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December 18, 2007
Folklore - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
19/10/2007SonySonyGame Republic1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Character design is very impressive.
Nowadays, there are so many games that get released that are just sequels, or remakes, or carbon copies of other successful titles (see: GTA clones), that there is always a lot of excitement when a developer does make the move for new IP. The results can be a bit hit and miss and a lot of good ideas fail while others flourish. One new IP that seemed to stay below the radar a bit is now out and in our lounge rooms, under the alias Folklore, or the alternate title of Folksoul in Japan. Even when it hit Japan shores months ago, sales were less than encouraging. Now we have done the hard yards and played through the game just to tell you how good or bad it is... aren't we nice?

Based on Irish folk stories, the game puts players in the role of two characters whose paths cross on more than a handful of occasions. Among the dead souls, faeries and other residents of the netherworld, players will assume the role of either Ellen, a beautiful young lady seeking the truth about her mother's disappearance, and Keats, a reporter for an occult magazine investigating Doolin, the town where the living can meet the dead. What the two get is a wild adventure neither were prepared for, where the border between our world and that of the dead is removed, allowing them to freely access both as the two try to piece together all the pieces of their respective puzzles and make some sort of sense of it all.

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As are all the graphics actually.
With a massive back-catalogue of lore to draw upon, Folklore offers a huge variety of enemies, over 100, as well as many different locales, and story devices that really add a beautiful sense of atmosphere to the release. Characters range from the norm, through to talking scarecrows, faerie lords, and a whole heap of other strange creatures that you won't soon be forgetting throughout your journey in the unknown realms of the deceased.

As far as the game goes, the game play is really, like many Adventure-RPGs, separated into two facets, being exploration and combat. Exploration is played much like your standard RPGs such as the Final Fantasy series, Star Ocean, Shadow Hearts and so on, with 3D environments that often have multiple exits to other areas connecting. Enemies are visible and random encounters are not something you have to worry about here. In fact, combat takes place in the same realm as exploring, meaning you can, if so inclined, simply meander along and ignore enemies, assuming you don't allow them to attack you too much. However, to do so would be an exercise in self-masochism, as the unique combat system here is certainly the defining feature of Folklore.

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Some of the games gorgeous effects.
Upon meeting enemies, they will begin to fight, meaning you have only two choices; run, or fight back. The latter is by far the most enjoyable and, obviously, the intended choice. Combat is based upon pressing a combination of the action buttons (X, O, Square and Triangle) to attack based upon the soul or ‘Id' assigned to said button. Ellen and Keats play a little different in this regard, as Ellen summons characters to aid her, whilst Keats utilises them as attacks. All this really means is that each Id provides a different attack for each of the two, but combat is more or less similar, albeit with different moves, regardless of who you play as.

Obviously, it would become exceedingly repetitive and mundane were there to be no sort of regulation stopping players from simply mashing buttons over and over, so two systems have been put into place to promote variety in your attacks. Firstly, you have a bar that acts much like mana in other RPGs, where attacks will drain this. If it gets empty, you have to wait for it to recover, making you somewhat the sitting duck. Stronger attacks, using more powerful souls, will drain this quicker than less powerful strikes. The second system in place is that some enemies, particularly bosses and mini-bosses, are not susceptible to particular attacks, meaning that you may have a mere handful of Ids, out of the many, many possible that might do damage to particular enemies. This can result in a bit of trial and error if you do not look at the Id cards that will give you an image; supplying vital clues as to what attacks are designed for what particular enemy.

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Folklore is certainly a game to check out.
When you have done enough damage to an enemy, their Id will appear red above their body, and providing you are quick enough and don't kill the creature beforehand, you are able to harvest this Id, either to increase the number of possible attacks you can do, or to power up some of your current moves. To do this, you simply flick the SIXAXIS controller up when the Id is red. More powerful enemies will require multiple, well-timed flicks in order to pull their Id out of their physical form, resulting in a feeling of battling with the beasts. It's certainly a very unique combat system that can be a lot of fun, but it is also something that players are likely to love or hate.

For instance, at times I really got into combat, and it kept me playing the game for longer, while at other times I simply longed for a button to provide the same functionality as the motion censoring. I also found that it was, sometimes, a little hit-and-miss with collecting multiple Ids at once, however, a discussion with a friend who also has the game has lead me to believe this may have been my fault, or perhaps something that was changed between our review release and the final retail release.

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Gameplay is quite unique too...
Besides this, faults in Folklore are more subjective than anything. Personally I found little reason to get into both stories, as both characters are able to be played in the one save game, and if you so wish you can alternate characters through each level. Others have loved this feature, but personally I would have preferred it if it was used as motivation for replay, to play as an alternate character, or if rather than every chapter being played for each character (even though chapters are different for each) they were set to one character at a time, with the occasional choice available. This is, however, going to really fall down to personal preference, and in the end makes the game a lot longer than a single character. I also feel that the game could have benefitted from some sort of real side-quest system.

One thing that certainly does stand out as a true strength of Folklore is the artistic style to which the game subscribes. I don't think I could ever walk into a room where someone was playing the game and mistake it for something else, as it definitely has a very haunting magical look about it, almost Tim Burton-esque, but... well different. Unfortunately, as nice as it looks, particularly the character design which is superb, there are some issues with stuttering frame rates, and even a few dodgy animations from time to time. Overall though, the game looks quite special and the CGI cut-scenes give even Square-Enix CGI a run for its money.

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I'm running out of caption ideas!
Similarly, audio is a little inconsistent. Music is amazing and really adds to the atmosphere of the game, but sound effects are hardly memorable. They aren't particularly bad, just nothing special, while voice acting is, thankfully, quite solid. We don't even need Japanese audio here, as the English voices are quite satisfactory.

It's fairly hard to say that Folklore isn't a great game, however it falls just below a must have release and it certainly isn't going to appeal to everyone. Some players will get extremely frustrated and never complete the game, whilst others may get a little bored with some slightly repetitive combat and levels. Other players are going to place this up next to their other all time favourites and play it many times. Perhaps it's best to give it a rent and make up your own mind if you are still unsure at this point, but Folklore is definitely a game we won't forget anytime soon, if for no other reason than the atmosphere it provides.

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

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GRAPHICSMega points for artistic style, but there are some technical issues that do get in the way of things.
SOUNDBeautiful soundtrack, nice voice acting, fairly standard effects. Nothing horrid here.
GAMEPLAYUnique and not for everyone. You'll either love it or you won't. We certainly enjoyed it though.
VALUEAbout 15-20 hours to complete the game, more to collect all the Ids for both characters, but little reason to touch it after completion.
OVERALLUnfortunately I feel the game falls short of what it could have been. Nonetheless, there's fun to be had. Why not give it a go?

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