PoPoLoCrois Feature Preview

We take a look at the upcoming title that brings a little RPG love to the PSP.

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The PlayStation Portable has been calling out for a proper role-playing game ever since its release this year. Fans of the genre have had to make do with lighter, action-oriented fare such as SOE's Untold Legends, which, while fine for what they are, have lacked the satisfaction of a traditional RPG. Thankfully, Agetec is serving up a helping of what fans are hoping for with Popolocrois, the first traditional RPG for the portable system. We had the chance to get a look at the upcoming game to see if it's going to meet the exacting needs of the experience-collecting set.

The upcoming game's release is notable for a number of reasons: It marks the first time the series has had a proper US release, and it attempts to meld the adventure from the first two games in the series, which appeared on the original PlayStation in Japan, into one new experience. The game's story revolves around young Prince Pietro and his quest to save his mother, who has lost her soul in a battle against an ice demon--always a bummer--and now lies lifeless in a tower in the kingdom. Though it's a heady task for a 10-year-old to take on, Pietro is one motivated little guy.

The adventure unfolds via anime cutscenes and in game cinematics. As we mentioned, the adventure will encompass elements from the first two games in the series, so your tasks will include saving your mother's soul, then defending the kingdom when a surly goddess threatens the world. A new bit of action will be included between the two stories to tie them both together into a cohesive narrative, which ensures that the game is more than a quick porting of both games.

Jonesing for retro-role-playing on the go? Popolocrois may have what you're looking for.
Jonesing for retro-role-playing on the go? Popolocrois may have what you're looking for.

The core gameplay is right out of the 16-bit era of RPGs, which, while a bit too retro for some, works fine for us. You'll start out solo and eventually meet a whopping 11 other characters you can swap into a more manageable combat party. The game will be made up of the RPG staples of exploration, character interaction, puzzle solving, and heaps of combat. The battle system in the game is a bit more involved than the standard turn-based stuff seen in most RPGs. An artificial intelligence option lets you either sit back when the mood hits you and let the computer drive during lesser battles, or manually direct your fighting force to victory. Besides the standard character attacks and spells that will increase in power and variety as your party levels up, you'll be able to perform character combination attacks that let characters team up to unleash powerful assaults. In addition, you can summon magical creatures to help out in tough situations. In a nod to the game's status as a portable game, a quick-save feature has been added to ensure that you can play for as long or as little as you like.

Overall, the presentation looks good, thanks to an assured retro approach. The visuals in the game pack a hefty amount of charm, thanks to an anime-inspired art style and actual anime cutscenes produced by the same company responsible for the Polocrois anime in Japan. The 2D art is nicely done and packed with personality. The overall art style skews a bit young, but given Pietro's age and the lighthearted tone of the story, it's hard to ding the game too badly. Though the game's big-eyed wackiness and cartoony look may not be for everyone, they're certainly consistent. The only blemish to the proceedings is the occasional bit of ghosting that happens every so often when you're moving. While it doesn't ruin the experience, it can get a bit distracting. The audio complements the visuals to a tee, with bouncy tunes that hearken back to a simpler time in the RPG genre.

Don't think you won't be able to get your anime on, too.
Don't think you won't be able to get your anime on, too.

Based on what we've seen, Popolocrois is shaping up to be an interesting addition to the PSP's software library that should please RPG fans. Not only does it feature a good helping of traditional gameplay, but the game manages to bring out a franchise that fans have been hoping to see hit the US. The old-school 2D graphics and traditional gameplay may not be for everyone, but it's hard not to be won over by the game's retro charm. Popolocrois is currently slated to ship for the PSP next month. Look for our full review soon.

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