PoPoLoCrois Review

Right now the PSP is known as a system that has a lot of movies for it, but not a lot of games.  While a few action RPGs have been released, the PSP has lacked a true RPG on its system.  Now Agetec has decided to bring PoPoLoCrois to the PSP to fill that void.

PoPoLoCrois is based on a popular Anime series in Japan with the same name.  This game is a compilation of the PoPoLoCrois titles that came out for the original PlayStation.  These titles were never released here in the US, so gamers here should be ready for a unique RPG experience.

PoPoLoCrois follows Pietro, a 10-year-old boy who has just celebrated his birthday.  Long thinking his mother was dead, he follows his father to find out his mother went into a spell-induced coma around the time he was born.  Discovering this he sets out to find a way to awake his mother.

The graphics of PoPoLoCrois would be more appropriately found on the original PlayStation or SNES than the PSP.   While the graphics are a bit more refined than that, they aren’t that impressive.  When zooming in, the pixels really show.  The backgrounds have some detail, but they lack enough detail to make the world look alive.  While other characters move around, the world of PoPoLoCrois looks rather dead.

As you move through the area, the screen follows Pietro, similar to Diablo.   After Pietro gains a few allies, they follow behind him.  Each of the characters has their own animations for walking, attacking, and using items.  Animations contain only a couple of frames for each movement, so they aren’t the smoothest looking while moving.

If you go in with the understanding that the graphics are similar to Final Fantasy Tactics or the 16-bit era, then the graphics won’t shock you too much.  If you are looking for a game with nicer graphics you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The tunes in PoPoLoCrois are simple, coming from the days when the music helped to set the mood but never overpowered the action on screen.  While traveling outdoors, the music is lighthearted and joyful.  The music gets more intense during dungeons.  When a battle ensues, the music jumps up and has an intensity not heard during other portions of the game.

While the music sets the mood, it is still rather simplistic.  The bleeps and bloops sound better than something from the 16-bit era, but they won’t be anything impressive.  If you are looking for a trip down memory lane, then the sound in PoPoLoCrois won’t disappoint.

A few voices are used during the game.  Most of the time these are used when a special skill is used.  These voices sound different for each character, but it would have been nice to have more voices throughout the game.

Most of the movement is handled with the analog nub or the D-pad, and if you want to move slower you hold down the X button.  The same controls are used for selecting menu options during battle.  Pushing Square brings up a map of the area.  Hitting X interacts with objects.  The Triangle button shows your party status.  Pressing Circle cancels out of your current action.  The L button brings up a monster description guide, while the R button zooms into the area around you.

The biggest issue with the controls is how fast your character moves.  While this might not be an issue in most RPGs that cover lots of ground, it’s difficult to get Pietro to look in a particular direction or get to a specific spot in the environment.  This makes movement in the game more difficult than it should be.

If you are looking for an RPG with tactical elements, then PoPoLoCrois doesn’t disappoint if you can get past the premise of a 10-year-old boy leading a party of adventurers.  The story is engaging, but you have to travel all over town and do a lot of backtracking.  When you go from one area to another, the PSP needs to load it from the disk.  While the load times aren’t bad, they aren’t great either.  The number of loads gets annoying through the game.

Another fault with PoPoLoCrois is the number of save points throughout the game.  While you can save the game in a particular state by using the standby mode on the PSP, you can save an exit to a single save slot.  If you are able to save anywhere when you save and exit, when aren’t you able to save anywhere in the game?  Because of the portable nature of the PSP, this can be really annoying as it can take a while to find new save points.

As you wander along the countryside, you go into battle against enemies.  You don’t see the enemies on the field, so you won’t be able to avoid fights.  You can assign the PSP to fight automatically by placing your party in Attack, Assault, or Defend mode.  The default is set to Attack, so encountering an enemy causes a fight to be completed by the computer.  Once you put the party into Manual, you see the stats for your team members.  Under each member a bar fills up.  Once the bar is filled up completely, it is that character’s turn to make a move.  Here you can choose to attack, use an item, use a special skill, try to flee from battle, skip a turn to perform a focused attack, or set up the AI character settings.

When attacking or using certain special skills, a grid shows up on the field.  This field indicates where your character can move to on the field and which enemies it can attack.  That makes position just as important as the attack.  Sometimes you’ll need to move to get into a position to attack.   Also, being in a position close to one of your teammates can initiate a combo attack.

Ask you defeat enemies, you gain experience, gold, and items.  In the beginning you level up rather quickly and gain new skills automatically.  The enemies do get tougher as the game goes on, but you never feel overwhelmed with the enemies you battle.

The enemies are very unique compared to other RPG games.  How many games have a character named Mr. Pepper?  Other enemies include the Mud Drone, Acornholio, Pecker, Mimic Panda, Slugger, Mantis Weasel, and Orc King.  They all have a charm to them that makes this a unique RPG experience.

The biggest issue with PoPoLoCrois is the fact that there isn’t any kind of log journal.  Because of this, it is hard to know what your next objective is or where to go.  The lost sense of direction makes the game longer than it should be, not to mention the encounter rate of enemies.

PoPoLoCrois is short for an RPG game, with a little over 30 hours of gameplay.  However, that is more hours than you will get from most PSP games available.  While the $40 price tag isn’t bad, it’s still a bit steep for a portable game.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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