Mio popolo, the time is nearly upon us! (Apologies if my Italian is wrong; I just wanted to use “popolo” in a sentence!)
Return to PopoloCrois: A STORY OF SEASONS Fairytale will be available throughout North America this coming Tuesday (March 1st, 2016), both in brick-and-mortar stores and on the Nintendo 3DS eShop – and if you live in Europe or Australia, you can download your copy from the Nintendo 3DS eShop right nowthanks to our friends at Marvelous Europe!
I’ve talked about this game at great length already in three previous blog entries, so I think (hope?) you guys know what to expect by now. But just in case you don’t, here’s a quick primer:
If you’re looking for crazy game mechanics that totally rewrite the book on RPGs… this is not the game for you. If you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat challenge that’ll test you to your core and prove to the world what a badass gamer you are… this is not the game for you. If you’re looking for a deep farming and/or relationship simulator with thousands of variables working behind the scenes to make each playthrough totally unlike the last… this is not the game for you.
But if you’re looking for something with quality writing, smart characters, charming NPCs, a vibrant world full of life, and an immersive fairytale storyline that you can get lost in – a game to kick back with at the end of a long day, and make you feel like a kid again – then let me tell you, this is absolutely the game for you.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s try something a little different, shall we? There are a lot of small factoids about this game that I’ve been wanting to talk about at length, but can never seem to fit into conversation anywhere. So, without further ado, I present… my top ten list of cool Return to PopoloCrois localization tidbits!
Long-time PopoloCrois fans will no doubt be aware that PopoloCrois Castle is always guarded by two guys named Gon and Don, who are kind of like the PopoloCrois equivalents of Biggs and Wedge… except in this game, they’re gone and done! (Sorry, I had to.)
A new gate guard named Gomer has taken their place, and Gomer plays a rather integral role in the story. But, if you talk to NPCs around PopoloCrois Castle, you’ll definitely hear mention of “the usual two” having gone on vacation. It’s never specified where they went, but I kind of like to imagine that they had a fun adventure of their own along the way.
…So why is this a cool factoid, you ask? Well, I just like that the writers took the time to address a question that was undoubtedly on every Popolo fan’s mind when Gomer first showed up: what happened to Gon and Don?! It’s nice to see that even when “changing the formula,” they still inserted subtle nods for long-time series fans like me – the kinds of nods that Popolo-heads will squee about, yet which remain subtle enough to keep the game completely accessible to series newcomers.
As you’ve probably seen by now, the website for this game at http://www.returntopopolocrois.com features the first full story from the original late ‘70s/early ’80s PopoloCrois Story manga, with its final installment scheduled to go up this coming Tuesday in celebration of the game’s launch. What you may not know, however, is that the Black Baron – who’s literally introduced on the very first page of this very first story – has never appeared in any PopoloCrois game or anime… until Return to PopoloCrois.
Yes, this game represents the reintroduction of one of PopoloCrois’ oldest yet perhaps most forgotten characters: GamiGami’s right-hand man, the Black Baron. It’s nice to see you back in the spotlight, old friend – and what a lovely re-debut you’ve been given!
I don’t know how I keep forgetting to mention this, but Return to PopoloCrois has a really neat souvenir system in it! This is actually a PopoloCrois tradition, too, as it’s at least mentioned (if not interactable) in virtually every incarnation of the franchise (even including the anime!).
Basically, every town you visit in the game has souvenirs for sale. These include things like a desktop palm tree, a lamp shaped like a fish, a turnip encased in ice, a really nice carpet, and a “Bananas Doll” (which is not a typo! Per its description: “It may look like a bunch of bananas, but it’s actually modeled after Bananas, the fairy of bananas”). These items cost quite a lot of money, and don’t actually do anything; they are literally just souvenirs of your travels, with each one designed to represent the area from which it originates.
As you collect souvenirs, they’re sent to the back room of the Synthesis Station on your farm, where they’re put on display for your admiration (just as other games based on the PopoloCrois franchise would send these items to the attic above Prince Pietro’s bedroom).
Pointless? Maybe. But I’ll bet my souvenir room has more stuff in it than yours! And I sure do love touring it from time to time…
Return to PopoloCrois has a full-fledged postgame on offer after the credits roll, and it’s filled with tons of new quests and NPC interactions, some new little story events that are rather neat, and even the ability to make all your aforementioned souvenirs SOLID GOLD (so yes, you can have a solid gold Bananas doll, a solid gold carpet, or even a solid gold turnip encased in solid gold ice!).
Here’s a bonus protip, too: be sure to track down and talk to Professor Sabo during this postgame for a really cool fully voiced scene that more or less outlines your exploits as a historical tale, just as you might imagine they’d be presented in a history textbook! It’s a nice little cap to Professor Sabo’s own mini-story, and also a really great way to feel even more awesome after everything you’ve accomplished.
