Review by SCCAN85

"Prepare to venture on an incredible journey while rebuilding the world!"

INTRO

After having my Playstation 2 for about two weeks I decided that I wanted a game. With a number of pretty good titles already out I didn't know which to get. I didn't have much money for a game so I traded in a couple of my Playstation games to get Dark Cloud. My final decision to get this game was that I knew I wanted an RPG, I wanted a game in which I could play for a long time and get my moneys worth. You bet your lower region that I did get my moneys worth! Sometimes I fail to see why people just don't like this game. There is only one thing I can think of, but we'll get to that later. First off, Dark Cloud is an action RPG similar to Zelda with some different features and was released this year, 2001 in May or June. I'm sorry I don't fully know, but it's around there. Anyway, this game is made by Sony and Level 5. In my opinion this is one hell of a game in which you build towns, upgrade weapons, interact with the towns, and even fish!

If any of you are planning on getting this game, keep on reading. If you're not keep on reading anyway because this just might interest you. Dark Cloud is rated T but anyone can play this game really. Although this game has a combination from other games, this combo is a sweet one and every element of this game is near perfection. Let's see what's so good about Dark Cloud!

STORY: (9/10)

Some people might not think the story is very brilliant, but to me all I care about is if it's good enough and played out through the game. If you know what I mean then you can understand the reason I am lenient. Of course I will say I do not enjoy playing as a mute hero, but I guess you could call him semi - mute as you do choose what he says when you're in town but that's a different story. Anyway, I don't really enjoy to play as a mute hero but dialogue isn't the essence of the story. That might be what is so unique about the story. OK, first off let me just describe the overall plot. A huge tribal dance is happening along with two men watching and directing the procedure. It is to revive the evil Dark Genie *gee I wonder who is the boss ... uh I didn't say anything :)*. The two characters discuss the importance of this and how excited they are to awake the evil genie. Then finally after watching the dance the genie appears, screws the fat guy over, and takes the colonel and is now the slave of him. The next thing they do is *gasp* shoot a beam at a village and proceeds to destroy the world. Now, the main character, Toan from the village of Norune, is seen just after a celebration of some sort in the village. Then suddenly the village gets destroyed by the Genie but a spirit king who stops time just before the world is destroyed. Toan, is used by the spirit king to restore the world which I think is pretty cool. The spirit king has set key items to restore the world into spheres called atla and he gives Toan a bracelet so that he can unlock the items necessary to restore the world.

That's what you are given for the beginning part of the game, but what I really like about this games plot is that as you recreate the villages/areas there are mini plots within those places. Not necessarily major side quest type plots but it gets you involved with the life and atmosphere of the village(s), which I personally think is a great factor to improve the overall theme of restoring the world. Also, there are some twists here and there as you move along but the story doesn't move fast enough for that occur so as you read on you will see why that is so. That, however, I feel is the only drawback within the story line which is the slow movement of the story line. On a positive note, the reason for this is because you control how fast the story moves and you'll see why. OK, now about the characters. There are a total of six characters and each one is interesting in some way or another. A SERIOUS drawback about this plot is character development but since everything else is near perfection in this department it really doesn't matter. Only within the areas you get the character in *there are a total of six places you go to fully excluding a bonus dungeon* is when the character gets developed. The Dark genie throughout the game gets developed a little bit as do other characters. Many characters within the villages that you restore get some development and background on them as well but not much. Overall, I say that this games plot is one of it's strong points because it allows so much for you to control and think of for yourself.

GAME PLAY: (9/10)

The game play of Dark Cloud is very unique as it combines features from many other games and makes a very fun and addicting game play. Some people don't think this makes the game great but when you focus on creating a town, interacting with it and focus on upgrading your weapons through a very prolific and unique weapons system how is that not excellent? OK, well I'll break up this section into parts so it's easier to know what is so great about this game. First off though I will discuss the town building as it's the main part of the game.

