RPGamer Feature - Interview with PoPoLoCrois Producer Mark Johnson

Developer: SCEI
Publisher: Agetec
ESRB: Everyone
Release Date: October 2005

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In ages past, the PoPoLoCrois titles were available in Japan only. Now, thanks to Agetec, the first two PoPoLoCrois games will be crossing the Pacific in one neat portable package. This will be the first traditional RPG for the PSP, and the first in a slew of localization projects for Agetec that includes Wild ARMS: Alter Code F and RPG Maker 3.

Recently, RPGamer was bestowed with the privilege of sitting down with Mark Johnson, Vice President of Marketing and Production at Agetec and the producer of PoPoLoCrois. Our friendly discussion over root beer and potato chips covered a variety of issues concerning the game, including bug fixes and the joys of localization.

For more information on PoPoLoCrois, please look over RPGamerís preview of the game.

RPGamer: Many thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to talk with us. Could you please introduce yourself, and explain your relation to PoPoloCrois?
Mark Johnson: Certainly, I'm Mark Johnson, Vice President of Marketing and Production. I'm also PoPoLoCroisís Producer.

RPGamer: The original Japanese release of this game had a fairly large bug in it that involved your character sprite falling off the screen. We asked about this in an interview we had during E3 and at that time, the team there was apparently unaware of that bug. Has it since been found and fixed?
Mark Johnson: That must have been the marketing guys, which weren't aware of the bug. I was aware of the Japanese version bug and it is indeed fixed, along with a couple other bugs.

RPGamer: What's the future of the PoPoLoCrois series in North America? Can we hope to see the original PoPoloCrois I and II, or any of the other PoPoLoCrois games making it to this side of the globe?
Mark Johnson: I certainly hope so. They are very unique games with a style all their own. Weíll have to see how well the PSP version is received.

RPGamer: Releasing the first traditional RPG for the PSP, do you feel any more pride than you would with a normal localization?
Mark Johnson: It is exciting. We published the very first RPG way back when the PlayStation came out. Be it PSP, or any other system, it has been a real pleasure to work on PoPoLoCrois. The humor and style of the game has been a thoroughly refreshing experience. I have a lot of pride. So far, this localization is our best work.

RPGamer: With this being the first time North American gamers have seen a PoPoloCrois title, were you wary when choosing it for localization?
Mark Johnson: Not at all. We saw this as excellent timing to introduce the brand to North America. We really wanted to bring the previous titles over, but as we discovered with Magic Pengel, it is very hard to market games that are perceived as "kidís games" unless they're licensed or strong, established US brands. PoPoLoCrois is not merely a kidís games, but a very fun, quirky old-school style RPG that anyone would enjoy. However, when placed on a shelve, it looks like a kidís game. With it being the first real RPG out on PSP, we feel it has a good chance of getting the exposure it deserves.

RPGamer:The PSP title is a combination of the original two PlayStation titles in the series. Are these two titles combined in a way that makes them feel as if they're one game?
Mark Johnson: Very much so. The PSP version of PoPoLocrois takes the story from part 1 and 2 and combines them with new story elements, linking the previous two games: 30% of the game is part 1; 40% is part 2 and 30% is new story. In actuality it is three complete adventures, but it feels like one where the world evolves and the characters grow up along the way.

RPGamer: Do battles take place on the world map or are players taken to a separate battle screen?
Mark Johnson: The strategy-tactics-based battles are seamlessly integrated as you travel around the world and dungeons - enemies appear from off the screen and start the battle sequence on the current terrain. And just to throw this in, there are 11 playable characters with their own sets of skills and multi-character combo moves.

RPGamer: Does the world map allow for free-roaming or are certain areas of the game only reachable during certain portions of the game?
Mark Johnson: Itís fairly free-roaming, but there are definitely a lot of areas that only become accessible from story driven events. Like Byronia the floating city or traveling to other planets, courtesy of Mack the Flying Whale.

RPGamer: The battle system allows players to summon beasts during battle. How would a player get these beasts to help them during battle? Do they need to be captured or defeated first?
Mark Johnson: There are actually two different ways to summon in battle. The first is to collect jewels that contain the essence of the creature. These jewels are found all throughout the world and are consumed when used. The second way is to find and defeat the Legendary Heros of the world. After you defeat one, Gabo the dragon can summon them in battle and they act as an extra, controllable character. In all there are 33 jewel-types and 6 Legendary Heros.

RPGamer: Do players have the ability to save anywhere, possibly even during battles?
Mark Johnson: You can save anywhere in the world, but not during a battle. That could cause some serious problems if there was no way for you to win.

RPGamer: Have there been very many problems in the localization process?
Mark Johnson: No problems. Actually the localization has gone very well. This is the first time we've used a new coding system, which allows the developer to auto-update changes and itís worked very well. However, there was a bit more text than we expected. It was challenging, but fun, to dub all the scenes with English voices and they turned out absolutely wonderful. PoPoLoCrois contains over an hour worth of newly created anime by the same studio that produces the TV series. It was truly a great experience recreating the style and humor of the original voices.

RPGamer: How long would you say it would take the average gamer to complete the game?
Mark Johnson: At least 30+ hours. And that would be using a walkthrough.

RPGamer: Is this title still on schedule for its projected August release?
Mark Johnson: Unfortunately no. We were a little ambitious with that date. We are currently looking at an early October release.

RPGamer: Lastly, is there anything that you'd like to say to our readers?
Mark Johnson: I hope you thoroughly enjoy PoPoLoCrois as much as we do.

RPGamer would like to extend its thanks to Mark Johnson for taking the time out of his schedule to give us a bit of insight concerning PoPoLoCrois. Keep your eyes peeled for an in-depth review of the title when it is released in October.

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