LEIPZIG, Germany--While Genji was an admirable stab at a launch title from Japanese developer Game Factory, it didn't quite live up to the intentions of its creators. First of all, they were unable to fully exploit the technical capabilities of Sony's new superconsole. Secondly, they didn't have time to implement a fully featured online mode that allowed players to swap user-generated content. Finally, they didn't fully exploit the potential of the motion-sensitive Sixaxis controller. With Folklore, which is already available in Japan, Game Factory hopes to remedy all of these issues all while creating a brand-new universe for gamers to explore.
The game centers around collecting "folks" who can be summoned to attack your enemies. The collectible element to picking up these 100 folks is intended to replicate the same addictive qualities of the Pokémon franchise, but for an older market. The key to collecting folks is to harvest the souls of your enemies, and it's this act that forms both the core of the gameplay and Folklore's excellent implementation of the Sixaxis controller. Reaping souls works in a similar way to a basic fishing game: You use the Sixaxis controller to physically hook the soul and swing it back to you.
Sadly, while there isn't a two player co-op mode in Folklore, the game does offer two different playable characters who you can switch between at strategic points during the game. Ellen is a female character who prefers to use long-range attacks rather than get up-close and personal. As you progress through the game you'll be able to unlock a number of outfits for Ellen, most of which follow the Japanese tradition of being as revealing as possible. The male character of Keatz is better-versed in melee combat, and as he goes through the game he becomes darker and more demonlike in appearance, giving him short bursts of invulnerability as he progresses.
The two characters also tie into the same overall story, albeit with different introductions. They both decide to visit the town of Doolin--Ellen to investigate a letter that she received from the mother she thought was dead, and Keatz because of similar contact from a mysterious woman. As Ellen heads to Doolin, she sees the woman she believes to be her mother jump off a cliff, while Keatz finds his contact murdered in her room. As they both begin to investigate, they find that the town bridges the gap between the world of the living and the dead.
This unique story setup has allowed the creators of Folklore to go wild with the game's seven environments. The netherworlds, as they are called, consist of the Hell Realm, the Faery Realm, Warcadia, Endless Corridor, Netherworld Core, and Undersea City. We got to see the undersea city in action during our demo, and graphically it was certainly opulent. The world itself glistened with the sort of water effects we've come to expect from today's hardware. The folks that were being shown impressed with their size and detail, while they moved with believable animation. Sometimes the action was rather hectic, but combining attacks with folk summoning and soul harvesting seems rather compelling.
With the game finished and on store shelves in Japan for a couple of months now, plans are already well under way for the postrelease add-ons for Folklore. One quest pack is already being completed which will include four new quests, one new costume for Ellen, and one new folk, and this will be available for download from the PlayStation Store shortly. There are six packs planned in total, although the price for these downloads has yet to be decided. If you're looking to extend the longevity of Folklore without shelling out PlayStation Store credits, then you can also create and share your own dungeons. The creation tool lets you combine corridors and folk rooms which you'll then be able to send to other users over the Internet.
Folklore is another gamble for the creators of the Genji series, because not only is it based on a completely new idea, it shares the same Japanese design sensibilities as its predecessor. There's no doubt that using the Sixaxis controller to catch souls is an enticing idea, but we'll have to wait to find out if it's enough to drive us to the finish. Luckily, you can get a taste of the game itself either by creating a Japanese PlayStation Network account and downloading from that store, or catching the time-limited European release that will be available to coincide with the Leipzig Games Convention from August 22-31, 2007. The full game will be available internationally in October.