SONY PSP REVIEW: POPOLOCROIS
PopoloCrois
Exciting locations
Two games in one
Endearing characters
Random battles
Visually unexciting
Repetitious

Prepare for the long haul mates. by Mala Rangeem

December 12, 2005 - PopoloCrois is a classic-style RPG aimed at younger players and those that want a traditional and less aggressive game. It could even be called cute, as it contains endearing characters and a touching storyline about a boy's love for his mother and his quest to lift the curse that she's under.

Already an established series in Japan, with several games and a TV show based on it, PopoloCrois is now available for English-speaking audiences. This isn't one of those wacky, surreal Japanese offerings like Katamari Demacy, but instead a turn-based RPG that resurrects a lot of old-school elements. It may not be original but it's a great variation on a theme - and it's one of the rare RPGs for the PSP.

Pietro is a young prince that learns that his mother, whom he believed died giving birth, is alive. Unfortunately she's under a spell that keeps her body in a deep sleep and her soul trapped in a dark void. This all took place 10 years prior when she saved the kingdom from the evil Ice Demon. But before the demon was vanquished he cast this spell upon her and bound her soul to his.

Leaving the kingdom in search of a spell breaker to save his mother, Pietro finds favor with the locals along his journey. He is taken in and well fed. Money is plentiful and things look pretty easy. But this is the prince and people are inclined to be nice to royalty. It's when Pietro ventures further away from his kingdom where his popularity dwindles that such acts of generosity are few and far between. Traveling is now going to cost him. Thankfully you will have been able to save a lot of money to purchase things - and the rest is going to be left up to your wits.

Wandering around, exploring the imaginative villages and chatting with the NPCs is not only fun but rewarding. There are quaint towns, fishing villages, enchanted forests and floating fortresses to visit each with different characters, customs and rewards. The NPCs will give you information and help you find weapons, armor and recruits for your party. The Inns will provide you with rest and will also serve as checkpoints that automatically save your progress in case you expire. Designed for portability, you can manually save the game at any spot and start right where you left off.

Pietro will perform various errands for the NPCs and will be rewarded in kind. Up to four characters will accompany him including Narcie, a forest witch that he befriends. The characters will hang with Pietro and put their various skills to work in battle. A meter will fill up for each character indicating that he or she is ready to take a turn on the grid.

Contrary to the popular saying, the journey is not nearly as fun as reaching the destination. That's due to the tremendous amount of random battles. There are a lot of them and although they are a good source of experience points and weapons they really drag the pace of the gameplay down. The game pauses at virtually every opportunity to allow you to place your character on the grid and select from a variety of options including standard attack, special attack, spell casting, hold attack, run and unite attacks that deal more damage. If you hold an attack back you will increase its power on the next turn. Characters have to be elementally aligned to fuse their attacks but there are some very neat combinations to experiments with.

These command options aren't very deep but they allow you to use strategy in your decisions. The fact that these battles occur quite frequently may determine your interest in purchasing this game or avoiding it like another monster battle.

Cutscenes are hand-drawn, extremely colorful and are fully voiced complete with charming background music - except where things get a little evil. There aren't any frightening scenes or graphic violence making this a very kid-friendly game. The in-game animation is a little disappointing as it looks like your standard GBA RPG. It's presented in 2D with a slight isometric perspective so the camera angles are always at the best possible position.

The gameplay mechanics don't suffer from any technical issues but the game disguises and distributes the load times throughout the game so that every few minutes the game will sputter out another load. I guess it's easier to sit through numerous short loads than a few really big ones.

There are two games featured in PopoloCrois, both the first and the second of the series, which are blended together seamlessly. The music is really good but it's reused too much and gets on your nerves after a few days. In some cases I think silence would be preferable. The sound effects are decent but nothing you haven't heard before.

PopoloCrois is a good RPG with a good blend of action and strategy. It's long and it can get repetitious. There are no other modes and not much at all for replay value. You won't get through this game in a weekend so if you want to play, you're going to have to pay.

Features:

  • Charming Cel-shaded Graphics in Rich, Vibrant Color
  • Save Feature for Playing On-The-Go
  • 30+ Hours of Game Play
  • Bonus Anime Sequences from the Japanese TV Series

By Mala Rangeem
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
PopoloCrois (PSP)
3.2
Graphics
Cutscenes are great. Fully voice with nice character models. The in-game animation has nothing on a good GBA title.
4.3
Control
Lot of strategic options including the ability to combine character skills. Simple enough for players of all ages to understand.
3.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Average sound effects. Voiceovers are good but the music gets very repetitive.
4.0
Play Value
This is a huge game, it's basically two games in one. But there's no particular reason to revisit it once both are over.
4.0
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Agetec
Pub: SCEI
Release: Nov 2005
Players: 1
Review by Mala

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best