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Folklore Review

29 October 2007

The connection between the Netherworld and the current world was lost many ages ago, but as you step across a suspicious crime scene where murder is in the air, you discover that the world of the Folks isn’t what it always was. With each step, comes a newer piece of the puzzle through the form of lands and different characters that are unlike any other. Each step leads you further and further into the magical world of Folklore—a world in which you are graced with feelings that you have never felt before.

Step into a vibrant world where the facet of mystery covers the truth of Doolin village, a place to which 2 unsuspecting travelers from the outer realm visit to fulfill their own calling where the living meets the dead. Folklore challenges players with a mystery to solve in a town encapsulated with mystery. To meet this, players must journey throughout the Netherworld and attain clues that unravel the story of a 17-year-old feud---where families were left in duress and in bitter pain for their existence.



The adventure begins with our unsuspecting travelers Ellen and Keats. Ellen is a gentle and kind woman who had lost her mother in the earlier memories of her childhood. To her surprise, at the start of the game, she receives a letter from someone. Okay well not just anyone---her deceased mother. Unbelievably surprised, she embarks on a mission to find her mother and make sense of everything that has happened to her.

Clouded in the same confusion is our male protagonist Keats, an editor of an occult magazine “Unknown Realms.” While shooting darts in his office, Keats receives a hovelled phone call. A woman speaks frighteningly of a place called Doolin village, faerys, and begs for help before being cut off. As the clever chap Keats is, he leaves his office in search for a remarkable story as his main motif—not so much his kind sense of charity.



The primary gameplay style is amazingly varied in Folklore. Even though the player will be playing as only these two characters throughout the journey, they will be given the option of who they want to be for each chapter. Even though each of these characters embarks on his/her own chapter, the ending will merge the stories of these individuals so the game blends in perfect harmony. The best way to approach the gameplay and overall concept would be to alternate between the missions, even though the decision is primarily up to the players. As players continue through each of the stories, they gain a blissful sense of catharsis as the respective stories affect each other.

Even though the world of Folklore isn’t as big as some other games boast, the pure elements of mystery, excitement, action, and adventure speak volumes and go far beyond other games. It’s just one big village, but one heck of a village in terms of its quality. Exploration as a primary quality is executed by exploring the many realms of the Netherworld, which are connected to the village at all times in unique ways. Doolin village can primarily be seen as the main gate to several other gates, each with its own unique setting. With every chapter, come amazing dialogue and a further look into a story, which contributes, to the overall concept of Folklore’s primary storyline.



Folklore’s primary execution in its subtleties is by far the most unimaginable. The poetic emphasis in the gameplay mechanics and the game itself go unnoticed but have an amazing effect on the overall presentation. The real world and Netherworld are two opposing forces that are rooted into its connection with Doolin village. The real world is very dull, grey, and melancholy whereas the Netherworld is vivid, vibrant, and alive---a place where battle is glorious and a sense of fulfillment are unchallenged.

The poetic subtlety is implemented in the very fact that the living world is grey, melancholy, and boring whereas the Netherworld---a place which is known for the dead, is colorful and full of life unlike any other. Such a balance is not seen in any other game nor is such a depth in the storyline ever so vivid.

The interface of Folklore is very simple. When you begin a game, you can choose Ellen to the left or Keats to the right and play through that chapter from the respective choice. The chapter for both of them starts off with talking to the unique residents---reminiscent of a Hiyao Miyazaki film---and explore Doolin’s past slowly. Afterwards, a door opens to the Netherworld and the player battles through each one until it faces a Folklore---a huge creature at the end of every level.



Folklore uses such an interface that provides players a break from all the beautiful insanity the world has to offer. The pacing in particular to the interface is unbelievably remarkable and balances narratives with the gameplay stupendously. Even though alternating the characters is great, it presents its problems. In Folklore, each of the character perspectives visits the same realm in the same order, which shows the unique regions quite a lot for a game in which you have to battle through each one on an alternate character to progress through the story. Even though the game changes Folks around to make up for this, it can get annoying at the end of a boss fight to realize you have to beat the same boss again. How annoying this becomes is in essence up to the player with the game’s controller.

