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Video Game / Folklore

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Folklore (known as FolksSoul in Japan) was an early title for the Playstation 3, an action adventure game with JRPG elements.

It features as our stars the young student Ellen, a Mysterious Waif with an amnesiac past, being summoned to the town of Doolin, Ireland by a letter from her dead mother. At the same time, Keats, a skeptical reporter for a third-rung occult magazine receives a phone call from Doolin begging him to save the caller from "The Faeries". These two characters meet up at the same place, only to find the woman who summoned them both has been murdered.

In the course of trying to unravel the mystery of her murder, Ellen and Keats are separately drawn into the Netherworld on the night of Samhain and begin discovering, by meeting with various dead people, that a chain of events starting 17 years ago in Doolin is dramatically affecting the present. Ellen forges forward seeking the truth about her past, while Keats, like any good Intrepid Reporter, hangs around just trying to get a good story. A conflict in the Netherworld gradually comes to light while more people in the present day Doolin are turning up murdered by a mysterious woman known only as The Hag, and everything somehow connects to Ellen's missing past.

The story is told through two perspectives — Ellen and Keats play separate storylines through the same areas until a certain point in the game, allowing the player to start filling in the gaps between the overall storyline. Ellen's powers come from the various Cloaks she wears, which allow her passage into the Netherworld, while Keats' are drawn from having been transformed into Ellen's guardian merely by being within her presence the first time she donned the Cloak. And then, there are the Folks, which are both enemies and weapons to the protagonists — the game's defining feature is the ability to subdue the various Folks and absorb their Ids in order to utilize them as weapons within the Netherworld.

The game's method of delivering its plot is also of note — instead of relying solely on Full Motion Video, it also switches between that, a series of comic-book style story sequences, and traditional dialogue.

This video-game provides examples of:

  • Agent Scully: Keats. It takes a lot for him to actually accept the supernatural. Even when he travels to the worlds of the dead, he merely shrugs his shoulders and calmly assumes he must be going insane.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: With poor Ellen at ground zero and Keats dragged along for the ride.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Getting every single folk nets Ellen a red/grey/white recolor of her real world attire. Keats on the other hand gets to cosplay as Alucard. The many DLC packs also tend to promote how many special outfits they come with (one of which makes Keats' Transcension look like a Tokusatsu hero in the vein of Ultraman).
  • Another Side, Another Story: You can play through the story as either Ellen or Keats. Each have their own story for each chapter though they take place in the same locations. At the end of each chapter you can choose to switch between the two or continue with the character you played last. That is up until the last chapter both characters must be played to the last chapter before you can select it.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Getting interrupted during an Id Absorption is a very real possibility, and a source of many a player's chagrin. To mitigate this, Ellen and Keats are invincible for the few moments after an Id has been captured, letting players time this to dodge oncoming blows.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Being an Agent Scully obviously means Keats is prone to this.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Sometimes folk will stand around and watch while you absorb another's Id. This doubles as an Anti Frustration Feature, since completing a difficult Id absorption can become near-impossible when you have multiple folk interrupting you. Since folks are thus a jumble of animalistic needs, boiled down to their most basic level of instinct (and thus, the Id being instrumental in defeating them), it could said that strategy just isn't something they could realistic think of, let alone act on.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: A number of Folks can fall into this. The Gargantua summons a Killer Robot that fires a BFG... but it's got a second or two delay between firing and hitting the enemy and it's kinda hard to aim.
    • Candela creates a massive zone of pure electricity surrounding Ellen, but it requires so much start-up for so little damage-output that players can rarely find a situation where it's useful.
    • Unlike Keats, Fomoire when used by Ellen will plow through opponents across a massive space for massive damage. But it requires so much MC to use that all that space his massive body occupies starts to look a little small, since you'll rarely have enough enemies packed closely enough together to make all that MC worth it, and there are far more efficient folk for hurting individual targets.
  • Badass Bookworm: Keats. Definitely does not look the type of guy to beat the crap out of demon souls with his bare hands...