Like a lot of old-school RPGs, every town in Return to PopoloCrois has a “town greeter” who welcomes you with a unique message. Sometimes, this message changes as the story progresses, while other times, it remains exactly the same throughout.
…OR DOES IT?!
Don’t ever assume that an NPC will say the exact same line every time you talk to him/her, because that’s pretty much never true. There will always be some magic moment in the story when an NPC will say something totally different from the norm – and I’m not just talking quest dialogue here, but regular, plain-jane no-quests-on-offer dialogue. And when this happens, let me tell you, it tends to be pretty memorable stuff!
If you have a chance to read through the item descriptions in the game, I highly recommend doing so. There’s actually a fair bit of lore contained within them, including information on a previous dark chapter in Galariland’s history when the world was only narrowly saved… by cows.
Some other great item descriptions include the one for “Pacapaca Fur,” which details exactly why it can be used as a consumable to escape from dungeons (because you’re unspooling it behind you as you adventure forth, and can thus follow the hairs all the way back to the entrance if you get lost), as well as the one for a rare crop called “Puckered Tulip,” which states that it’s the world’s gaudiest flower and any girl would be absolutely horrified to receive it as a gift…
…which turns out to be entirely true. Each of the five blessed maidens has unique dialogue in place specifically for when she’s given a Puckered Tulip. And suffice it to say, it’s not complimentary. (It’ll also set you back quite a ways on her relationship meter, too, so gift at your own peril!)
Item descriptions aren’t the only things that reveal a little bit of extra lore; monster descriptions are pretty informative as well! Wondering why the Lesser Demon boss at the start of the game attacks you with a potato on a fork? Well, there is indeed an answer to be found in the game’s bestiary! (“Summoned during dinner, perhaps?”)
Some of the monster descriptions are actually rather creepy (like soldiers from the ancient past who don’t even realize they’ve died), while others are just fun and silly (like five color-coded bugs who’ve formed a sentai team and now work together as a single entity). And regardless of the tone, they’re all pretty fun to read, and were actually a blast to translate – which is kind of a rarity for RPGs, as this sort of system text is usually the biggest slog to get through.
Cassandra Lee Morris plays the role of the female lead, Narcia, in our English dub (and a better choice I could not imagine!), but she also plays the stoic comic relief character, Trixy. At the start of our recording session for Trixy, we found ourselves having some difficulty dialing such an expressive actor down to just the right level of “creepy monotone”… when suddenly, director Taliesin Jaffe had a brainstorm. He buzzed into the booth and told Cassandra, “Go a little more ‘Wednesday Addams’ with it.”
Cassandra immediately found the exact right voice for the role, and the rest of the session went incredibly quickly and had us in stitches the whole time! You can hear a couple choice sample lines for this character at our website (which is, once again, http://www.returntopopolocrois.com).
And finally, my number one favorite factoid about Return to PopoloCrois – which is also related to the voice-acting – iiiiiis…
…that we actually dubbed the Blue Wolf! We weren’t sure if we should at first, but we ultimately decided that it was only right to give the wolf the same treatment as any of the other main characters. This was definitely our first time working with a human actor playing a (non-talking) animal, though, so we deferred to our director that day, Kirk Thornton (and yes, there were multiple directors on this project), for advice on whom would be best to work with for such a task.
He gave us a great recommendation, and we couldn’t have been happier with the result. I’m sworn to secrecy on who it was, but if you’re curious, the same actor also played the leader of the Galari sprites, Sedona.
As a special related factoid, too, the voice script for the Blue Wolf did not, in fact, consist of barks and growls, but actual, full lines of dialogue that the actor was supposed to bear in mind while barking and growling. Basically, she was instructed to play a wolf capable of understanding human language, and trying as hard as possible to express human sentiments (in the form of full written sentences) despite having no ability to speak words.
…That really was perhaps the single most unique recording session I’ve ever had the privilege to behold. What a strange, amazing evening that was!
There are certainly more things I could mention here – like the lovely sound of Patrick Seitz as the White Knight getting shot out of a cannon, or the brief nod to GamiGami’s long-time catch-phrase (which deems virtually everything to be “man’s romaaaaaance!”) – but ultimately, I think you guys should discover all the little nooks and crannies of this game on your own. The worlds of PopoloCrois and Galariland alike are rich and full of life, and there’s certainly no shortage of things to see or do in either locale. The main campaign can be completed quickly, but I urge anyone who plays this game to take some extra time to “stop and smell the roses,” so to speak. The GamiGami Devil is in the details, and there are most assuredly details to be found around every corner.
Go forth, my friends! Your destiny awaits in only a few short days!