PoPoLoCrois - Review  

A Fairy Tale On the Go
by Mikel Tidwell

25 hours


Rating definitions 

PoPoLoCrois (pronounced poh-poh-loh-croys) is a series many people have never heard of. Agetec is trying to change that with its release of PoPoLoCrois for the PSP. This game is a compilation of both of the PlayStation titles, and a third story that fills in the time between the two. In all, PoPoLoCrois covers five years of the prince's childhood, with each of the three stories self-enclosed.

PoPoLoCrois is a peaceful, prosperous country. The town is abuzz with news about Prince Pietro's birthday party today. Everyone is excited. Everyone that is, except the prince himself. Prince Pietro tries to have a good time, but doesn't really enjoy it as much as a young boy should. His thoughts fixate on his missing mother, whom he has never known. That night, while on his balcony, he sees his father heading into a tower he has been forbidden to enter for as long as he can remember. Curious, Pietro sneaks inside and finds his mother, asleep. The king notices his son, and decides he is old enough to know the truth about actually happened what his mother ten years ago. After learning that she is trapped in the World of Darkness, Pietro is determined to find this world and rescue her, despite his father's wishes.

Caption Bonus points for a dragon

The world of PoPoLoCrois comes straight out of a fairy tale. Prince Pietro leaves his large castle, with the quaint town spread out in front of it, and heads into an enchanted forest to visit the fairies. On the journey, our prince will encounter mines with moles, remote tropical islands, and even a flying city. All these places are filled with cute, simple sprites, as are the characters themselves. The style is simplistic, almost childlike. Even violent monsters don't have a scary appearance. This helps the game maintain its fairy tale feeling.

Unfortunately, where the game falls flat is the battle system. When a random encounter takes place, the party moves to a specific position on the current map, and the enemies appear in the path the party was heading at the time. Using a grid system for movement, each character plays in turn to attack, defend, charge up power for the next attack, or use items or magic. Once the monsters are defeated, the party dances and experience points are awarded based on the level of each character.

If this sounds a little tedious, it is. To help combat this, the game has the option for the characters to auto-fight. Each character can be set to Attack, Assault, or Defend. This would go a long way to making the game move along, except that it doesn't work. While characters can pass through each other to move forward when controlled manually, the AI refuses to do so. If a character is trapped behind another, it will charge up the first turn, and if the path is still blocked, it will pass and waste the charged up energy. On Attack, this can make battles drag on as one party member fights all the monsters while everyone else waits. On the Assault setting, the party members use as much MP as possible, regardless of what is needed to get the job done. On the Defend setting, the same principle applies. If the party doesn't need healing, the MP will be used to attack instead. Under none of the settings will the party members use items to replenish HP or MP, even when there is an abundance of them. The only way to use items is manually.

Caption Bring on the baddies

Without the cumbersome battle system, the game would be very short. Each story takes less than ten hours, with the second story being the shortest at barely over five hours. Each ending comes with a reward of an anime cut-scene. While it doesn't sound like much, they bring the stories to life in a manner that can't be achieved by sprites alone.

The music during the game accompanies the fairy tale feeling as well. Even in the dark scenes, the music never seems dire or giving of any sense of danger. The sad moments are portrayed quite adequately, but the full spectrum of emotion isn't there. The voices, like many games with one phrase for a specific action, start to get old, but there's nothing specific about them that makes the game unpleasant.

If PoPoLoCrois' goal was to make an interactive fairy tale, then that goal is accomplished. If the goal was to make an RPG for everyone, then they fall short. Even at only thirty hours of play, the battle system drags the story progression to a crawl. As the battles become more involved, each step takes more and more time to achieve. The game doesn't become any harder, just slower. With the PSP starving for RPGs currently, it might be worth trying out, but I do not recommend playing the game for long stretches in a single sitting. In small doses, the game's cute, child-like look on the world can overcome the boredom of fighting to save the world, not once but thrice.

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