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  opened by paleface at 18:41:30 09/01/08  
  last modified by paleface at 20:43:57 02/05/24  
  paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Role_Playing; loc=NA]
Folklore is an action RPG, normally what I would call a "beat-em-up," only action stages are interspersed with talking/exploration occult detective stages with no actual action at all aside from running around.
Although it only runs up to 720p, Folklore looks pretty darn good, with a weirdly fantastic, colorful design to it, at least in the action "Netherworld" stages. The two characters spit out pleasing-looking magical creature effects as they attack enemies, and there's often quite a bit of background detail--so much that it can be hard to take everything in at once.
The gameplay can be pretty fun. You run through semi-linear "Netherworld" action stages, fighting off monsters, sucking up their souls, and eventually finding your way to the boss, whose overthrow requires combining a certain sequence of soul attacks.
You can have four souls armed at once, each mapped to a face button on the controller. Souls will have some sort of attack corresponding to the creature type whose soul it was: if you take out a flying guy who drops goo on you, for instance, and suck up his soul, you'll gain access to a soul attack that spawns a little flying guy who drops goo on your enemies--if you aim him correctly, that is.
If you're watching carefully, along the way you'll find pages from a picture-book showing the particular sequence of soul attacks that will be required to defeat the boss creature. So you've got to make sure you've got all those souls, then get yourself to the boss. There are a few other things to do along the way, though. You may wish to power up your soul attacks, which can be "levelled" three additional stages, by meeting arbitrary requirements: sucking up a certain number of that soul type, defeating a particular enemy a certain number of times with that soul attack, collecting x number of items of a certain type, etc.
That can be a little tedious, and involve much running back and forth between rooms; re-entering a room always respawns all the enemies in that room. That's great and all for "farming" stuff, but it's an ancient action game schtick that fortunately has for the most part gone by the wayside these days.
The other thing to do is finding bonus costumes for the two playable characters. These are hidden in certain stages, and may require that you perform certain unstated actions, which is also kind of a pain. Costumes give you certain enhancements or protective properties, though, which is presumably why you'd take the time looking in a FAQ (let's face it) to figure out how to get them. If you've been a micro-transaction sucker (sigh) on the PS3 online store, you'll have bought yourself access to variant versions of each of the costumes, too. You can also purchase (in the PS3 online store) additional side quests run from the town's tavern, but I didn't try any of those.
Between the action Netherworld bits, you walk around the tiny "real world" English town in which a series of mysterious murders have taken place, talking to people and finding the next object that will trigger a memory that opens the next Netherworld portal. These parts are boring, and not because the town is hum-drum, in a nice-looking towny way, but because the conversations are text-only, accompanied only by generic idle animations, and are rather slow to click through. Although they're presented in what's supposed to be a dynamic "comic-book" type slide-show, they're still dull, and not at all up to what we'd like to see in the way of presentation standards for a modern RPG, unfortunately.
It doesn't help that the story, such as it is--something about this series of murders decades ago, occult/family connections, etc--unfolds very, very slowly, and that the characters themselves have rather lackluster personalities. Of the two playable characters, the young woman Ellen comes off as severely timid and mousey (ooh but she has a dark side...maybe? too slow...), and the young man, Keats, a snoopy editor for a paranormal magazine, is sharp enough, but doesn't seem to have much personality beyond the typical "handsome, clever, aloof young man in ornate Victorian clothing" riff.
They run across each other here and there in town and in the Netherworld, but they don't really have much to do with each other; they don't even seem to like each other, but they don't dramatically hate each other, either; the relationship, like most in the game, is ambivalent, and uninteresting.
This brings us to another of the game's downfalls: you can play either as Ellen or Keats, through each Netherworld/town stage. If you like the game, or just want to get more than half of the story, you'll end up playing both, which means that you'll essentially be playing through each stage twice. Obviously, the developer or publisher were trying to make the most of a relatively small amount of content, but although the characters play somewhat differently--their soul attacks come out differently--the difference was not great enough, and the way in which the story unfolded was tedious enough, that the repetition of each stage became very tiresome. In fact, I was going to stop playing after the first (very slow) stage, but then the second picked up a bit with a trench-warfare theme in the Netherworld part; but then the third stage turned out to be a watery maze where each new enemy was mysteriously invulnerable to a different half of my soul attacks.
Juggling soul attacks can be interesting, but constant switching between your loaded attacks is not, and, since the AI is about as dumb as can be, and the action isn't very flowing, since you have to stop to fire off a soul attack, finding and testing new soul attack forms is really the highlight of the action phases. This soured on me by the third stage, however, when I realized that each successive stage was rendering my souls from the previous stages obsolete; why did I spend all that time levelling them, then? Stab stab stab.
Loading times are somewhat hefty, and crash-prone; I had the game freeze up on me three times on different loading screens in a single day's play session. The game simply seems to become unstable after you've been running through a certain number of rooms or stages, and considering that the game isn't really that complex or lengthy, how a problem like that got past QA, I can't quite imagine.
Folklore has style, and a germ of an idea in the soul-capturing mechanic, but the recycling of each stage gets old, the crashes are frustrating, and the presentation of the story, though artistic, is decidedly sub-par. Possibly it picks up somehow in later stages, but I doubt I'll be coming back to try to find out.
  paleface 19:09:39 09/01/08
Forgot to mention the music: it ranges from minimal, to nonexistent, to bad. In the quiet town you're mostly treated to a few piano keys here and there, which is fine for the mood I suppose, but in the action areas you're either left listening to annoying, looping background sounds, or some sort of horrid dreck that I've thankfully managed to forget.
  paleface 20:43:57 02/05/24
Folklore was directed by famed ex-Capcom director/producer Yoshiki Okamoto (1942, Final Fight, Street Fighter II, Resident Evil, etc etc etc); he founded Folklore's dev studio, Game Republic.

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