It is with great joy that I can report, after spending many, many hours in PopoloCrois (or rather “that other land” -without spoiling too much-), that it is indeed a place for a fairytale to take place. But the fairytale was of my own device: after being stressed for so long, I finally found a game in which I can just relax and enjoy seemingly mundane tasks without worry or shame.
You play as Pietro, the Prince of PopoloCrois! And you must save your land from the evil Darkness that’s plaguing its fertile lands and affecting the lives of its inhabitants.
The gameplay is a weird mixture of very light turn-based battles (although you can turn the difficulty up to 11 if that’s your thing), crafting and… farming? Yes, as this is a Story of Seasons + PopoloCrois mix, you get to farm. And oh, what a joy it is.
There are many things you can plant, and many things you can do with your produce after you’ve harvested it. The process is simple yet satisfying: you plant the seed, water the seed, go on a battle or two, and come back to your farm and find a nice little vegetable in full bloom.
This mixture of traditional RPG mechanics and “farming” is at the core of the game, and it’s executed to perfection. You can also do some light mining and catching of bugs, although both are more secondary than the farming. One thing that is missing, and that I think could have been implemented easily, is fishing. It has been already implemented in Pokemon games and I think it would have complemented the “self-made resource-prince” concept rather well.
Even though the battles take a bit of a backseat, they are still very fun if you decide to take part in them manually (there’s an “Auto” option if you wish to speed past them). Considering that battles are not the main attraction, I was really impressed by the variety of enemies in the game. Even in games where battling IS the focus, and there’s a lot of grinding, you can see the famous “let’s change the color and it’ll be a new enemy” mentality (Criminal Girls comes to mind). Return to PopoloCrois has a fantastic diversity in both flora and fauna, making it a joy to behold.
Speaking of which… who knew 3DS games could look this good? The developers knew exactly what kind of graphics the 3DS is good at delivering, and went for them full-on. Think Pokemon ORAS, but even prettier AND with 3D available everywhere.
The voice acting is superb, having 2 Japanese tracks and one in English, if you’re into sacrilege. The sound effects are also great, but the music falls a bit short. The combat music specially lacks variety and can make you turn the “Auto” battle function on, even if you did want to take part in the combat.
The game is brimmed with content, and I can easily see someone putting 100hs into it without a hitch. The only issue I have with this is that it was a full hour of reading texts and introductions before I was able to get into the game proper. I think this is a bit long, even by RPG standards. I wish I could have got into planting sooner.
All in all, Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale is a fantastic game for people of all ages. It’s super safe for children, affording endless hours of entertainment. And it’s an innocent escape for adults looking to get away from the daily grind of real life, into a world where you can just plant a potato.