Back in High School during a summer break I started playing one of the Harvest Moon games on Gamecube. It was fun, charming, and casual. I was enjoying playing something so relaxing, until I got to a point where it was so incredibly repetitive and no longer held my interest. It was at this point that I realized, overall I didn’t really enjoy sim games in general. So even though I did really enjoy my time in the farming sim genre, it was short lived. Popolocrois sells itself as a farming sim, but after my time with it, is it one?
The story of PopoloCrois follows the story of young Prince Pietro on his 13th birthday. Despite the reason for celebration the King has concerns about a darkness spreading making the soil unable to produce crops and has placed his trust in the council of a woman from another world suffering from the same phenomenon. Her solution involves sending Pietro to her world, Galariland, to teach him, pure of heart, the ways that her world is fighting back against the darkness. This is however a trap, meant to remove Pietro from the picture as he is the only one who could stop her plan of spreading the darkness in Popolocrois. Upon arrival in Galariland he is captured.
Luckily his escape is aided by a blue furred wolf. After his escape he is found by a couple of locals who nurse him back to health. Pietro then finds himself on an abandoned farm, and after confronting and defeating the darkness decides that while he’s in Galariland figuring stuff out he might as well do some farming. Shortly after that he is joined by one of the guys who helped nurse him back to health and then by a guy with a pumpkin on his head and together they set out on a journey to purge the darkness from the land and save Galariland and in turn Popolocrois.
Gameplay consists of navigating around the maps, random encounter battles, and farming. The combat is turn based with an added movement aspect. This movement almost tactics aspect at first feels like its going to add a lot, but it doesn’t really seem to make much of an impact. Once the characters are in range, they don’t really move much since it doesn’t make a difference what side you are attacking them on. Only some of the special attacks have a movement aspect to them. The duo special moves are fun though and the simple combat does help keep the overall experience fairly casual for an rpg experience. The good news is you can go into the menu and change the encounter rate.
The farming portion is pretty typical fare to the farming sim genre. You prep each soil spot, you plant seeds, water, harvest, and sell. Some seeds can only be grown in certain farms, which you gain access to throughout the game. Outside of that though you’re not seeing anything groundbreaking. Lastly comes navigating the world, this is the weakest gameplay points since the world is a fully fleshed world, however movement is 8 directional. The world and the movement are in constant conflict and requires constant route correction since the world was not built with this particular movement scheme in mind. This also creates some confusion because when you go to your farms the camera angle shifts greatly to shift into a more grid based viewpoint. Moving around the maps was easily the most frustrating thing I encountered in this game.
The strongest element that Return to Popolocrois brings to the table is the visuals. Starting up the game presents you with one of my favorite opening cinematics to date combining a beautiful artistic style with 3D. The in game graphics are pleasant, fun, and solid. Everything is clear, the designs are nice, and everything fits together with nothings seeming out of place. The battle animations are fun
Return to Popolocrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale is an RPG/Farm Sim that its ease of play and charming presentation still make it an enjoyable experiences despite its flaws. If you are a younger gamer in the 7-15 year range add 1 to my final score. I would have definitely enjoyed this game more if I were younger. Unfortunately being released so close to the critically acclaimed Stardew Valley, Popolocrois’s flaws become even more apparent when compared. Its a farming sim that does everything it can to not be just a farming sim and both major elements of this game suffer as a result. Overall it is still a fun casual RPG with lighthearted themes, character, and some farming too.