sound effects isn’t too bad, but like the rest of the game is not that memorable.
In conclusion Popolocrois is a game I would only recommend if you really love traditional Japanese role playing games, or if you are a fan of the series. Everyone else will just see two aging Playstation titles crammed into one PSP UMD and frankly there are more engaging games available.
*Review originally published in 2006.