If you’re into pixelated perfection with a dash of Anime storytelling than PoPoLoCrois might be of interest. PoPoLoCrois is a Manga turned PSP handheld RPG that has a very unique feel and look, the question is, does it live up to the hype it was given?
The entire game starts off with an Anime story-telling of what has transpired thus far in the world and brings you up to current speed of where the game starts off. The animation is very well drawn and has excellent voice acting that enables you to feel the emotion of the characters in the scene. Right off the bat you’re faced with a depressing scene of what appears to be the Queen jumping off a castle tower, however, not everything is always as it seems.
The main story behind PoPoLoCrois is then told in darker fashion through a storybook event. You’ll learn of an Ice Demon and a Dragon which battle against one another in search of peace for the kingdom below that has been covered in snow. The dragon eventually wins out, unfortunately also finds itself falling from the sky along with the Ice Demon to its death.
This is the time you’re first introduced to the main character of our story, Prince Pietro. Pietro is heir to the throne and ten years has passed since not only his birth but the untimely death of his mother. While relaxing on the balcony in an emo fashion, Pietro witnesses his father sneaking off to a tower that is supposedly forbidden. Pietro, curious as any 10 year old would be, decides to follow his father up the tower where he is faced with a happy yet sad reality. There lies his mother in a coma, not dead, yet not truly alive either. Sadness falls over Pietro as he learns that his mothers soul is lost in the World of Darkness.
Pietro is obviously overcome by this event and decides he shall do whatever he can to help his fallen mother. His father, the King, tells him of a book that is rumored to exist in another city called Bryonia that holds a map for the World of Darkness. Unfortunately for Pietro, his father also forbids him from doing anything about it and tells him of the witches in the forest that he has enlisted with this duty.
We’ve all been 10 years old though; so we very well know that this wasn’t going to stop Pietro from taking action. After visiting his mother one last time, Pietro hears and witnesses a mysterious voice and figure that coerces him into taking action. As expected, Pietro, the hero of our tale, takes leave to find the witches of the forest.
As you travel and fight your way through the forest, you eventually find Guilda’s treehouse. This is also conveniently where you meet a young female witch named Narcia. Narcia is what appears to be an apprentice witch who immediately takes a liking for Pietro. She quickly joins the quest in trying to aid you in finding Bryonia and with it the book. This is where the story begins to take off and from this point on the world of PoPoLoCrois is yours to explore.
Much like other strategy RPGs like Tactics and Disgaea, PoPoLoCrois uses a battle grid for its system of combat. However, unlike the two previously mentioned titles, this game doesn’t work in a turn fashion. There is a little action meter that fills up before you can utilize your turn. This means you can attack 2-3 times before the enemy even has a chance to move. Some will find that this takes away the strategy almost completely, where as some will find this is a good addition. It’s all how you choose to look at it. One of the things that irked us most was the way this system was set up. By default the battle system is set to auto, this means you have no control over your character and you’re forced to watch him fight on his own. This is easily fixed by going through the options setting and changing it to manual.
The combat menu is very simplistic which allows an easy integration into this genre for newcomers. The menu is pretty bare bones and has a simple to the point working. One of the other downfalls to this battle system is the fact that the loading feels kind of lagged between the environment and the battle screen. Because the battles are all random, this can get annoying very quickly. The random fights are also too quick in occurrence thus forcing you to get a feel of repetitiveness that might not sit well with you. The fact that most battles are ended quickly makes this even worse.
As far as magic goes, this game is your standard magic point based style. You’ll have your special attacks that require MP and you’ll have to replenish them to keep on using them. This game isn’t anything special in this department, just very generic. It’s what you’ve come to expect out of most standard RPG formats. However, there was one upside to the visual effects for these attacks. Agetec did a marvelous job creating fantastic effects in just a 2D pixilation atmosphere. Anybody who tries it will be pleasantly surprised.
One of the nicest features about this title is the way the NPC’s interact with the main character. Their dialogue is not only witty and entertaining but they put Pietro in some funny situations as well. Make sure to visit everywhere in the castle before going out to the forest; that way you won’t miss out on some funny events, like being lit on fire. If that isn’t reason enough to explore the castle, the slew of treasure chests surely is. There are about 15 treasure chests scattered throughout the area, so make sure you check it out.
Another small but noticeable feature you may enjoy in this game, is unlike some RPG’s, your character is always engaged to running in PoPoLoCrois. This will save you from having to hold down a button in order to run like some RPGs force you to do. There is, however, a walk button for those of you who like to take your time.
The graphics are the bread and butter of this title. Don’t go into it expecting fleshed out over-the-top graphics. These are pixilated designs that are done at an incredible level. The detail and time it must have taken to create the world is just astounding. I was very impressed by the environment and character design and this one thing alone almost makes the game worth playing. The vibrant atmosphere in this 2D rendered game is nothing shy of fantastic.
However, one feature that seemed to annoy us to no end was the score. This game features a terrible harmonica score that almost makes your ears bleed. After about ten minutes, we found ourselves muting the handheld and enjoying the simplistic sound of background music. Don’t expect anything worth noting out of this aspect of the title.
In the end, even with the stellar graphics and the easy to adapt to style for beginners, PoPoLoCrois falls short in the entertainment department. With the repetitive battle system, horrid soundtrack, and slight lag between toggles of menus, this game just doesn’t cut it with so many other RPGs available for the PSP handheld.