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Overlooked Thursday: Folklore

Overlooked Thursday is a segment in which I look back at a title from either a current or previous generation that got unfairly or prematurely judged, didn't sell well, or was just forgotten and did not deserve such a fate. Not necessarily reviews, a brief overview of what the game is, what it is about, and how it was received at the time. If able, details on how these games can be found and for how much will be given so that their overlooked status may be shed for a few more.

Early in the days of the PlayStation 3, one of the biggest complaints for the system aside from it's high price was it's lack of a solid library, with very few games being worthy of the 599 USD entry point. There were heavy hitters like Resistance and Warhawk, but there rally wasn't much to qualify the purchase of the PS3, even with Blu-Ray support. However, 3 years later, and it seems the PS3 has finally come into it's own, with a much more expanded library that has an arguably brighter future than it's rival the Xbox 360. But within the library of the PlayStation 3 is a game that has been forgotten by most, a game that came early in the life cycle of the console, a game called Folklore. It was a stunningly beautiful game, with an emphasis upon a feeling of muted solitude that was really captured by the piano-fueled soundtrack and the isolated, small-town feel of the game. In a world where feelings of isolation are restricted to the Horror genre, it's really quite refreshing to see an Action/Adventure game with such a solemn, sometimes maudlin atmosphere. So with that, let's get into why Folklore deserves more attention.

Folklore, 2007, Game Republic, PlayStation 3
The story of Folklore follows two characters; Keats, a Occult Magazine writer looking for the next big story, and Ellen, a woman looking for her deceased mother who has sent her a letter (Hello []i]Silent Hill 2[/i]!). Both characters travel to Doolin, a small, isolated region of Ireland where a paranormal mystery quickly involves both Ellen and Keats. From that point on, you control both Keats and Ellen day by day, slowly unraveling the mystery at the middle of town, a mystery full of murder, betrayal, and the war going on in the supernatural realm that is hidden within the town. All of it is beautifully told with characters who have twisted pasts that juxtapose against the seemingly harmless nature of small town life and a sense of sardonic humor that really brings the various characters to life. However, what really gives the story it's charm is the supernatural twist that the story is given, where it is revealed that the town hides a realm of faeries and folks (ghosts) where the emotions of the villagers actually affect the world, meaning Keats and Ellen have to investigate the village and uncover it's secrets in order to traverse the world within the village where the answers to their questions reside. It's a story that really sucks you in and refuses to let go; the feeling of isolation and solitude transcribes through the controller and to the player, and suddenly, your stuck in the village just like Keats and Ellen. It's dark, atmospheric, and most of all, it's just plain interesting, and will keep you glued to your seat, determined to solve each and every mystery.

The closest thing I can compare Folklore's gameplay to would be Castlevania, where you defeat enemies in real-time combat and utilize there powers to form new attacks. The four face-buttons are each dedicated to an enemy attack, so you can customize your arsenal however you like and can switch them on the fly using the shoulder buttons. It's intuitive and it's just plain fun to pull off devastating attacks upon huge enemies, who are then fair game to be sucked up and used by you. You see, just before a finishing blow can be delivered on an enemy, the soul of the beast is revealed and is available to taken and used by you; you hold down the R1 button and flick the controller in a direction to suck up the soul. It's a great use of the SIXAXIS in the PS3 controller that is often forgotten by developers of misused (Hello Lair!). You can do this to already defeated species to level up and improve the given ability, so it gives an incentive to stick to old favorites and find new ones that you can improve to deadly caliber. This isn't just restricted to normal enemies though, as each boss must be defeated by the soul-sucking ritual so that their massive attacks can be utilized. Speaking of bosses, this is something that Folklore does very well. Each one is a mystery onto itself and once the weakness and strategy is found, you have to exploit it. Think of it as a scaled down Shadow of the Colossus.

The game follows a basic structure that paces the game perfectly for an episodic play style where you can either play a chapter in an hour and save more for later, or you can breeze right through it without stopping. Each chapter is separated into two parts; the daytime, where you talk to villagers and uncover the mystery that will give you access to the other world, and the nighttime, where you travel into the faery realm and traverse the dungeon-like area that is given to you, whether it be an actual catacomb or a forest with winding paths. The game also has two campaigns where you use either Keats or Ellen who actually play differently and take on separate quests, so you aren't just playing the game twice, but rather you're actually playing a second campaign either while playing the other, swapping between save files, or you can beat one and then the other. This free structure grants you the ability to play Folklore at any pace you desire, and it's rewarding and interesting no matter how you travel the various paths available to you. The game also has a dungeon editor, that allows you to create dungeons that can be shared online with others, as well as actual downloadable dungeons for you to traverse. It's nice to see an Action/Adventure RPG that actually finds a way to incorporate online compatibility into an experience that was already complete and lengthy enough to satisfy its purchase. This kind of gesture on the part of the developer is much appreciated, and it's something we need to see more of.