  • Barrier Change Boss: In a sense; later in the game, many of the folklore will change up which motion is required to absorb their Id.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The plot is essentially kickstarted by Cecilia's childhood wish, as she's chased around by Herve's murderous, insane mother, that people didn't kill each other. Unbeknownst to her, since she spilled her blood and made the wish within the Henge, it echoed within the Netherworld, creating the Half-Life known as the Scarecrow: whose ultimate goal is to reveal the horrors of hell to humanity in a belief that if people realized just how terrible death is, they may think twice before risking it in war and crime.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Keats busting in on the courtroom scene to rescue Ellen.
  • Bodyguard Crush: While Keats is basically thrown into this role against his will, he genuinely comes to protect Ellen out of a sense of chivalry. Then again, he later learns he might not have had much of a choice anyway...
  • Boring, but Practical: All of the shielding folks don't seem like they're that great if you master the dodge step, but with health recovery being virtually nonexistent in the game outside of specific areas of the map, they can be a godsend in prolonged boss fights, Spriggan in particular.
    • Killmoulis too. It can only take one hit, but that's any hit.
    • Similarly, using the small fry folks at their maximum karmic release tends to be a quicker and easier way to rack up damage on most enemies than your bigger, more Magic-consuming folks. On the other hand, the big guys are still incredibly useful, especially against higher-level folks and bosses ordinary creatures might not be able to touch.
  • Burn the Witch!: This is the reason Ellen and her mother left Doolin in the first place: their sensitivity to the existence of the Fairy Realm led to them being accused of many of the tragedies that befell the town.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: At least several people living in the village have some answers for what took place 17 years previously. For all the opportunities they get, no one ever says a thing, and in the end Ellen and Keats have to find all the answers themselves.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Ellen's power in the Netherworld comes from the different cloaks she wears. Presumably, so does Livane's.
  • Crapsack World: Most of the Netherworld Realms, at least by way of Fridge Horror, but also justified as these Realms base on the fears of humans about the afterlife.
    • Warcadia is a world of constant war, and the soldier-type Folks there seem to have a WWII-esque uniform.
    • Hellrealm goes without saying.
    • The Endless Corridor is created from thoughts of modern people pondering what is in the afterlife or if there is even one at all. The unanswered questions and doubts form the realm. It hovers over a bright void and the player character can get trapped by being sent to a previous point if they fail to achieve the requirements.
  • Cryptically Unhelpful Answer: There are several people (living or dead) Ellen and Keats talk to throughout the game that could easily solve most of the plot if they'd just give a straight answer (how much their input or outlook on the events would've helped is another story). Ellen actually gets frustrated when Harriet refuses to tell anyone but Keats everything (and naturally, she gets strangled before she can tell him anything either). Mrs. Lester was the only one who wanted to spill everything to Ellen, but as it turns out, of all people present in the village 17 years earlier that was still around, she knew the least.
  • Dead All Along: Keats, kind of: Halflives are essentially ghosts, but they're not the souls of people who were alive in the first place, they're created by strong desires or wishes. Keats was created by Herve's final wish to save Cecilia's life, and in that sense could be said to be a remnant of Herve, in the image of Cecilia's drawing of how she thought Herve would look as an adult.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Keats.
    Keats: "A murder in the village of the dead? Somebody tell me this is a joke..."
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Scarecrow appears in the book of fairy tales in the game's opening cutscene, right before you meet him in Ellen's prologue. This also doubles as a clever piece of foreshadowing once you find out who created Scarecrow in the first place...
  • Eldritch Abomination: Scarecrow becomes one for the final boss fight, transforming into a misshapen creature made out of what appears to be a mishmash of thousands of crows and a very pissed off Great Old One.
  • Elemental Powers: All folks except the non-elementals use attacks based on one "element". They include the classical elements of fire, water etc. — and such "elements' as "Destroy" or "Slash".
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: It's important to keep a mindset for which Folks occupy what elements, both in your control and opposition, or else you'll find them No Selling your best moves. Not all of these are totally sensible, such as the machine-soldiers in Warcadia being notably immune to most of the elements.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: The Fairy Lord's beautiful fae subjects and Livane's shady and brutish-looking ones. Subverted in that Livane's people are actually the noble ones, while the Fairy Lord and his people are most definitely not.