Interface-wise, the battles are remarkable and take place only in the Netherworld when the player is in each realm. During battle, the left stick is used to move the character and the right functions the camera. Lock on is a special system that is enabled by L1. In this mode, the player can easily target an enemy and strafe as he uses his personal Folks to attack it. R2 is primarily used to dodge/roll in battle to any pointed direction.



The face buttons can be used to map out specific folks, which primarily gives players the option to customize for the Folks in their arsenal. With such an option given to natural creativity, the player can choose specific Folks to map out and even base their entire strategy on them. Changing the face buttons can be accomplished through L2, where a menu pops up with the Folks collected and much more information on each Folk. Each Folk can be categorized via elemental alignment or what realm captured them in. The categorization definitely aids in making the search for Folks easier.

The only downfall to this face button mechanic is the fact that there is a pause present when the ability menu is closed. You choose your Folks, and then close it to face a 2-3 second pause—which is terrible but not reflective of the overall experience. Even though the pause is short, it can seem very long in the heat of battle.



The primary fun in the battles comes through not only the pacing but also acquiring the Folks. Ellen and Keats primarily attack not by fists, but with fallen Ids at the beginning of the game. Folk are creatures that travel the Netherworld, and are unique to each realm. Attacking a Folk has many different effects: the attack was useless, it did some damage, or it releases the Folk's Id from its body.

When the Id’s turn pink, the effective use of the Sixaxis is implemented via a yank system. The player jerks their controllers up while holding R1 and the Id comes flashing out of the Folk. These controls become more complicated with bigger creatures and especially Folklore’s. There are a variety of ways to remove the Id from their bodies, another amazing feature that helps to truly expand the breadth of the battle’s ending. One primary example is where the controller is only jerked up when the Id is red. A bar indicates the soul-stealing process and if yanked too early, the magical liquid lowers---indicating a release from the player’s hold and slight recuperation of the Id. Such a varied, game style mechanic implements the Sixaxis accurately and effectively with the combat system.



Fortunately, the battles are not repetitive. Combat is always alive by placing different powers of the Folks via different perspectives of Ellen and Keats. When Ellen summons a Folk when fighting, it appears as the whole folk. Keats is more partial and physical in terms of a Folks release and serves as only an extension of his power. These nuances help to revitalize the battle scheme from becoming too repetitive.

As Ellen and Keats absorb an everlasting increased amount of Folks, their powers also grow. While this happens, each Folk may or may not advance in terms of their power as well. To advance a Folk’s Id, the player needs to release/unlock its karma by collecting small items here and there or fulfilling an enemy killing quota.



Besides the seamless travel between the Netherworld and real world, players can build and share dungeons online. The editor, even though great, is limited in terms of the number of items that can be in it. Despite this, Game Republic realizes the need for playability and assesses that through this mode.

Through all these subtleties in the overall concept and artistic value, Folklore conveys a remarkable story in an unforgettable scheme. The story can be submitted in four ways. First is through computer generated cutscenes, the next is in-game cutscenes, the third is interaction with 2 characters with text in the middle, and lastly the comic book scheme.



Throughout the journey, players will come across the comic book scene, which poses the character models in a detailed environment and arranges text to the sides, exactly as a comic book would. The interesting thing about the text is that it’s completely adaptable to the situation. If a character screams or yells, the bubble might burst or is very twitchy. As a result of these figurative devices, the story is brought out by a game in which fantasy is never ending.

The graphical presentation may not be up to par with the likes of Killzone 2, but nonetheless, it is still nothing short of impressive. Not because of the details and what not, but mainly the art direction and artistic design—each of which present a unique and unforgettable style to the overall artistic value of the game.



Don’t be shy to step into the world of Folklore folks. Even though it has its flaws, the game shines with magnificence and undeniable brilliance that will make any Hiyao Miyazaki lover go crazy. Go out and buy this game. Nothing more can be said.

-The Final Word-

Folklore delves players into a world where the living meet the dead. Through its fantastic art direction and amazing storyline, Folklore entices the player to journey through the Netherworld in search of the answers to their mystery and leads them on an unforgettable ride into something truly reminiscent of a Hiyao Miyazaki film.
  • Amazing art direction
  • Brilliant, poetic style
  • Undeniably tasty execution
  • Limited dungeon editor
9.0
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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