However, even with it's great story and novel gameplay, the strongest aspect of Folklore by far is it's beauty, in both it's technical prowess and it's art direction. The game is just plain beautiful, with a wide range of colors and effects that really sell the storybook land that is the faery realm. The color palette is used perfectly in both realms; the village is full of muted hues and scenery that works out the faded browns and greens of a place that has been seemingly abandoned by the rest of the world and forgotten by time. The faery realm is swarming with whimsical flora and fauna that give off the feeling of nostalgia, and each creature is well-designed and finely detailed, with each one structured in a way that gets across what each one is "built" for; a large giraffe life creature has a bulky, stone-like head that is used to bash the ground and crush enemies. Tiny elf-like demons dance about and carry sticks to swing at both enemies and each other, all the while grinning maniacally. Complementing the beautiful scenery is the terrific soundtrack. The village is accompanied by quiet, distilled piano tracks that are as sparse as the village. Each key is felt because the space left between each note, where just as much mystery lies as the village itself. The faery realm is orchestrated in a way that really gives you sense of the paranormal adventure; I hate to say it, but it actually really reminds me of the Harry Potter soundtracks (Excuse me while I go sit in a corner and think about what I've done). The battles become more hectic with the rushed score pushing you forward and demanding that you keep pace with it. The game is simply spectacular in it's graphical design and it's art direction, which is sold perfectly.

Overall, Folklore really has to be experienced by anyone with a PlayStation 3; it has a great story, fun gameplay, and most off all, it has to be seen and heard to be believed. It's a game that rewards you each and every moment you play it in some way or another, and it is far more deserving of your attention than you would think of a small-time developer. It's a pleasant surprise that will stick with you, especially it's soundtrack, which will haunt you for the days after you beat the game. Atmospheric, Well-told, and most of all, attractive, Folklore is a hidden gem that deserves to be dug up and enjoyed now, or else you risk losing it to time, like so many mysteries in Doolin, where nothing is what it seems.
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About Canti-samaone of us since 9:47 PM on 08.03.2009

Hello, I'm Trevor Johnson, also known as Canti-sama. I like to write about things including videogames (that should be paramountly obvious at this point...) music, film, and anime, so what you see in this blog is just one part of my pretentiousness! I'm a nit-picky bitch when it comes to basically everything, so excuse me if I seem like kind of an elitist, even though I try not to be. If I had to sum up who I am, I would do it through top 5 lists, so how about we a do a few right now! But before that, since DTOID tends to remove frontpage posts from my c-blog, here's the list of my frontpages, which I thank everyone very much for!

Frontpage Posts:
1. Monthly Musing - I suck At Videogames: Nostalgia's Curse, 8/12/09
2. Promoted Story - Suda 51 and the "Art" of Videogames, 9/6/09
3. Monthly Musing - Nothing is Sacred: Videogames, 10/7/09


Top 5 Favorite Videogames:
5. Fallout 3, PC
4. Mega Man X, SNES
3. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, PS2
2. Braid, PC
1. Shadow of the Colossus, PS2

Top 5 Favorite Albums:
5. Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm a Machine, 2004
4. Radiohead - O.K. Computer, 1997
3. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92, 1992
2. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam, 2007
1. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation, 1988

Top 5 Films:
5. Brazil, Directed by Terry Gilliam
4. Fargo, Directed by Joel Coen
3. Fight Club, Directed by David Fincher
2. Shaun of the Dead, Directed by Edgar Wright
1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Directed by Sergio Leone

Top 5 Anime Productions:
5. Spirited Away, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
4. The Big O, Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama
3. Cowboy Bebop, Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Directed by Hideko Anno
1. Fooly Cooly, Directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki

Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks
PSN Name: MetalLink1979
Wii Friend Code - 8089-7286-5497-4717
XBL - Metal Link 904 (Note: My Xbox 360 is in possession of my brother, so this is no longer technically my XBL Tag)
Xbox LIVE:Metal Link 904
Steam ID:MetalLink1979
Mii code:8089-7286-5497-4717


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