  • Escort Mission: The "Bullseye's Defection" Side Quest has Ellen helping an AWOL Bullseye from the mid-point to the beginning of Warcadia (required to get the Battlefield Cloak). He gets his own health bar that fails you should it deplete, and if his Id appears at any point, it's quite possible to absorb it by accident, also failing you instantly. Keats gets his own such mission in "Lost Annwn," set in the Undersea City and limiting him to using just Annwn and Asrai.
  • Expy: O'Connell has a probably-not-coincidential resemblance to Vincent Price.
  • Fake Longevity: Unfortunately, the game does suffer from a bad case of this. For the first five worlds, you must complete them twice: once as Ellen, once as Keats. Aside from different enemy placement and a few level layout changes, there's very little differentiating the two playthroughs.
  • Final-Exam Boss: Prepare to make use of most of your folks on the Final Boss.
    • Likewise, absorbing its Id requires all four advanced absorption methods.
  • Framing Device: The murders happening in Lemrick/Doolin. This is what brings Ellen and Keats together, and are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mysteries surrounding the town.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: Brigantia, the guardian of the Undersea City. It's a huge sea serpent that spends most of its boss fight hiding in holes in the rocks surrounding the battle area, tossing out bombs or popping out only to immediately vanish into a different hole. It's not a powerful boss, but getting it to hold still long enough that you can actually hit it is quite a chore.
  • Guide Dang It!: The sections in the Endless Corridor's maze where you have to follow Habetrot can get frustrating because even if you follow the right one, one mistake can reset your progress and you have to go through the process and the battles again.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Herve insisted on having his blood transfused to Cecilia to save her life, although he knew his condition was already bad enough that it would probably result in his death.
    • At the end of the game, it's revealed that Belgae is a Half-life created by a warrior who sacrificed himself in order to protect Livane.
    • In that same scene, Livane dies. It's implied that this happened because she lent her full power to Ellen in order to defeat Scare Crow.
  • Hub Level: Doolin itself, though Ellen and Keats each have their own respective hubs where the player can make them sleep to pass the time or save the game.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "I'll throw the book at you!"
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Since Clothes Make the Superman for Netherworld Travellers, the Cloak of the Midnight Sun gained at the end of the game counts. It raises Ellen's MC Recovery to a level that lets her use her most powerful Folk in quick succession.
    • In terms of Folk, Keats has the DLC-only Automata, a machine soldier with a Wave-Motion Gun that at its weakest will still leave a path of massive destruction in its wake. It's exceptionally difficult to check off all of the Karma Release conditionsnote  for this folk, but when it happens, anything that isn't immune to fire simply doesn't survive more than a few blasts from him while the weaker folk will usually die outright from a single shot (in a game that gives all enemies a large health-pool, to emphasize Id-Capturing as a primary means of combat).
  • Kangaroo Court: The trial that Ellen is subject to in Hell Realm is full of preconceived conclusions, as it's meant to be a symbolic representation of her own guilt
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Ellen can't remember anything about her life from before the time her mother died (and apparently her mother's death as well).
  • Last Lousy Point: Gainging all the Folks isn't as easy as it sounds, and the Karma Release Conditions to unlock their full potential can get exceptionally time-consuming to check off.
  • Laughing Mad: O'Connell, after facing the reality that his beloved Lulu has been dead for a year instead of "missing for a week" like he's been insisting. It nearly drove him to jump off the Cliff of Sidhe.
    • The Grim Reaper-esque folk running around HellRealm all have a creepy laughter as their default battle cry.
  • Literal Split Personality: the folk Morallta can transform into Beagallta. They have different attacks and weakness, they appear one after the other when used by the player, and they are considered a single Folk in terms of upgrading.
  • Living Memory: The dead don't continue to exist in the Netherworld, they are dead. All that remains of them are echoes in form of memories that a folk named Mnemosyne feeds on and can 'replay'.
  • Losing Your Head: The trope is enacted from the opposite end. You have to give Brigantia credit for fighting past the point that his whole body has been chopped off piece by piece. It's part of what makes him such a Goddamned Boss.
