I've said it before and I'll say it again—life's too short for mediocre role-playing games (RPGs). Unless God him (or her)self comes down and tells me for a fact that there's life after this world, I have to assume that we're all eventually going to end up as dust in the dark, with nothing afterward. If this is the case, then there simply isn't enough time to play games that serve no purpose other than to be long and dull. If we're only here once, why waste it being bored?

Case in point—PoPoLoCrois. It's not that it's really bad, it's just that the entire thing feels so old, so tired, and so familiar that it's impossible to get excited or even interested in something that's content to meet the definition of "Generic Role-Playing Game." As I was playing it, I was practically counting the minutes that I was never going to get back. Suffice it to say, I didn't make it to the end of what is allegedly a 30-hour adventure.

Telling a story that has been told a thousand times before in various permutations, PoPoLoCrois stars a young boy named Pietro on a quest for blah, blah, blah, whatever. There's no real depth of character or emotion to start the story off, and from the amount of plot that I was privy to, I would categorize things as being one step above a rough sketch, dramatically.

Without being drawn in or given any real reason to care, I found my attention wandering and I often forgot what I was supposed to be doing, or who I was searching for. There was no quest log to keep me on track, so although the main character runs at light-speed through castles, villages, and the rest of the overworld, I spent more time than I'm comfortable with blindly talking to townsfolk and entering houses at random hoping to encounter the next trigger point.

It doesn't help that the world has a very cohesive and connected design. Towns blend into woods, those woods blend into the next town, and so forth. I might praise such a natural feeling in another title, but the game's map system is highly ineffective, and in between looking for the objects of my various quests, I spent a significant amount of time simply looking for the right area to be in—never something I like doing in any game.

The battle system is interesting in that enemies appear randomly wherever Pietro happens to be, and battle immediately follows without going to a separate screen the way a Final Fantasy might. The characters take turns according to an on-screen timer, and the ground is broken up into squares that represent a character's movement range and area of effect. It looks like there should be a lot of strategy in a system like this, but there's not. Simple and mindless, the battles lose their appeal early on and pop up often enough to become annoying. As a side note, PoPoLoCrois sports an auto-battle option for those who want to let the computer do their fighting for them. Like other games with this feature, more effort should have been put into making the encounters interesting rather than giving the player a way to sleepwalk through them.

PoPoLoCrois might be a familiar name to dedicated RPG'ers or import junkies, but this was my first experience with this series and I can't say that it was a very positive one. It's a shame because the art style attractively breaks away from the typical anime-esque lines and also sports some gorgeous animated cutscenes more interesting than the game itself. Despite these meager positives, there's nothing to recommend it outside of the fact that it's an RPG on the PSP. Given the state of the PSP's library, this alone might be enough for some people, but it's not for me. Maybe if I was stranded on a desert island and this was my only game… but even then, just maybe. Rating: 5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway
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