Ryu’s Musings – Return to Popolocrois a Story of Seasons Fairytale

Posted on March 2nd, 2016 by Ryu Sheng |

box-art-300x239Language: English
Developer: Epics
Publisher: Marvelous (EU) / Marvelous USA (US)
Format: 3DS
Type: JRPG/Farming Sim

Synopsis:

A new game based on the Japanese PopoloCrois Story comic book series, and a new entry in the wildly successful Bokujo Monogatari farming and life simulation series, now known as STORY OF SEASONS in the West. It features classically-styled turn-based combat and towns full of lively and interesting NPCs who contribute to a heartwarming narrative that veterans or newcomers to either franchise can enjoy. Ample farming and life simulation elements such as crop-raising, bug-catching, rock quarrying, item synthesis and more round out the experience.

I went into this game blind, I’ve not played the original PopoloCrois Story game, and until recently I’d not played Story of Seasons, so in some ways I’m a prime target for this game. Sadly, I found the game to be lacking in so many areas that I genuinely felt the game was incomplete. Yet, despite this I have to admit that this was the first game in a loooong time that I’ve actually completed, but I also feel that that fact is the most damning of indicators.

The game is attempting to merge two genre’s, SRPG and Farming sim, and initially it works well, the game is aided by a really interesting story, and amazing animation. However it’s crippled by a lack lustre combat system and a farming system you end up wondering why it’s there.

The story as I said is interesting, if a bit generic and having all the usual cliche’s of a JRPG. Which normally I’d be very much against, but if I’m honest I genuinely found the story interesting. You play the role of Prince Pietro who initially is trying to find the cause of the ‘black monsters’. It refreshes old timers and gives us newcomers a run down of the previous game and sets the stage for the new one.

Once the game kicks off I enjoyed following Pietro around as he explored, and came to terms with what happens (trying so hard not spoil hehe). I have to admit I do find his sudden change from depressed to happy a little off putting, it was like they flipped a switch in him.

I also found the way they changed his wolf companion later on to be very disappointing, it was a huge event but it wasn’t really explained, your given a throw away explanation that doesn’t really make any sense when you consider everything revealed unto that point. Finally we have the sudden change in the bad guy, again we’re given a huge impact that makes no sense and frankly isn’t explained at all. I was left wonder WTF was going on, hoping it would be explained, but wasn’t sadly.

Despite those few story niggles, I’ve got to admit I did genuinely enjoy the story, which is why I was able to complete it.

This was of course aided by the amazing animation that is so reminiscent of Ni no Kuni…..damn now I want to replay that game!! Anyway that animation style, matched with an interesting story made for a compelling game.

However, as I said it was crippled by them merging so many other elements into the game, Farming, SRPG Combat, Synthesising, Questing, and Relationships, none of which were implemented well, some to worse degree’s that others.

Let’s talk about the combat, since thats what you’re going to be doing a lot of!!

combat2

The combat is your a-typical SRPG fare….sort of. Certain elements of the combat are missing, such as guard. in every game I’ve played that has SRPG style combat there’s been some sort of guard or defend option, not here. I also found certain key bits of information missing, such as the move order, as in who moves when  This is usually indicated by a bar with the characters face on it  in the order they’re going to move, this allows you to plan who to attack. There’s also no health indicator on the mobs, so you’ve no idea who’s weak, strong, got no health or got loads of health. I found this frustrating as hell, especially early on where you need to judge when to run or stay.

The combat animations weren’t bad but again they weren’t great. Which I found a little sad, I’m using a huge ability thats taking almost 3/4 of my mana, but the result is a lack lustre animation.

Finally, the combat just flat out frustrated me. Early game it was difficult, but not overbearing. It was genuinely fun. However after you reach mid game the combat pretty much all degenerated to one shot kills. I even turned the difficulty unto maximum and that just made it a 2 round set of combat. Your never in any real danger, even when fighting the maze bosses.

combat1

In fact the combat became such a bore fest that ultimately I started to spend loads of my money on potions to stop the random spawning, cause I was so fed up with the combat. Which went all the way unto the final boss, and suddenly the combat was ramped right up. I almost believe it was done deliberately so as you wouldn’t use a certain character who for half of the game is OP as fuck. They basically have super powers of mega healing and mega death, which wouldn’t really be an issue except for the fact they have a huge mana pool and the skills take next to no mana. So your healer ends up being the tank and DPS.

But the final boss fight is so hard that they’re forced to be on pure healing duty as only they have the resurrection ability. Finally completing the battle wasn’t really a satisfying feeling, rather it was a ‘thank fuck thats over’ moment.

Also, as you run around you have random encounters, but even with this turned to the minimum it got to the point where I couldn’t walk five feet without a fight. Hence why I ended up using a potion to stop random encounters. Which also meant I ended up not being able to complete a lot of quests…

Synthesising, no idea why this was in the game really. Apparently you can get some top grade weapons and armour from it. However I never saw the point, from the bit of farming I did I gained so much money I could buy anything I wanted, including top grade weapons. In preparation for the final fight I had almost a million gold!!  What’s more after you go past the point of no return you find around 10-15 chests full of top grade weapons, armour, amulets and potions. So again there was no reason for synthesising.

Questing, another element I was frustrated by, and only because the damn quest log was just so bad to use. It was essentially a loooong list that you had to manually go through quest by quest to find the one you were after. Completed and incomplete were all mixed together. Initially I did them as I went, but because I turned off the random encounters I ended up with a lot of these being incomplete. The few of them I could complete were so dull and uninteresting I just couldn’t be bothered with them.

Relationships, are again an aspect I struggled to understand. You spend the first part of the game establishing that Pietro is in love with Narcia, yet as soon as your off in the new world it’s telling you to chat up the girls…..then when your reunited with Narcia you’re once again told to chat up  girls……I honestly couldn’t do it, felt to weird, like I was cheating on her. This was compound by the fact the girls didn’t say anything, you literally walk unto them, give them a gift and walk away. The entire thing felt misplaced and incomplete.

On a minor technical side, when you first meet people you get a short anime style FMV introducing the characters, but these were so low level, sound wise, it was very hard to hear what they were saying. This was even true in certain important cut scenes! So yeah, not the best.

Finally we have the farming, which I genuinely have no idea why it was included. The idea’s used in the farming were amazing, to the point I initially loved farming. However it’s clear that it’s barely a secondary thought. You have limited space for farming, crops never fail because there’s no real ‘time’ in the game. You’d just get message now and again saying it was ready or needed watering.

farming

What’s more once you rescued the fairies and gained access to their fields, you only actually had two plots of land to use. Despite their being huge amounts of space available. Though admittedly the Highland Farm was the exception with a few more plots, but not enough to make farming worth while. Honestly there’s no ‘valid’ story reason for farming, other than to waste time. Which is a great shame since I felt the mechanics used in this game for farming were better than those used in Story of Seasons.

So after all that you’d think I’d hate the game, but I honestly didn’t, and was surprised by the fact that I finished the game. Though admittedly that’s because it only took me a little over 12 hours to do. However as I said earlier I feel the story and the animation are enough to carry the game, so long as you can either ignore or put up with the rest which is lack lustre.

As a final point, the game does have ‘after game’ content. Once you beat it you get to go back for farming and quest completion, but because those were two areas I didn’t like I couldn’t see the point.

I also don’t think the game is worth it’s asking price, because it lacks replayability, and has too many flaws. I’d wait till the price drops on amazon in month or so, or until it inevitably goes on sale in the eStore.

I think if they’d forgotten the farming side and simply called the Return to PopoloCrois and focused on the combat and story; it would have been a great game.

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