Review: PoPoLoCrois (Sony PSP)

PoPoLoCrois
Publisher: Agetec
Developer: V-Games
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 11/29/05

Okay, yet another retro review as part of my New Year’s Resolution to review any game I play.

I picked up Popolocrois (No, I will not be doing the AOL-speak capitalization of the name throughout the review) on a lark at an EB one day. It was ten dollars and I was looking for a new PSP RPG. To be honest, aside from J’eanne D’Arc, there’s not a single good RPG for the PSP that isn’t a port from a previous system. I said what the hell, and gave this a look see. Of course, later I learned it’s a port of a PS1 game. Ah well, the search continues.

Agetec hasn’t really failed me in the past save for Fighter Maker and Shadow Tower. They’ve brought over several SNK games, RPG Maker, and Board Game Top Shop amongst many other quality games. As this is a retro game, and out of print, I’ll keep this review briefer than normal (also because the original copy of this review was eaten by my computer. Damn you auto M$ updates when I jaunt out for a bit) and give you just the nitty gritty. Now…

Let’s Review

1. Story

Popolocrois is actually three games in one. It consists of three separate RPG’s (called books) featuring the same characters across half a decade of time. It would have been nice to be able to access each one separately ala Arc the Lad Collection, as the second RPG is much better than the first, but I digress.

In the first game, Prince Pietro sets out to save his mother (who is really a dragon) from the curse of an Ice Demon. Along the way he makes new friends like Narcia the forest witch and the White Knight amongst others. The game is a short and exceptionally linear romp through Pietro’s quest to prevent the Ice Demon from being resurrected by its four followers and restore his mother from eternal slumber. Everything is really paint by the numbers, but the characters are adorable and it harkens back to a more whimsical time when RPG’s weren’t crammed full of angst, emo drama, and death death death. It’s a light hearted tale about not saving the world, but a loved one.

Now the second game is a little darker and packs in the saving the world aspect. Pietro again sets out with his friends (some new, some old) to save the world. This one is a lot longer, but also a lot more insipid. There’s little character growth and things stay two-dimensional for most of the game. There’s also a heavy reliance on “Behold, I, character A, am really character B!” There’s a bit of this in the first one, but to repeat the same damn thing in a second game after playing through the first? Bad story telling.

The third game revolves around the Goddess of beauty trying to destroy the world after she was cursed into a hideous monster by her father. Here there’s not much of a story – just a lot of very long boss battles and a nice closure to the series as a whole. The overall quality of the characters and plot progression downgrades with each book, and by the time you finish the third, you wish the game had ended after the first two.

In all, it’s an above average project story wise, if only because of the retro quaint feeling the game has. Yes it falls into pitfalls like cliches and being far too linear for its own good, but the game oozes style with dialogue and interesting characters.

Story Rating: Above Average

2. Graphics

This is easily the high point of the character. Again, Popolocrois oozes style here. The graphics feel retro, but they’re pretty high quality 2-D graphics at the same time. I love the character designs, and most of the monsters are highly original and sometimes adorable, which makes it a shame to brutally pummel them. This isn’t a solid rule as there are a lot of “OMG KILLER ROBOTS!” in the game.

The backgrounds are masterfully done too, although they do get repetitive the further into the game you get. Everything is so damn charming visually, it’s hard to find anything to be surly about.

It’s not the most amazing game on the PSP visually, but it has a very unique and fresh look that makes me wish more games looked like this. Of course I said that about the very first cell shaded game and developers ran that into the ground, didn’t they?

Graphics Rating: Good

3. Sound

Mediocre at best. Music is not bad, but it’s exceptionally forgettable. There was a long stretch where I had the volume turned off and I didn’t even realize it until a cut scene happened and I needed the dialogue. That my friends, is a really bad sign that something isn’t right.

Voice acting isn’t very good either. The cast it hit or miss. Sometimes they will sound alive and really into their characters, while the next time they speak the same actor will be stiff and wooden with their delivery. It’s this level of inconsistency that prevents me from being too positive here.

It’s not so much that Popolocrois does anything wrong aurally; it just doesn’t do anything come across any more than half assed.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

4. Control and Gameplay

This is where everything falls apart. The game just really isn’t that much fun to PLAY. Using the analog stick to control Pietro is a pain. He’s not really good at walking in a straight line or turning or even entering doorways unless it’s a straight shot, but then see y first complaint in this sentence.

In battle controls are frustrating too. Everyone is turn based, meaning your speed determines attack order, but maneuvering characters around the grid is a lot harder than it should be. At times the analog stick is unresponsive, other things on the battlefield block your full view of where you can fully move, and the whole thing plays like crap.

