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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 3
PUBLISHER:
SCEA
DEVELOPER:
Game Republic
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
October 09, 2007
IN THE SERIES
Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner

 Written by Chris Reiter  on September 10, 2007

Hands-On Preview: The thing about my Folks... is that their Ids don't indicate they're human. Not human, no alcohol!


Sony has been in need of a strange and unusually compelling Japanese game on their PlayStation 3 system for quite some time. You know, one of those releases that becomes a sleeper hit in the end. Essentially, a game not many people are blabbing about and yet is slowly finding its way to make itself known, Folklore is one such adventure game being handled by Gaia -- a small studio founded by the father of the Shin Megami Tensei series, Kouji Okada -- and Game Republic, the people behind Genj: Dawn of the Samurai and Genji: Days of the Blade. Whether these smaller studios can coexist to make a game that gets put into the spotlight and finds its fans like their other games have isn't known yet. But, if you take a look at these hands-on impressions from Sony's recently released Folklore demo, you'll certainly get a sense of what's to come.



Ireland's got more than just ale to guzzle down, laddy. It's got a history of haunted roots, and a new chapter that is about to unfold on that very subject. 17 years ago a young lady named Ellen's mother died. Ellen's mother has written her a letter that's just been delivered to her 17 years after the demise of her mother. The letter asks of Ellen to meet her in the town of Doolin, a place where the living can visit the underworld. On a similar, but different path, a male journalist named Keats who handles the occult section in a magazine has received a phone call from an unknown female voice asking for his help. It's in this instance he gets sucked into the fantastical mystery himself, intending to find out just what the hell is happening around here.

Mapping out Sony's Folklore is a hack 'n slash arrangement that's not typical of the genre. In the game you're not going to actually play as Ellen and Keats at the same time or at different intervals; you're going to play through it as Ellen or Keats, each with their own version of the plot written out that will end up intertwining in some ways. The demo itself contains a sample of the fantasy realms, which take place in the Netherworld (or the land of the dead), where the characters start out with their spirit guide instructing them on the deal. Ellen gets to go to a place assumed to be a version of Heaven, a fluffier location where she's instructed that she'll come in contact with Folks along the path. Folks are aggressive creatures that contain an Id or a spirit you can literally capture and harness as your own once it is defeated. Keats has the same deal, but his dimensional location seems more like he's stuck in Hell. Surrounded by flames everywhere, his spirit guide is an invisible body inside a Phantom of the Opera getup. Where Ellen's fight seems easier on the whole, Keats's trial felt tougher on the dork.

Though Ellen and Keats are not actually experienced fighters, this is something you don't have to worry about as you'll start the journey with three default Folk Ids. These are automatically assigned to the individual face buttons, which makes it easy to remember where they are when also displayed on the screen along with your health and magic meters (which is spent every time you attack, then filling itself up). Just pressing the corresponding face button to whichever one you need, be it an attack from Ellen's giant eagle creature that appears in front of her to strongly blow (air) to Keats's cannon-firing thingamajig or the shield monster, which both characters have to envelop them for incoming danger. It's possible to dodge attacks as well with the R2 button, and locking on with L1 will be constantly in use in order to single out enemies. It's just too bad that the mapping system is confusing at times as well as the close-ups of the camera angle.

Taking an example of this in Ellen's case, floating enemies appear on the screen, which drop yucky goo on top of her that gets her stuck in one place. The only way to break free is by rotating the left analog stick. The thing is that most enemies are ground-based. When you get up to this part, unleashing a Folk power upon these annoying critters seems to do nothing, as they'll hover on top of you as the Folks always spring out right in front of where you stand. So, the idea then is to try and back away some to an angle where you have to sort of guess is the right position in which targeting with the L1 key is a must. Otherwise, attempting to defeat these things would be folly. The thing that makes the game of Folklore unique in its own way is that when you do actually kill off a creature, you can then use that same enemy to do your dirty work. You'll collect the Ids of Folks along the way by hitting them enough times so that eventually you'll see a red-shaded spirit springing out of their body somewhat, which then needs to be grabbed by pressing R1 and simultaneously shaking the SIXAXIS controller up and down to wrestle it away. Tapping on L2 then will bring up the list of all the Ids in your possession, which is where you'll arrange and rearrange the four Folk to appear on your screen's attack menu. Sometimes though, certain Folks like boss enemies have a different approach to obtaining their Id, in which you'll need to pay attention to scenes of a dancing SIXAXIS controller you'll imitate the actions of in order to juice a bar with capturing energy, or the need to yank the controller upward every time a fallen boss monster turns red. You can collect as many as the same kind of Id as you want to power them up and from multiple foes at a time. But the hacking, slashing and shaking mechanics do feel like they may make the game's battles in the final release a little too tedious.

At this time, Folklore resembles a PlayStation 3 game that looks nice, but ultimately isn't charging in with that "wow factor" most high profile games will set the bar for. Instead, Folklore's niceness portrays a pretty and totally twisted world either surrounded by flowery forest fields on Ellen's part or a burning city of debris on Keats's half. One notable element the game's got going for it by the barrel full is its abundant use of hued lighting. Floating and flowing colors are everywhere as you bring hurt upon the creatures whose Ids you're trying to snag. And as their blue Id turns from a coat of blue to reddish, a bright funnel of oozing colors snaps back to your character to continue on. The levels are bright, but also a bit bare without much to see besides you coming under attack by a pack of critters, which aren't shaping up as the most interesting of enemy types. There are smaller woodland elves and tentacle creatures; there's bigger baddies that open and close a shell to initiate a roll attack, as well as a dark-coated figure that not only fire projectiles but lashes a flame outward in the Keats section. The game isn't bad looking, to say the least. It could look a lot worse, but it could also look much better than it does.

Folklore's sound design, much like the visuals, isn't coming along in the most inspirational fashion. The game fleshes out the standard hitting noises when dealing against aggressors. Though in this case, obviously it's a bit different with some rushing gusts of wind or a pounding here or there from some other creature type. The orchestrated music drives the battles in a sense, although it feels too repetitive while looping the same trumpeted or mystical tune that personalizes one area or the other. Plus, the music doesn't seem like it'll be the type that's going to make you want to order the soundtrack once the game is released. The only thing missing from the demo was some vocals, in which there was a small dosage of in-game dialogue that went by unheard.

Final Thoughts
Not the next Ratchet and Clank, not the next Killzone, and definitely not the next Metal Gear Solid, Folklore stands alone as something else. Something small maybe, but what it's got going for it at least is something unheard of in its own little measurement. Folklore is Sony's ticket for those gamers who aren't just looking forward to the big leagues. Introducing them to something besides killer apps for a change, Folklore certainly has a strong standing as a franchise that's not large and manages not to gigantically falter with what it does. Sure, Folklore isn't gunning to be the prettiest or most outstanding game you'll ever play, but it's got something going for it. And come October, maybe that's all it needs.


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