Welcome to a new series in which we take a look at orphaned games that really deserve to have spawned an illustrious line of sequels. First up is Folklore, a 2007 PS3 exclusive from Game Republic, the Japanese studio behind the Genji series of slash ’em ups. Sadly, Game Republic closed its doors in 2011, so it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see another instalment of Folklore – unless another studio picks up the rights. This is a real shame, as the game is undoubtedly Game Republic’s crowing acheivement.
I only discovered Folklore by chance when browsing secondhand games in a local shop just recently. It was apparently a fairly high-profile PS3 exclusive back in 2007, but it completely passed me by at the time – probably because I didn’t own a PS3 back then. But having now played the game, I’m surprised that more people aren’t talking about it – there really is nothing quite like it out there.
The easiest way to describe it is as a JRPG but set in Ireland – and with a combat system based on summoning folkore monsters with various abilities. Indeed, collecting the ‘folks’ is a large part of the game’s appeal. They’re wonderfully designed, really freakish imaginings of creatures from ancient stories, like boggarts and bug-a-boos. Each one has a distinctive personality, and often requires specific techniques to capture, so you may find yourself replaying levels to nab monsters that you missed first time around because you didn’t have the means to capture them. Like Pokemon or Yokai Watch, filling in your ‘folk-o-pedia’ (for want of a better word) is compelling, especially as the folks themselves are so individual. You can also level them up by completing specific actions, like killing ten enemies with a boggart, for example.
The game it most reminded me of was a mostly forgotten classic from the GameCube era: Lost Kingdoms. I absolutely loved that game, although like Folklore, it didn’t sell too well on release. It has a similar combat technique whereby you summon different monsters to fight, each of which is assigned to a different button. But unlike Folklore, the monsters are imprisoned in ‘cards’ that get burned up after each use. Still, both games feel very similar in terms of gameplay, especially with the emphasis on completing a collection of monsters. More to the point, there are very few games like them.
Apparently, Game Republic had planned a sequel to Folklore for the PSP, but Sony ended up turning it down on the basis of poor sales of the first game. Then Game Republic folded in 2011, and that pretty much put paid to all thoughts of Folklore 2. But by god does this game deserve a sequel – its remarkable originality of setting and combat, combined with some beautifully drawn characters really make it something special. It’s a long shot, but I hope that some developer picks up the license for this game – whoever owns it now – and carries on where Game Republic left off.