Return to PoPoLoCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Price: $39.99 – Available Here
Many years ago there was a fairly light-hearted and long running franchise called PopoloCrois that started as a manga series and was even given a couple of RPGs back in the late 90s and early 2000s. The thing is, until 2005 the series was unheard of in the West until the first and only game was localized for the PSP. Now over ten years after the release of that title, Marvelous and XSEED have revived PopoloCrois and have created something of a combination between that title and Story of Seasons, creating Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale. With the potential for a solid RPG combined with the addicting farming mechanics of Story of Seasons, does this combination bear fruit?
Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale begins as Prince Pietro, the kind-hearted savior of the land of the kingdom and only son of the royal family, is celebrating his thirteenth birthday. After causing a bit of trouble by running off and visiting his friend and romantic interest Narcia, a witch in the woods, the celebration is underway. Unfortunately all is not right in the kingdom and while Pietro has saved the kingdom before and is more than capable of handling himself, strange black beasts have begun appearing across the land and are far stronger than anything the guards have faced off against in the past.
To make matters worse, both the White night, an old ally, and Gami Gami, an enemy turned ally, have turned up missing. With a mysterious woman named Marmela offering aid from a far off land, Pietro finds himself stuck on foreign soil after being transported to the realm of Galariland, a realm far away from their own and separated by the world tree.
With no easy way to return to his homeland of PopoloCrois, Peitro settles down and begins working in an effort to not only save the realm of Galariland but also find a way to bring that same power back with him and prevent the destruction of his own homeland. As you may expect from how that sounds, Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale tells a fairly straightforward tale that doesn’t deviate too much from the norm for an RPG about saving the realm but it does have its charms here and there.
This is due to the colorful cast of characters that players will come across as well as plenty of amusing light dialogue that is spread throughout the game. While it is disappointing that players cannot really do too much with characters, such as the female characters that Pietro can befriend by completing little quests and giving them gifts not being available for romance, since the prince is already in a budding relationship with Narcia, the interactions that players will have do provide quite a bit of charm to this pleasant, albeit fairly unoriginal, story.
Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale may offer players a chance to experience a little something of both worlds, an RPG and a bit of farming/collecting on the side, but ultimately the main focus is spent on delivering the core storyline and combat rather than on any of the farming and gathering mechanics from Story of Seasons. Players will find that they will not even have access to the farm, which in fitting fashion for the origins of Story of Seasons starts as a complete mess, until they get a couple hours into the story and even then, the farming element play a minimal role in the actual progression of the game as there are only a few instances that progressing the story requires the use of the farm.
By attempting to deliver a story driven game and providing only a small incentive for players to actually farm, the title leans heavily into the RPG elements and leaves the farming as something of an unfortunate afterthought that is actually quite enjoyable and, while not nearly as deep as the core games, still offers a lot to do but leaving it as almost entirely optional is disappointing considering how well certain mechanics work together.
Farming works as one would expect, using a hoe to till the ground, planting a seed, watering it while it grows, and then harvesting when it is ready. There are also plenty of bugs and minerals that can be gathered from certain areas and even cows, chickens, and alpacas (all named something different to fit the fantasy setting) to purchase and take care of. This allows players to have a relatively similar farming experience than before and even allow for a bit of tinkering here and there to try and create certain items or help your plants grow quicker.
The concept of planting crops, taking care of animals, and spending time with the villagers and aforementioned girls while also heading out into battle works well thanks to a certain teleportation item called Fairy Dust and helpful notifications that let players know when their plants need tending to, meaning that you can work on clearing out a dungeon or fighting a set of enemies and then tend the farm afterwards with little worry.
That being said, the combat system in Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale mirrors the somewhat watered down nature of the farming system. While roaming a dungeon or the field players will come across random battles where they will be placed into a turn based combat area where their party will be placed against a group of monsters. Similar to a strategy RPG, a character’s turn consists of moving, attacking an opponent if they are within range either with a basic attack or a skill, using an item, or simply running.
There is some strategy that can be used in combat, such as using team skills where two characters will attack in unison for bonus damage, but for the most part combat is incredibly easy. Rarely do any noticeable obstacles get thrown into the battlefield and although attacking from behind does deal extra damage, it is rarely necessary especially since leveling up recovers a unit’s HP and MP and most enemy attacks deal minimal damage. In something that is rarely done, there are three options given for how players want their encounter rate and combat difficulty to be.
Players can choose to rarely encounter enemies, encounter them normally, or all the time and then choose between easy, normal, or hard opponents. Even placing yourself against hard enemies will provide very little challenge for anyone familiar with similar styled RPGs and ultimately selecting a normal encounter rate will probably prove to be the best in order to not get bogged down with too many fights that mostly can be handled by setting the team to auto-battle.
Players will often make a fairly easy run through the many straightforward dungeons and interesting Field Dungeons that are scattered throughout the game since only the occasional boss may be a threat if you wind up getting too careless. This means that although the balance is leaned into the RPG elements, the combat and dungeons are unfortunately very basic.
Visuals & Audio
The designs found in Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale are very well handled with the environments and character models being designed in a way that they appear like they are right out of a storybook, especially if you choose to keep the black outlines toggled on, though those who dislike such an outline can disable it. The muted color tones help give the title a hand drawn feeling and although the enemy designs are recycled a bit much, the way that the world is designed makes it feel blooming with life.
One has to give quite a bit of credit to the translation team with this title, as the way that the characters are presented here adds a lot of charm into the otherwise simple storyline. So much so that one of the bigger highlights is talking to these people and befriending them and thankfully the company has provided a fairly satisfying English dub to accompany these characters, though oddly enough there are even two versions of the Japanese dub to use if you prefer. As for the soundtrack the title features plenty of themes that are a perfect fit for the fairy tale like setting as well as a number of relaxing tunes to go with your farming sessions.
Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale is a rather strange combination of a well-known franchise as well as one that very few may have remembered but it works decently here. The charming cast of characters that Pietro comes across help bring life to the storyline and although the gameplay leans towards the basic RPG elements, there is still a lot of enjoyment to be found in the trimmed down farming and gathering systems and being able to easily transition from a combat area and back to the farm is a nice bonus. In the end, many may find this game to be a bit too simplistic or easy for their tastes, but it offers an easygoing experience that may grow on certain players.
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