  • Mama Bear: Ellen's mother, Ingrid, will kill without hesitation to protect her daughter.
  • Mana Burn: Judge Yama, among other major boss fights, can sap the player's MC to nothing, leaving them effectively helpless until it recovers. This is worse for Ellen, who recharges at a steady rate as opposed to Keats having a set amount he can use until it recharges fully.
  • Meaningful Name: Scarecrow is, well, a scarecrow. Near the end of the game, he turns into the Scare Crow, a giant abomination made out of crow parts and the incarnation of humanity's fear of death.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Ellen's final cloak just sort of... shows up. Although, it's possible that it's the last gift from her mother.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: The denizens of Hellrealm seem fairly innocuous at first, giving you tips like most NPCs and discussing cloaks. The first little cracks of ugliness show when they wonder what you're doing in a realm for those who are to be punished...and suddenly they don't seem so harmless anymore when they decide to play a few rounds of Break the Cutie with Ellen.
  • Occult Detective: Subverted: while Keats's job as a writer for an occult magazine would naturally make him this, he actually doesn't BELIEVE any of the stuff he investigates.
  • Oireland: Averted, the game doesn't treat the characters as stereotypical Irish. Even going to the pub is only for the purpose of doing sidequests, the main characters aren't there for the drinks.
  • One-Word Title: "Folklore", where the story involves beings called "Folks" that you learn about.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: There are different variants of this:
    • One is the Half-Lives. They aren't souls of people who were once alive, but beings created when a human has such a desire or wish so powerful, it manifests in a corporal form and carries a purpose based on that desire/wish. Once that purpose has been fulfilled, their reason of existence ceases and so do they.
    • The memories of the dead that Mnemosynes carry. They can assume the form of these persons and communicate with others as if they were still alive. The dead are still dead, however.
    • The Folk, they are actual souls of the dead who have yet to find peace merged as a single entity, removing their individuality.
    • Livane's is implied to be an actual spirit of Ellen's ancestor, with quest hinting she's not a Folk or Half-Lives likes the others are, who lingers until Ellen's take over her duty. There are hints other Messenger like Lulu and Ingrid are the same.
  • Painful Transformation: Keats' first cutscene in which he is given his Transcended form. When he reverts back to normal, he remarks that "Even the pain feels real". He also writhes around a lot when the player activates his Transcended Mode, so it apparently still hurts no matter how many times he does it.
    • While we don't actually see him transform, Scarecrow screams in pain and claws at his head before all the absorbed Fear from the Netherworld Core engulfs him and turns him into Scare Crow.
  • Parental Abandonment: Ellen never knew her father and her mother died... But then she receives a supposed letter from her mother revealing that she is actually alive. And then this is subverted: Ellen's mother abandoned her to protect her from the machinations of the Fairies.
  • Primal Stance: Keats in combat in the Netherworld, especially in Transcended form.
  • Real Is Brown: Doolin is colored in shades of sepia and dull yellow, compared to the bright colors of many areas of the Netherworld.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Livane is at least 5000 years old given the game's timeline.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The titular alchemist from "The Alchemist" DLC pack. Keats asks several times what exactly it is he's working on (in context with the fact that a "failed" test produced a powerful Slash folk named Scarab). He of course gets told that the answer is better left untold.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Each Netherworld Realm represents collective human thoughts and views about what the afterlife is like.
    • The Faery Realm represents pleasure and bliss. It's mostly The Lost Woods with Ghibli Hills and flowery meadows, and it's the home of the Faery King's court.
    • Warcadia is a realm strongly reminescent of a desert city, stuck in an endless war between soldiers and robots. It represents violent death.
    • The Undersea City is obviously related to oceanic myths. Since nobody believes in these things anymore, it's becoming Underwater Ruins instead.
    • The Endless Corridor is born from the uncertainness and anguish of the modern man. It's, obviously, The Maze.
    • Hellrealm is... well.. Hell. It's born from humanity's self guilt and desire for punishment.
    • The Netherworld Core is... different. Unlike the other realms, it doesn't represent anything, but it holds the artifacts that make the Netherrealm work.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Keats does this a lot. His glasses also glow bright purple when he's fighting in the Netherworld.
