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RELEASE DATE (NA): November 29, 2005 GENRE: RPG
// review by SoyBomb


PoPoLoCrois is actually a manga series that began in the 1970s in Japan. With a name as an amalgamation of "popolo" (people) and "croix" (crossing), its focus is primarily on showing tolerance and friendship between people of differing races. It's a nice message to have, given the world's modern circumstances. The original series stars the kindly Prince Pietro, both of a human and a dragon, who ends up saving the world multiple times from the forces of evil. Notably, he has had to rescue his mother from the World of Darkness if he wants to snap her out of her coma. Pietro is joined by Narcia, the forest witch; the White Knight, about whose origins we learn relatively little; and the Gami Gami Devil, an ugly little guy whose technical prowess is far more advanced than his personality. Subsequent anime series add new characters. PoPoLoCrois is all about the wacky adventures they have in the kingdom and abroad.

That's all well and good, but what would all this have meant for someone NOT living in Japan when PoPoLoCrois was released for PSP in 2006? For most, pretty much nothing. PoPoLoCrois may have enjoyed some level of popularity overseas, but beyond that, it was hardly a household name. Therefore, the game was simply that: a game brimming with cuteness, brawling with other tough cakes on the store shelves for a piece of the action. So when you play as these characters and they interact a certain way, North American and European players were left scratching their heads a bit.

The game can still be enjoyed, though... provided you have a certain level of tolerance for mediocrity. PoPoLoCrois is actually two games in one: it's essentially a remake of two games in the series combined (Popolocrois Monogatari and PopoloCrois Monogatari II), with a brand new chapter wedged in between to improve the flow between the two. If this is a remake, however, they didn't make the gameplay any more exciting.

This RPG is as basic as it gets. With your party of up to four characters, you'll have random encounters, in which case you can pull out the usual RPG actions: attack, use a special skill (the equivalent of magic, if you prefer), whip out an item, or be chicken and run away from the battle altogether. You move about in a grid-like pattern (visible only when you move), although it's not really much of an issue at all since movement is usually fairly open-ended in these field battles. If you choose not to perform any particular action, you can also use Focus and "charge up" for the next turn. In typical RPG fashion, you gain experience through battles, although there is also separate experience for your spells that allow them to also improve over time. That's not bad. For classic RPG enthusiasts, this will be divine.

What serves as a bit of a game breaker is that you can set any party member to automatically perform functions to meet your demands. Yes, you can manually control each character, OR you can set them to Assault (throwing their strongest attacks out there), Attack (just physically sparring), or Defend (healing and using items). This includes your main character! In essence, you don't actually have to do anything during battle except sit back and watch patiently. Or get a sandwich. Or go to the bathroom. Or eat a sandwich in the bathroom. In fact, for a long time while playing, I wasn't actually doing anything during fights! The only time when having at least one manual character is beneficial is during boss fights. Otherwise, just let loose! The only downside to this is that characters that really DO want to be as flamboyant as possible with their skills: when just a quick little whack of the sword is necessary, they'll pull out their most MP-costly spell. Thank goodness MP restorative items are a dime a dozen... errr, in shops...

Look at all these lovely surroundings. Makes me want to visit Florida.

So the gameplay is, if someone asked me, "meh". It does nothing better than any other game. In fact, it manages to make a traditionally menu-based system even MORE boring. How did you do this, LoCro? The worst part is that the game's presentation doesn't bring any more joy to the table. For starters, this game's load times are sometimes humorous. Any time a character performs a skill that they have not yet used during your session of play (and sometimes even when you have), the game has to stop in its tracks and load mid-battle. That's a pretty uncommon occurrence in games, isn't it?

If that weren't enough to bother me, the game experiences slowdown in strange places. In the first half of the game, when I had to visit Gami Gami Castle (home of &mdash you guessed it &mdash the Gami Gami Devil), the ENTIRE AREA was filled with slowdown. Walking through the town outside, wandering through the corridors of the castle, battling enemies inside... all of this suffered from slowdown! Was the Quality Assurance team taking a nap at this point? Or were they hired at all? Slowdown occurs at other random points, such as during a pivotal boss battle, making the game last longer than it ought to. Unless, that was the point!! Alas, it is all clear! Padding the game by deliberately programming poorly! I'm on to you, uh... who made this? Uh... "G-Artists"! Yes, you, G-Artists! This explains why you went out of business the same year this came out! We caught you red-keyboarded!

PoPoLoCrois doesn't present itself favourably anyhow. The graphics are plain and are usually pixelated, as though they're zoomed in or out just a tad too much. Scenery never really pops out, even when it should. A few things here and there are humorous or impeccably cute, but most character design (and associated personality) is incredibly dull. I guess I have to chalk that up to dry source material. I do wonder why does Narcia's guardian, Guilda, has a sprite that looks like she melted. The only positive is the anime cutscenes that appear from time to time; they're done well enough.

Likewise, the music is as generic as possible. I imagine someone walked into the dollar store and purchased a CD of RPG Background Music for a low, low price, then inserted tracks liberally into the game. They won't win any points there. And the voice acting, don't get me started. Each character screams something obnoxious when they perform a skill. Gami Gami Devil sounds like a hellspawn, and the White Knight's voice is too foppish for battle. Also, insert trope here concerning little boy voiced by older woman.

As much as I could have liked to love PoPoLoCrois, it's just lacking in so many areas. The developers did their darndest to get the gameplay going, but they overlooked so many other factors (visuals, audio, slowdown) in the process that the result just becomes a mediocre project. There are so many better RPGs out there, and you're better off overlooking PoPoLoCrois in favour of greener pastures.

P.S. They pronounce it "Po-Po-Lo-CROYSE". WHAT THE—?!

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