Towns - There are a total of six areas which are treated the same as towns. Confusing? Well, there are four actual towns and then you create something and go through time in the same events as you create the four towns where most of the fun lies. OK, when you begin to go to a town you will realize that it is practically empty because of what the Dark Genie did. So, you look around town and most likely you will find one survivor who will describe the situation and tell you about the dungeon in that town. Dungeons are very important as well and I will get into that. In dungeons you will use Toan to collect what is called Georama, nifty name isn't it :)? Anyway, these Georama pieces you will get are key pieces which you use to rebuild the towns to your own desire. However it may not be fully to your desire because as you check your Georama Analysis in the menu it will show you how much of the town you have created and there are requests from the people in the town. Georama pieces are all the essential factors to what makes a town; people, houses, rivers, trees, etc., so think carefully and attach the pieces to rebuild the town. What's really cool is that you interact with the town you're rebuilding at the same time you're making it. You can talk to the people, find out where they want their houses to be placed in town, what they need of you and other requests they may have. In towns you can fish (which I will talk about), shop at stores, visit friends and also find treasures after you come up from the dungeons. This is mainly what you do in towns and it is very fun to interact and create your own town! However, there is much more to do in Dark Cloud ...

Dungeons and Weapons - This is where the main entertainment lies in Dark Cloud. The dungeons are the areas in which you fight, build up your weapons, collect items and atla which are circular orbs which contain Georama parts. When thinking of how the dungeons are like, they are like any Zelda game as well as Diablo. The dungeons are quite straightforward and there are numerous floors to explore. However, the main thing different on each floor are the enemies and the items, including the atla. Weapons are a huge part of Dark Cloud. Instead of gaining levels like in many RPGs, Dark Cloud has the weapons level up. It's a very unique feature for RPGs and with six characters there are plenty of weapons. Weapons gain experience every time it kills an enemy and there is hit points for the weapons as well. For each attack, the weapon will lose HP so you need to use items to keep it in check because if the HP of the weapon (known as WHP) is all gone the weapon is broken forever. What's very cool about the weapons leveling up is that you can choose the path for which final weapon your character will get. Each character has at least two final weapons and with any weapon you can build up the weapons to another weapon if the stats are high enough. Each weapon has tons of stats such as the basics (strength, speed, endurance, and magic power) and then elements and then specific enemies such as sea creatures, stone creatures, etc. The weapon system is very detailed and can last a long time if you want every characters final weapon. Also, since weapons gain levels instead of the characters, characters get stronger with food; specifically fruit of the eden for HP, gourds for the thirst meter, and each character has different favorite foods which increase their defense. When a weapon gets to level 5 it can be broken and attached to another weapon to make it stronger, but your weapons can exceed level 5. You'll know what to do as the game gives a very thorough explanation but I'm just letting you know there is a lot to do with the weapon system.

A new, and sometimes annoying, aspect of Dark Cloud is the thirst meter. Like in real life you can't survive without water for a long time and even though with the real time in towns, the characters get thirsty after a while. If their thirst isn't quenched by either items or tiny fountains or ponds in dungeons then their HP will deplete gradually. Thirst goes down only in dungeons so you don't need to worry about any thirst problems in town. Well, I'm pretty sure that's everything about game play. I know how some people may think the game play gets repetitive, but what game doesn't? And also, if you really like these type of games it won't get repetitive. Overall, the game play is very time consuming and fun. Creating your own world, although it's only towns is the best aspect of the game.

CONTROLS: (10/10)

Controlling each character is really smooth. Every button is practically used, with the aim button and also quickly switching characters in dungeons. As far as controlling the character in terms of movement, it is very smooth as stated before and there is no problem at all. When doing a duel battle, which is very similar to the Parappa the Rapper games there is no problem with messing up unless it's your fault. Everything with the controls are perfect in my opinion. Another good thing about the controls is that it is very easy to get used to and I guess you could say the ''tilt'' of the controls are perfect because within the first minutes of playing the game you'll be handling the game with ease. Overall, the controls for Dark Cloud are perfect and are helpful when fighting in dungeons.

MUSIC/SOUNDS: ( 8/10)

The music that is audible in the game plays in the towns and dungeons. The music for the most part is just there and there aren't very memorable tunes that I can just hum right now. However, the music does do what it's there for, which is just being there. It gets the job done by fitting in well with the scenery and setting the tone for the game. I probably enjoyed the music more than the majority but that's because I like any music and even though some of the music in some dungeons *mainly the third one* is boring and repetitive most of the tracks in the game are good. The sounds are a bit better than the music, but not by much. The only memorable and good sounds of the game that I know for sure are from the enemies. In dungeons when you can't see around the corner or far away you can hear the sounds that the monsters make and I thought that was a cool thing to add into the game. It made me look for other sounds and that is where the sounds played a big part in the game. The other sounds are decent, but don't help as much as the enemies. Overall, the audio is good, but nothing spectacular.