  • Scenery Gorn: Warcadia, the Endless Corridor and Hellrealm.
  • Scenery Porn: The Faery Realm, the Underwater City and the Netherworld Core.
  • Shipper on Deck: The pub Half-Lives ship Ellen and Keats together. One DLC quest has them forging a series of love letters supposedly from Keats, in order to set them up, and it's up to Keats to clear up the whole mess. It naturally doesn't work out in his favor at all, save for receiving a dozen Cold Tree Nuts for his troubles, but for the few seconds that Ellen was convinced the letter was real, she didn't seem that against the idea of being with him.
  • Shout-Out: The title of the magazine Keats writes for is Unknown Realms, one of the titles for the game while it was in development.
  • Shown Their Work: Many of the game's titular folk are drawn from real Celtic/Pagan folklore, and yet more than a few are basically made up or corrupted.
    • Gargantua was friendly Giant who joined King Arthur's court as a giant-slayer. He was most certainly not a Spider-shaped tank.
    • Bheithir was a she-dragon living in the Scottish highlands, and was in no way a skeletal warrior.
    • Durendal was a legendary french sword wielded by Charlemagne's military leader and paladin, Roland. While the game depicts it as a four-legged, horned dragon, the in-game description seems to acknowledge its background:
    "Every hero deserves an indestructible blade that will neither break nor chip. But if such a thing really existed, it would probably spark wars..."
  • Superboss: One of the DLC missions for Keats ends with a battle with multiple Amaryllises, or, having scored enough points, an empowered version of Livane. Faster, much more health, and its main attack takes away a quarter of your lifebar.
  • Super Mode: Keats Transcended form, which drastically boosts the powers and effects of his attacks until the gauge runs out.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Keats can come off as this when faced with some of the more insufferable characters.
  • The Fair Folk: The Faeries in this game fight you about as often as they help you. And then there's the Folks themselves, which just want to kill you on sight outside of the sidequests.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: When Keats finds out at the end of the game that he is a Halflife and the player discovers that he's not really a reporter at all, his "office" was just another part of the Netherworld, and the magazine he supposedly wrote for folded 17 years earlier. This is further enforced by one of the downloadable quests in which an outsider to the village couldn't see Keats because she didn't believe in magic.
  • Trial of the Mystical Jury: Judge Yama's court, which puts Ellen on trial for breaking the laws between the human and other worlds.
  • The Un-Favorite: Suzette's mother went crazy after losing her son and husband and took it all out on Suzette.
  • The Unfought: Baral, the Evil Eye, guardian of the Netherworld Core, primary reason for the Netherworld gates opening in the real world, and the being who shapes a large part of the plot (because everyone is trying to get to that Netherworld Core for one reason or another). Mentioned several times by NPC's to be so powerful that none of the strongest priestesses of ancient times could defeat him, and yet Ellen defeats him as a Cutscene Boss.
  • Visual Novel: Some of the cutscenes and nearly all of the in-game dialog (as in, non-cutscene) has the feel of one.
  • Waistcoat of Style: Keats.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A lot of them; none of the villains are really in it for themselves.
    • Scarecrowintends to absorb all the fear in the world and planned to terrorize humanity into being more compassionate.
    • The Faery-Lord had the opposite idea, of assimilating the rest of the Netherworld into the paradisiacal Faery Realm to turn the afterlife into a place of joy and beauty. As Livane points out, though, this would be a terrible idea in the long term because if people knew for a fact that the afterlife is better than life, they'd have no reason to go on living.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: a rare case where eternal life doesn't refer to biological life but rather to knowledge that there is a life after death. Livane's argument, and the reason for her conflict with the Faery-Lord, is that "only mortal men are driven to create eternal things": in other words, it is mankind's inability to know what death holds that motivates people to accomplish things in and truly appreciate their lives. Whereas the Faery-Lord benevolently (but misguidedly) wants mankind to know the afterlife for a place of bliss, and the Scarecrow believes that letting them know it as a place of torment would essentially intimidate them into thinking twice before killing each other, Livane believes that the only solution that lets humanity truly grow is to keep the afterlife unknown.

Alternative Title(s): Folks Soul