Loading times are annoyingly long, but not as bad as say Raw vs. Smackdown 2006. Just know about a lot of your time will be spent waiting for something to load, and god help you if the shaky controls make Pietro go into a room you didn’t want you at the time. Load load load.

There are far too many random battles in this game. Every few steps it’s time for another fight. This makes the relatively short dungeons seem far longer then they really are. Excruciatingly long in fact. I can’t tell you how often I just wanted to be done with it all. Even worse, the battles are so easily, you shouldn’t die a single time in the game.

Then there’s backtracking. So much bloody backtracking. It’s like a damn Tomb Raider game. This of course leads to even more RANDOM BATTLES. And so on and so forth.

I had fun with the game for the first three hours. By the time I finished the first storyline, I was thanking Cthulhu I was done. Then when I realized there was a second I had to play through, I wanted to scream. By the time I realized there was a third I was having flashbacks to Growlanser Generations

Sorry guys, Popolocrois is full of failure and tears.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

It’s long and boring and easy. There’s no reason at all to play through this game a second time. MAYBE if they had allowed you to access each storyline separately, but no, you have to play them in a row. It makes sense, but what if you only liked the second game for some reason?

The story is cute and the graphics are unique, but god damn if the flaws of the game (some of which we haven’t even touched on yet) don’t drag this down deep into one-shot territory

Replayability Rating: Bad

6. Balance

I honestly don’t think I’ve played a game this easy before. It is impossible to die in this game unless you purposely pass all your turns and let the computer attack you. There is no real AI or strategy that the computer uses, and your characters level up and gain new powers so quickly compared to the damage done by the computer, the game is a complete cakewalk. I rarely if ever even healed in a battle, and that includes boss fights.

The only reason this game isn’t getting the lowest possible rating here is because you can die if you are purposely trying to.

When the game’s graphics and plot were simplistic, it was cute and retro and fun. When the difficulty appears to be aimed toward people with severe retardation? Not so much,

Balance Rating: Dreadful

7. Originality

The graphics are about the only real piece of originality here. The game(s) is a port of a PSX title, the story and gameplay are bogged down in cliches, even though the former manages to make itself feel fresh and fun. I enjoyed the story and characters for what they were, but the game is really devoid of any innovation of creativity aside from visuals.

Originality Rating: Bad

8. Addictiveness

When you first start up the game, you’re drawn in by the look at story. The characters are interesting, and the premise isn’t the usual “Save the world from the biggest baddest evil around” that has pretty much destroyed the RPG genre.

By the time you’re to where Gami Gami Devil joins your team though, it’s pure boredom. I kept playing for the story, but when I realized it wasn’t going to advance past the most shallow of levels, my only reason for continuing was review purposes. I had two more books to go too. Ick.

I really wanted to like this game, and in a way I did. It’s just the grandiose levels of suck overwhelmed the few really nice bits of the game. I can’t anyone not being bored by this unless its their first RPG or they like the lack of challenge in the game.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad

9. Appeal Factor

I wanted to like it, but in the end I just couldn’t. Other RPG starved PSP fans might have fun with this, especially as the other games out for the system have the same big flaws (too easy and too many random battles that drown the story advancement). Now that I am writing this review, the game is like a Final Fantasy I lite. It’s got the four elemental bosses protecting a source of chaos and a really linear story, but then is does everything else on a weaker or lesser level.

Graphics fans will hopefully appreciate the look and feel of Popolocrois as much as I did, but in the end you’ve got to be a hardcore RPG gamer to even have heard about this title, much less played any of it.

Appeal Factor: Bad

10. Miscellaneous

Popolocrois is a poor title. I wish I could give it a higher score, but it deserved a trashing. It’s a shallow game that offers little challenge or incentive. The story is enjoyable, and it’s nice that there are two separate games on the disc, but as fun as the story and graphics are, the actual playing of the game is such a chore, I can’t see any reason to suggest any of you, my readers, should suffer through this.

There are no extras or bonuses, no way to customize your characters or develop different movesets. It’s just a straight forward lackluster RPG that has some vestiges of charm, but which wear off the more you play the game.

Chalk this up to another title I had hopes for, but saw them dashed against the rocks of pathos.

Miscellaneous Rating: Poor

The Scores
Story: Above Average
Graphics: Good
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Dreadful
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: POOR

The Inside Pulse

Popolocrois is hard to find now that it is out of print. You might run across it in the used PSP section of a gaming store or pawn shop. I strongly suggest you leave it there though. Cute story, and swanky graphics do not a justifiable purchase make.

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