Return to Popolocrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale Review

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Title: Return to Popolocrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale
Developer: Marvelous, XSEED Games
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: 
Digital | Retail

EU Availability: Digital
Block Usage:  12,099

If you haven’t played Harvest Moon in recent years, you probably don’t know that the series now has a new game, called Story of Seasons.  Honestly, I’d heard of Story of Seasons before, but I never put 2-and-2 together to realize that it was actually the new name for Harvest Moon.  So, if you didn’t know, there you have it.  If you’re playing Story of Seasons, you are playing Harvest Moon.

XSEED Games recently localized a title related to Story of Seasons, but more of a cross-over with another franchise, Popolocrois.  This was a popular Manga that spawned a few games based on it and continuing the storyline of the series.  The original Popolocrois game got re-released on the PSP last gen, though it isn’t available for download via PSN if Vita owners wish to play it.

This cross-over was once called Popolocrois Farm Story, as it crossed over Popolocrois with Harvest Moon elements.  Now that we have the localization, I’m ready to give you some information!  Here’s my review of Return of Popolocrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale!

Story

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Return to Popolocrois begins at Prince Pietro’s 13th birthday, only 2 years after the first game in the series and one year after the second game.  We detail the events of those games as an introduction to the characters, and the land of Popolocrois is once again under threat.  Strange, powerful black beasts have shown up, corrupting farmland and attacking citizens.  Prince Pietro volunteers to journey to a faraway world to train to fight back against these beasts, unknown that the plan is actually to strand him there, never to return.

The story details Pietro’s introduction to this new world, making friends and helping restore its land while journeying to find a way to save his own home of Popolocrois.  It certainly doesn’t sound much like a Harvest Moon game, does it?  We will get to that in the next section of the review.

Gameplay

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Return to Popolocrois is a turn-based RPG with farm simulation and character building elements thrown into the mix.  It wouldn’t be fair to say this is half Popolocrois and half Harvest Moon, because it really isn’t.  I would call it a Popolocrois RPG with a bunch of Harvest Moon / Story of Seasons elements thrown into the mix.  You’re gonna be doing some farming, but you’re mostly traveling in a JRPG fashion.

The game progresses in chapters as you journey around the world.  To be able to get home, your main goal will be to open up four gates to four mystical farmlands to find a way home.  Opening these gates has you finding corrupted farmlands and shrinking to have those farms as dungeons, and defeating the boss monsters that are corrupting them.  Only after you do this will the paths open up for you to proceed to the next major areas of the game.

There are also a lot of side-quests you can do, and those side objectives are where Story of Seasons elements show themselves.  Each time you clear a dungeon, you obtain seeds to be able to plant new crops in your farm bases.  You can use these crops to either fulfill side-quests or sell for money for new items and equipment for your party.  Side-Quests will normally have you farming something or fighting off some monster.  Sometimes, you have to do both.

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The other major element from Harvest Moon / Story of Seasons is affection levels with other characters.  In each major town you visit, you’ll encounter girls that are gifted by the fairies of the land.  All of these girls you can be-friend and grow affection with.  This is done by visiting them often, giving them presents, and you can unlock special events with them.  To know which you are gaining affection with, the game will often give you notification messages to say that someone is missing you.

As you proceed through all of this, you will also recruit party members and be fighting in random fights with enemies as you travel the world, much like in traditional RPG games.  It is also worth noting that this isn’t a game where you can see the random encounters.  They just pop up and put you in a battle while traveling, be it in a dungeon or a field area.

Combat functions much like it did in the other Popolocrois games.  When you go into combat, you are all placed on the field and so is the enemy.  During your during, you can move around the field with limited range (similar to how you can in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky).  The goal is to be able to move to have attack range where the enemy is.  When you go up, it shows your range and will highlight an enemy.  You also have skills that have much larger ranges as well as Team Attacks where you can perform even more powerful skills with multi-character attacks.

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Once you win a fight, you gain experience that move towards leveling up to increase your stats as well as learning new skills.  That experience is divided up between your party members.  You start out with only two, but it will quickly end up in a full party, both of characters that automatically join and others that you can choose to let join or not.

I wouldn’t say this is a particularly difficult RPG to play through.  I went through a lot of it without much, if any trouble against bosses.  As long as you fight all of the battles you come across and make sure you take a full party with you, there shouldn’t be many areas where you have issues.  It’s a pretty light and casual RPG.

Overall, it’s a fun RPG, though the simple premise of the dungeons both fits in with casual RPGs and can leave you wanting a bit more.  Each dungeon is just, go in, fight a few random encounters, defeat a boss, done.  While this is the normal trend, they’re all quite short especially when compared to other RPGs, even other casual RPGs.

Controls

Controlling the game I’ve no real issue with.  It works quite well.  First of all, you don’t have any extra control options on the New 3DS.  The Z buttons and C Stick are not used for anything.  So, no need to worry there.  The touch controls also are mostly options.  A few of the touch menus you can use buttons for, though a couple, like the Hints button to tell you where to go next, can only be done on the touch screen.

Moving around can be done with either the D-Pad for walking or Circle Pad for running.  A will let you interact with menus, objects, and people, and B lets you cancel menu options.  X pulls up the customization menu, and that’s about all you’ll be using a lot of throughout the game.

Again, I have no quarrel with the controls.  They are very easy to learn and use, and many are always displayed on the touch screen to ensure that you do not forget how to do certain things, like the customization menu.

Presentation

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Visually, I really have to nitpick.  The cell shading really helps the anime-like presentation show itself, but it’s not quite as refined and smooth as it should be.  If you’re playing on an XL, expect to see tons of jagged edges over practically every character model.  Environments are fine, but character models are fggvery jaggy and blurry at times.  It looks better on a 3DS/2DS, but something to bear in mind.

How the game performance there is nothing wrong with.  The music is great and fits the casual theme well, the load times are short, and I didn’t see any areas where the frames dropped.  The occasional full anime CG scene also helps the presentation with the oldschool RPG feel.

Summary

Return to Popolocrois: A Story of Season Fairytale is, admittedly, more for Popolocrois fans than Story of Seasons / Harvest Moon fans.  It’s a downer that the presentation is very jaggy and dungeons will leave RPG fans wanting more, but it’s got enough lighthearted story, engaging fights, and light farming elements to make it a worthy adventure, even for those new to both series. 

8/10

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