GRAPHICS: (10/10)

This may sound a little unfair but even though I have had this game for quite some time and there are plenty of games with better graphics than this, but since this was my first Playstation 2 game I was so amazed at the graphics. The jump, for me, from Playstation to Playstation 2 graphically was amazing and I was overwhelmed at how good Dark Cloud looked. So much detail is in each dungeon and it looks very good, especially the fifth dungeon and the second. The characters are quite detailed as well with different colors for each and dressed appropriately according to their titles. The towns always look good and somewhat realistic with people moving at all times and doing stuff while you either explore the town or the dungeon. The backgrounds in the dungeons are amazing and the monsters usually fit the scenery. The monsters range from short, scaly, fat, to huge, metallic, and thin. All the enemies look quite realistic, for what they are supposed to be and overall the graphics on Dark Cloud are great. By today's standards *about six months later than Dark Cloud was released* I'd still give it a good score, but not a ten. So many things in the backgrounds of the dungeons are lifelike, such as the water, the boats, walls, torches, and anything else in the background. I was very pleased with the graphics when I first played this and I still am. The graphics in Dark Cloud are great and use the power of the Playstation 2 somewhat and definitely blew me away when I first saw it.

CHALLENGE: (5/10)

Games like this usually have a pretty hefty difficulty, but sadly for the people who love a great challenge, Dark Cloud isn't too hard. Some enemies are really hard and they just piss you off when after three attacks your weapon breaks. That is one of the toughest parts of the game; to keep your weapon intact because if you are trying to build up something and you put a lot of time into it and then it gets broken you can figure out how the reaction to the player must be. The other challenge in the game along with normal enemies are the boss fights. Some are extremely easy and some are a bit harder to the point where they can get annoying. Anyway, that is basically the only challenge I faced in the game because weapon building, although can be seen as a challenge, was more fun than troublesome. Towns aren't much challenging but some requests just get annoying. Overall, the challenge is average and anyone can play this game, beat it and have a good time while playing. No worries for difficulty here.

REPLAY: (4/10)

Before I begin, let me just say the score is misleading but I am judging it on how much you will replay it by beating it and starting over which is highly unlikely unless it's your only game, but still you'd keep on playing the same file. That's what I'm saying about the replay of this game because you can keep playing, fishing and building up your weapons until you get everything in the game which is a lot of stuff. I just think replaying this game is more ''after I beat the boss I'll just keep playing until I feel like stopping'' than ''oh what a lovely game, let me just start over.'' Even though the American version of this game has the Demon Shaft which is an extra dungeon with a lovely 100, yes 1 freaking hundred levels of the same thing over ... and over ... and ... over again. Every twenty levels the elements of the monsters change and the reward for completing this never-ending task is the best sword in the game. But ... there is no point to having it so I gave up at the 28th floor. Anyway, the replay value is a bit below average but it;s fun until you get everything.

PROS

- Interact with the town which you create
- Weapon system
- Plenty of dungeons to explore and fight in
- Tons of hours of game play
- Amazing detailed graphics
- Perfect controlling and easy to learn

CONS

- Lack of character development
- Somewhat repetitive at times
- Demon Shaft not worth it :)

SCORES

Story - 8.8
Game play - 9.1
Controls - 10.0
Audio - 8.1
Graphics - 9.9
Challenge - 5.0
Replay - 4.3

Final Score - 9.2/10

OUTRO: (9/10)

Dark Cloud will always be a great game to me. I'm personally happy that this game brought me into the world of the Playstation 2 by being my first game and I recommend this game to any RPG lover or action lover for that matter. To some others it may seem to just go on and not go anywhere but if you can go through the somewhat repetitiveness the end result of playing this game is great. I hope they do make a sequel and work out the bad stuff with the game such as the character development and better music. Who knows what they do, as long as they make another one I will be one of the first to get it. I think this game is great and if you have time for it I recommend this game for at least a rental to anyone who is interested. Thanks for reading and have a nice day!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/02, Updated 01/03/02


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