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PoPoLoCrois PSP

Published by Ignition Entertainment
Developed by G-Artists
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

PoPoLoCrois, an introduction.

There can be little doubt that one of the most popular gaming genres is that of the role-playing games. Having a generous amount of quality RPG's on a console is seen as vital to the success of that console. One of the reasons cited for the inability of the GameCube and Xbox to outsell the PlayStation 2 was that the consoles just couldn't compete with the amount of quality RPG's that there were on the PlayStation 2. With this in mind then it's surprising that the PSP doesn't have many RPG's. In fact there are only a few available at present and neither one could be regarded as a classic. Here we have what will hopefully be a memorable PSP RPG, PoPoLoCrois.

What's the game about?

PoPoLoCrois was once a beautiful kingdom but 10 years ago an Ice Demon attacked with the help of his four evil wizards. Things looked hopeless for the people of PoPoLoCrois as they didn't have the power to stop the Ice Demon and his accomplices. However, one day a beautiful dragon came down from the heavens to protect the people of PoPoLoCrois. After a battle lasting many weeks, the dragon eventually defeated the Ice Demon and PoPoLoCrois was finally free from his icy grasp. However, when the Ice Demon fell into the World of Darkness he managed to take the dragon with him. At the beginning of the game everyone in  PoPoLoCrois is celebrating  the 10th birthday of King Paulo's son, Pietro. Despite all of the celebrations and gifts that have been showered upon him all is not well for Pietro. The problem is that Pietro is missing his mother who, he was told, died long ago. However, Pietro soon learns that isn't exactly what happened when he follows his father into a forbidden tower and sees him talking to a woman who is asleep in bed. It's obvious from his father's conversation that this woman is indeed his mother. The King admits the woman is Sania, Pietro's mother, and that she feel into a deep sleep after giving birth to Pietro. He then tells Pietro that it's believed her soul is being kept in the World of Darkness, a place for the dead. Naturally Pietro vows to help his mother even though his father has forbade it.

What's good about the game?

As RPG's go PoPoLoCrois is probably one of the more accessible ones for those who have never played an RPG before. The game uses a turn-based battle system (you can take up to four characters into battle) and it's about as straightforward as it could possibly be. In fact you can even set the battles to auto and simply watch them unfold. Of course this might seem like blasphemy to seasoned RPG gamers but for those who simply want to enjoy the story it's actually a nice inclusion. What I like about the battles is that they zip along at a nice pace and they never seem to take too long to complete, which is a good thing considering how often random battles occur. Should your characters fall in battle they will be returned to the nearest inn and you'll lose half of your party's gold. Thankfully though you get to keep the experience you've earned since your last save.  I found the presentation of PoPoLoCrois to be impressive and the quality of the cutscenes, in particular, is excellent.  Outside of the cutscenes, the game looks and feels like an RPG of yesteryear and this will certainly add to the appeal of the game if you have played PSone and SNES RPG's.

What's not so good about the game?

There can be little doubt that the biggest problem with the game is the load times. Usually when we talk about load times we think about an area loading up or staring at a black screen whilst we wait for a cutscene to load up. Whilst these load times are present in PoPoLoCrois it's not these that will irritate you the most (although some of these delays are a little on the long side). The load times that will annoy you are the ones that occur when you cast a spell in battle or walk into a random encounter with an enemy. Three revolving balls of light indicate loading times and you'll be seeing them plenty of times during the game.  The multitude of load times serves to break up the flow of the game, which is unfortunate although it's certainly not as damaging as you might think. Seasoned RPG gamers might argue that the game is a rather simplistic RPG and lacks the complexity of RPG's such as the Final Fantasy games. In truth it is rather simplistic in nature but I honestly found the game to be enjoyable and I didn't mind that certain aspects of the game (such as the battle system) were not as complex as in some RPG's that I've played.  Random battles do occur too frequently though and should have been spaced wider apart.

How does it look?

PoPoLoCrois is a real mix when it comes to the quality of the visuals. The highpoint has to be the cutscenes which look like they've been pulled straight from an Anime movie because they look that good. The main game uses a 2D isometric view. Some may find this disappointing but in actual fact the game looks very pleasant. It could be argued the 2D graphics give the game a dated look and that the game would look more at home on a GBA but in truth the game is easy on the eyes and at least you don't have to constantly manoeuvre the camera angles like you have to do in most 3D RPG's.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Deaf gamers won't have any problems with PoPoLoCrois.  The cutscenes are subtitled so you'll be able to fully enjoy them  and enjoy the story (which is more important than ever in a RPG). All in-game dialogue is subtitled too, so you'll always know what's going on and you won't miss out on a thing. All other information is shown in text. The game manual weighs in at around 30 pages and covers everything you need to know as well as giving descriptions for the status change icons and other icons that appear in the game.

Final thoughts.

PoPoLoCrois is an enjoyable RPG that most will appreciate, especially with the lack of RPG's currently on offer on the PSP. It's worth noting that the game is especially accommodating for those who haven't experienced the genre yet and for this it deserves praise. Experienced RPG gamers might find the game a little too simplistic in places and would probably have wanted the battles to be more challenging, amongst other things. The multitude of load times is unfortunate and it's something we hope will be resolved for any future games that might appear in the series. All things considered though, PoPoLoCrois is an enjoyable RPG.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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PoPoLoCrois is an enjoyable RPG that should even appeal to those who haven't played an RPG before. The multitude of loading times is unfortunate though and it's disappointing that the sheer amount of them serve to break up the flow of the game somewhat.