Since the PSP's release in March, RPGamers haven't had a lot to do. The handheld launched with Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, but since then there has been nothing on the RPG market. Soon this will change, as Agetec is working on PoPoLoCrois. The release of PoPoLoCrois will be the first time North America sees a glimpse of the series, as this game will encompass the first two games released for the PlayStation as well as a new adventure that ties the two stories together.
"The game definitely has the old school RPG feeling to it..."
PoPoLoCrois starts off with a short anime cut scene of a knight running to the top of a building to find a woman standing on the edge of the castle wall. In the snowstorm, the two shout for each other. She does nothing but apologize before leaning forward and falling off the castle wall. Instead of falling to her death, a large dragon appears and heads directly for a large, angry face in the snowy sky.
Fast forward ten years and our story begins. Prince Pietro has just turned ten years old, and the King is throwing him a birthday party. Pietro wants nothing to do with the party, and eventually slinks away. That night, he is outside his balcony and sees his father walk by, heading heads toward a tower Pietro has been forbidden to enter. Being the young explorer, Pietro sneaks down the path and follows his father into the forbidden tower. Inside, he finds the body of his mother, who he was told died when he was very little. The King decides it is time for his son to know the real truth of what happened to his mother. Ten years ago, she battled the Ice Demon, and eventually won. In the process of sending him to the World of Darkness, her soul was also captured in this world, and her body has laid lifeless ever since. The Prince decides that he will save his mother's soul from the World of Darkness, despite the King's wishes that he not put his life in danger.
It's refreshing to find a story that isn't about saving the world, but a boy that only wants to save his mother. Perhaps this is why I find this journey more compelling to complete more than a typical RPG. The people of PoPoLoCrois are amusing, and the main characters' interaction with them and each other is as innocent as children should be. The music in all the areas so far has been light-hearted, even in the mine filled with orcs. Even with this, it's easy to tell when there's a chance for battles and when it is safe to wander.
The battle system is actually tactical, but it doesn't feel like one. The default AI is set to fight the battles for you, which works for any random battle encounter, and is swifter than controlling the battles manually. There are three AI settings: Assault, Attack, and Defend. Early on, Magic points are few, so setting everyone to Attack works best. Later on, using more specific settings based on character class should be explored. For the boss battles, switching to manual control is definitely recommended. Any AI setting can be changed during battle with a single button press to open the menu. Manual control is when the tactical underlining of the battle system makes a presence.
If there is one aspect that might earn a complaint, it will be graphics. It feels awkward to hold such a sophisticated device and play a game that is heavy in pastel. The character design is simple, yet lively. The game definitely has the old school RPG feeling to it, which is great for some, not so great for others. The environments complete the fairy-tale feeling to the game.