I find it fairly unusual to see Sony bringing out some of the most unique looking titles for their consoles. Generally, the really quirky and un-Western software tends to stem from the much smaller, independent publishers and developers. But over the years, Sony has been responsible for a lot of very unique games, such as Ico, Shadow of Colossus, the lesser known Okage, and now Folklore. Sony's managed to quickly emerge as the premier developer of a genre that Nintendo once held a grasp over.
It only takes one quick glance at their line-up of action/adventure games to realize what we've already been treated to. And thanks to Game Republic, Sony has brought us yet another splendid piece of entertainment. Folklore is the game formerly known as Unknown Realms: Monster Kingdom, so in case you're wondering where Folklore popped out from, here's your answer. After a lackluster showing with Genji: Days of the Blade, Game Republic has come back to bring us a terrific journey, and I'm impressed.
Folklore is impressive largely because it's unlike any action/adventure game you've played before. It has an engrossing and captivating feel to it that is unusually addictive. While the action isn't as lightning fast as Devil May Cry, the overall gameplay is still equally engaging. Your combat revolves around controlling the souls of creatures that you've absorbed. Your face buttons (X, O, Square, Triangle) represent which monster's powers you can use in an action (be it attack or defense). There is a wide variety of the kind of monsters you will come across and absorb. You'll have a total of 100 Folks to collect in the game, with more featured in add-on packs.
There'll be monsters that'll allow you to perform quick melee attacks, gigantic boss-like monsters that'll pulverize everything in their path, monsters that'll give you the ability of shielding yourself, and so on. There's a different type of beast for whatever the occasion or objective may require. There are no drawn-out sequences for when you summon a monster, it's absolutely instantaneous. Basically, think of these monsters as battle equipment that no different than having a sword, gun, or shield in Devil May Cry.
Absorbing a monster means you have to fight and stun the enemy so that it's soul is weakened and briefly detaches itself. When you're close to defeating an enemy/monster, you can choose to finish him off for good or absorb its soul. But you're not limited to the tedium of absorbing souls one-by-one; you can actually absorb a multitude of souls all at once. If the enemies are all within your sight/on the screen, you'll be able to absorb them all. I've managed to capture six simultaneously, so far, but I know more can be done. Absorbing gives you EXP, which in turn will grant you further powers. And how does absorbing work? A quick jolt downwards of the SixAxis will take care of most enemies. Meanwhile, for larger boss-like monsters, timed downward jolts, side-to-side slamming motions, and such will be required.
Slamming motions, you ask? Certain bosses will require you to slam their soul onto the ground, from one side to the other. So you'll turn the controller left, then right, then left, then right, slamming the soul to the ground with every turn. And it works so well. Folklore features one of the best implementations of the SixAxis' motion sensing capabilities. Bravo. During combat, Keats and Ellen will have the ability to also gather energy scattered from the perishing of monsters, and unleash it, raising their strength and speed ten-fold, as well as changing their aesthetic appearance to that of a more possessed appearance.
Folklore takes you through two interwoven storylines through seven different realms of the Netherworld. The decisions you make during one story will directly affect the way the parallel story unfolds. One character is Ellen, and the second character is Keats. Ellen's storyline starts out with her receiving a letter from her long-dead mother. The writing on the letter states that Ellen's mother wants to see her, and instructs Ellen to go to the town of Lemrick, where she meets Keats.
Keats is the editor for Unknown Realms magazine, thus the game's original title. His storyline begins when he receives a phone call from a woman asking for his help, that the fairies would kill her, and to also visit Lemrick. When he gets to the town, he discovers the death of a girl - could this girl have spoken to Keats from the beyond? Both characters will eventually journey into a realm filled with spirits and souls, in which they'll be granted with the abilities to capture these souls. With that, the game begins and the fantastic story-telling is well underway.
What's pretty nifty is the ability to create your own custom rooms, or dungeons, if you will, and allow other Folklore gamers to play them. The share system is quite reminiscent of how LittleBigPlanet will eventually work, albeit without the multiplayer aspect of it all. So those who complete Folklore will still have something to come back to frequently. In addition to user created content, downloadable game-packs will also be posted on the PlayStation Network, and they will range between 3-4 hours of length each pack, as well as featuring a new Folk to capture and use. Very cool.
Folklore's visual style is unlike any other game you've ever seen. The world is mixed with the most vibrant colors you can imagine coupled with a very broodish color palette. The results are awe-inspiring, and truly define what the high-definition era is all about. Folklore is a virtual book unraveling on your screen. And just like a book, the game's visuals are so wild that it's almost as if you're imagination is bringing a novel to fruition right in front of you.
Yes, it may sound a little overly poetic, but that's precisely how you can describe Folklore's aesthetic style. To put it into perspective, imagine Pan's Labyrinth with a spice of Tim Burton - though that still doesn't capture the game's beauty. The game utilizes a great graphics engine, with the final product running at 30 frames at a resolution of 720p. What I especially love about Folklore is how smooth and silky everything looks on screen.
Almost anywhere you look, you'll see very sharp texture detail, be it on the walls or the floor, it's all wonderful. Character detail, as well as art, really makes this game stand out among anything else out there. You've never seen a game with monsters and characters that look like this. Moreover, you've never seen environments as lush as the ones in Folklore, either. Add up the entire package, and it's pretty obvious that Folklore is nothing but a high-definition, artistic masterpiece.
Lastly, as with any game that has an intricate plot, Folklore features the appropriate voice acting to help unravel the story during each one of the cutscenes. The voice actors do a great job of delivering their lines, as they exchange dialogue with near perfection. Now when you feature the type of atmosphere that Folklore has, you simply can't expect a soundtrack to be anything but beautiful. And such is the case with Folklore, as it's got all the right noise to backup its atmospheric genius. Bravo, Game Republic.
Would you be shocked to hear that the creator of Folklore, and the founder of Game Republic, is also the creator of Street Fighter II? It's a little unusual to hear, but it is the truth. Yoshiki Okamoto is his name, and if Folklore is any kind of indication of what we can expect from him and his team at Game Republic (barring Genji 2), then we've certainly got a lot to look forward to. Folklore is the epitome of imaginative videogaming, it reminds me of what I felt when I first played ICO 6 years ago on, and it's a shame that yet another game may go largely unnoticed by most gamers. Hopefully, word of mouth spreads quickly, because Folklore is definitely not something that should be missed out on.
10/5/2007 Arnold Katayev