A bumper crop of variety
The PopoloCrois franchise has been around in Japan for some time now. The West saw its first run-in with the franchise, that spans much more than just games, starting with a manga series, on the PSP. Now, the PopoloCrois series gets entangled with the Story of Seasons series. Combining a fair bit of dungeon-crawling with the farming simulation fun of the Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon brands, Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale delivers an engaging story with pleasing characters and dialogue and accessible gameplay to all.
You play as Prince Pietro, a son of the PopoloCrois royal family, who has multiple adventures and savings of the kingdom under his belt. The game begins with a prologue, taking place in PopoloCrois, having players become accustomed to controlling Pietro and meeting with the locals. After a birthday celebration for Pietro, an evil sorceress covers the kingdom into the blackness, sending Pietro away to a foreign land known as Galariland. In order to "return to PopoloCrois", Pietro must remove the dreaded Black Beasts from the land that are causing the once rich farming soil of the land to be as useful as a screen door on a submarine, and return to his homeland to rescue it from the darkness that has engulfed it.
|Don't take too many of the sights in, Pietro and co. There are two lands to save!|
|Attacking from a foe's front is brave, but it won't deal the most damage.|
|Meanwhile, attacking from the side or from an enemy's flank will deal more damage.|
In the beginning chapters of Return to PopoloCrois, you'll want to put the random encounters on low, as there is a good amount of backtracking and moving through areas full of weak enemies. It's not until a couple of chapters in that Pietro receives the ultra helpful ability of fast travel, allowing him and his party to move instantly to most notable locations such as towns and farms under Pietro's control. This fast travel ability allows for an easier time and go of it for visiting potential love interests, taking on NPC quests, and returning to the various unlocked farms to grow crops and raise cattle.
If you thought Story of Seasons's farming was a bit convoluted and time-consuming, full of micromanaging all aspects of the farm, then you'll find Return to PopoloCrois's farming a welcomed breath of fresh air. Farming is a simple as tending to the soil, putting a seed in the ground, watering it, and then returning to the scene to harvest it. Some seeds require a second round of watering, but you need not worry about forgetting, as the game smartly gives you notifications at the exact moment your crops are ready for the next step towards harvesting.
|It seems the farming life has been very good to Pietro. May I taste a strawberry?|
Though billed as a major part of Return to PopoloCrois, this being a Story of Seasons-related game and all, farmwork is all but necessary to enjoy the game. If you don't want to farm or harvest crops at all, you don't have to. While this is nice for those who have no interest in a farmer's life, knowing that such a heavily featured part of the game is pretty much just fluff is a bit disappointing.
When you're not completing side quests or living life on one of the game's many farms, you'll be exploring dungeons. There are two types: field dungeons and regular dungeons. Field dungeons feature labyrinths full of narrow paths that are easy to get lost in. The problem here is that you have to go through so many field dungeons that have one of three different location themes that this process becomes tedious. The story-related dungeons don't fare much better, also filled with maze-like narrow pathways. The main temples of the game have the same background only with a different color, and also suffer from having the same boss each time. Fortunately, the areas and paths that connect the land of Galariland are much more interesting to explore.
|Journey to places both fantastical and more grounded in reality in Galariland.|
|The dialogue is extremely well written throughout Return to PopoloCrois.|
|Lily, it'd be great if you quit "bugging" ME.|
[SPC Says: C+]