FolksSoul: Ushinawareta Denshou / Folklore (Sony Playstation 3, 2007)

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She's Alllllllways After Me Lucky Charms - Folklore

Nov 20, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great story and fun gameplay, great voice acting

Cons:Design choices make things repetitive, minimal voice acting

The Bottom Line: Ellen knows how to shake her booty.


Sony has released an avalanche of games for its PlayStation 3 in recent months, with the quietest release of all being Game Republic's Folklore. Touted as an RPG-lite with a focus on action and Pokemon-style collecting, Folklore is certainly different than the rest of the PS3's library, helping it stand out amongst the pack of shooters and other action games that have dominated the next-generation landscape. The unique choice of having a realistic world blend in with the high-fantasy world only adds to the unusual flavor; it looks like nothing else out there right now. Some may find the gameplay is a touch repetitive and the story a bit slow to unravel, but those who do stick around get to see a beautiful, fun game mixed in with a plot that's full of twists and turns, many of which are pleasantly surprising. With the mass of games hitting PS3 this fall it's easy to ignore a game like Folklore, but if you're at all interested in kooky action games with an RPG twist and love a story that plays out like a good book, you should definitely give the game a shot.

What's real...and what's imaginary?
At the heart, Folklore is a mystery. In more general terms, it's a murder mystery. The main female character, Ellen, gets a letter from her mother to visit the Irish coast town of Doolin. The big problem here is that her mother is supposedly dead, but that's beside the point. Ellen naturally goes, and once she arrives, the wheels begin to turn – she sees a woman, who Ellen believes to be her mother, die and fall off a cliff. At the very same time, Keats, a reporter for Unknown Realms magazine, gets a frantic call from a Doolin resident begging for help, which leads him to witness the same death, and thusly the murder mystery begins. For both Ellen and Keats, their goals bring them to the supernatural Netherworld, otherwise known as the land of the dead, where they can converse with the deceased and unravel bits and pieces of the strange happenings of Doolin and its residents. In order to do so, however, the duo must handle business down in the Netherworld, where a civil war of sorts is going on, with the two sides fighting over their role to the living. It's not as interesting as the mystery going on in the real world, but it adds some depth to your surroundings.

Gotta catch 'em all
Folklore's gameplay may remind many of Xbox 360 launch game Kameo, in that neither Ellen or Keats do any physical attacking, but instead summon the “Folks” to do the fighting for them. Both characters get a few Folks to start with at the outset, and then they're used to attack other enemies. Defeat them, and you can use the Sixaxis to absorb their “souls” of sorts and then use them in battle. The Sixaxis implementation is natural and though it's not something that seems totally necessary, it works. At the outset all you have to do is flick the controller upwards to suck out the enemy's soul, but as you progress, and fight bosses, the process gets more complicated and moves to using rhythm, learning how to balance the motion sensor, or merely tilting side to side. Then once you own them, you can go into a menu and map a Folk to one of the four face buttons on the PS3 controller and put 'em to use, or set up a palette to swap between for specific situations. Every Folk has a weakness and a strength so part of the game is the strategy of figuring out which Folk does the most damage to a specific enemy. And you shouldn't just do this just to earn new Folks – getting more souls for a Folk unlocks more abilities for the Folks, and also levels up Ellen or Keats.

The flow of the game follows the same path throughout. Every chapter begins in Doolin proper, where either Ellen or Keats have to speak to a resident of the town to unravel bits and pieces of the past, and then get a memento of a dead resident which is used to open a path to the Netherworld. Once there the goal is to fight through and battle the boss of each “layer” of the Netherworld, which is called a Folklore. The boss battles take the gameplay to added heights, with multiple tactics needed to defeat them. The quirk about fighting bosses is that nobody tells you the weakness of a boss. Of course the game isn't trying to be mean, as you will get the necessary hints if you find the proper book page scattered in the levels. These books aren't too blatant – the text is unintelligible, with only pictures showing the proper method of attack with the needed Folks. It's an interesting way of doing things. As it requires some thinking to figure out which Folks the book are referencing since sometimes they're obscured. To compliment the main story, you can warp back to Doolin and tackle numerous side-quests for both day and night crowds (at the town bar).

As Folklore stars two main characters, you'd expect to play as both. This is true, but it's done differently than you might expect. In order to finish the game, you have to finish each chapter with both characters, which means visiting the same locations and taking the same paths...twice. Now it's not completely the same; the Doolin story elements are a bit different, and each character has unique Folks to acquire, or at least similar ones with different abilities. Not only that, but both characters have different side-quests and the Folklore battle features totally different strategies. The game is pretty liberal in how you progress through; you could play each chapter back to back with both characters until you reach the point where the two stories combine, or play with one character all the way until you can't anymore, and then go with the other character. Or anything between. Whatever works, because indeed this can make the game feel repetitive and artificially lengthened – since if you avoid side-quests it can be beaten in 10 hours. The gameplay is a one-trick pony, so if you're not high on it, I can imagine Folklore growing tiresome. But if you do dig the style of play there's a lot here.

Why choose between art and realism when you can have both?
The visual presentation of Folklore is certainly unique and interesting. Technically the game looks great, with the realistic style of Doolin, mixed in with the colorful and absurdly Japanese stylings of the Netherworld levels, whether it's a war-torn battlefield, a forest-like Faery home, or the underwater city. It's the sort of imaginative stuff that Japan does so well, and we've seen so little of it this generation. There's not a lot of CG, instead going for an RPG like conversation system and a cool comic book like look to most cutscenes, but what is CG looks stupendous. Unfortunately the comic book scenes lack any sort of voices, which makes things feel a bit...old. The CG scenes feature voice, which demonstrate that the voice acting is really good – making it even weirder that they used it so little. The soundtrack is suitably creepy in the Doolin side, fitting the very uneasy feeling of the town; and on the other hand, the music in the Netherworld stages are as whimsical as the worlds they represent; hiding in the background when exploring but booming to life when a battle breaks out.

Closing Argument
Folklore is one of those games that might seem familiar on the surface, but rest assured there's nothing like it on the PS3. The story might take a while to unfold, but the payoff is there. The gameplay might be a bit strained and repetitive in points, but it manages to remain fun thanks to the draw of finding out what's next. Otherwise, Folklore is a polished, enjoyable, and cerebral game that grows and grows as you progress through each chapter. Games like Folklore are the backbone of any console – a non-mainstream, niche game that might only appeal to a specific audience, but serves as a great sleeper hit for that audience. It's obviously lost in the mix of an insane holiday season, but Folklore should be given a shot regardless, whether its now, or later once the avalanche of games comes to a conclusion. The label of “RPG” might be a grab for that audience since the only real RPG elements are experience points and HP, but action/adventure fans, and those looking for a good story to both watch unfold and predict, Folklore fits the bill as a surprise hit that will likely someday be right up there on the list of underappreciated PS3 games.


Recommend this product? Yes


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