Review by Sui89
"A PS2 gem plagued by terrible dialogue and mediocre story"
Dark Cloud 2 is a game that came out years ago, mid-way through the PS2's life span. Being one of the PS2's many RPGs, and one of the highest praised ones, recently I decided that I'd try it out to see what all the hype was about.
Unfortunately, the story is the worst part of the game. There are two main characters, Max and Monica, each possessing a valuable stone. Max's stone lets him travel to the future, while Monica's lets her travel to the past. The basic idea of the story is to rebuild the future that Griffon, the main villain of the story, destroyed, using the time traveling power of the stones.
While the idea for this story is good, the execution of the story is fairly terrible, and there's certain things that just don't make any sense. One thing that especially bothered me was the way the people of the future are affected by changes you make in the past. For some reason, the people of the future remember the way the future is supposed to be, rather than whatever the future actually is. For example, if a building in the future is missing, the people in the future will comment on how it's good that you're working to restore the missing building. How do these people know something about a different future that they haven't experienced? It doesn't make any sense. In addition to this discrepancy, there are plenty of plot holes that are just kind of never explored in the story. All this said, the story manages to be okay.
What really manages to kill the score in this section is the dialogue. The dialogue in this game is some of the worst dialogue I have ever seen in a game in my life. An example of this is towards the end, someone tells you that there's a hint in the first room of the castle. Upon entering said castle, Max says I have an idea. THIS is the first room of the castle! And he's completely serious. The dialogue for this game is bad. That's the only way to put it.
The story is bad to okay, at best, and the dialogue is terrible, yet these things don't manage to hold the game back too much. I came to the end and found myself not caring so much that these things were bad. Everything else was so fun, it tended not to matter.
This is where the game really shines. There are a couple different types of gameplay, but I'll start with the most obvious: the actual battling. The game takes place in various dungeons, each of which has several floors you must complete in order to advance to the dungeon's boss. After you beat the boss, the story will advance, and you can go to the next dungeon. In each of these floors (which are randomly generated), there are various enemies and chests. One of the enemies (random) has the key to exit the floor, and you must kill that enemy before you can exit the floor. The chests have various items in them, which might be used for healing, leveling your weapon, or Georama building, so it's always advantageous to get as many chests as you can.
The actual combat can be done with Max or Monica, or with the Ridepod (Max's alternate) or monster transformation (Monica's alternate). Both Max and Monica have a short range weapon (sword for Monica and wrench for Max) and a long range weapon (guns for Max and magic for Monica). The game does a fairly good job at making Max and Monica equally useful in battle, though the Ridepod is generally overpowered (if you use it and invent useful weapons for it) and the monster transformation is completely useless. Generally speaking, you'll use a lot of both Max and Monica throughout the game, so keeping both leveled up is a good idea.
Beating enemies will level up your WEAPON rather than your character, so you need to choose which weapon you use carefully in order to power each one up. Upon leveling up, weapons gain capacity points and a little Attack and Durability. Capacity is used to level up one of the weapons characteristics (Flame, Lightning, and several others, which increase damage to certain types of enemies) by using various items. Weapons can also be used to increase other weapons' stats, granted that the weapon in question has gained at least five levels. Each specific weapon has a set of stat caps. However, after you reach a certain number in a couple of stats, you can upgrade the weapon into a more powerful weapon, and the caps will increase. This system of leveling up is really good since it provides a lot of customization in your damage output that you can decide. However, at the end of the game, I found myself ramming the ultimate weapon's stat caps really easily, which is a notable flaw, but isn't especially relevant until the game's bonus dungeon.
The way the game levels up your characters' stats is kind of strange. After beating a certain floor of a dungeon, an item will appear in a tiny treasure chest in the future. You have to go into the future after its available and search for the chest, then use it. There are three types of items. One that increases Max's defense, one that increases Monica's defense, and one that increases either one's HP. I don't really like this system of leveling up since it's not only really easy to miss chests, but it's also extremely aggravating to have to search for power up items constantly.
Other than the actual dungeons, there's also the Georama part of the gameplay. Georama building is basically rebuilding a town of the past in order to change the future. You unlock different building parts by collecting Geostones in the dungeon, and you also collect the materials you need for building those parts in the dungeons. After you unlock the part and have the materials, you can build and place the part. Each town has different requirements in order to restore the future, so the goals for each will vary. I'm not especially fond of this little bit of gameplay. It's not the most fun part of the game, and since you HAVE to do it in order to progress in dungeons, it seems like it holds the game back rather than help it. The plus side to this is that you can construct most towns how you want, so it provides even more customization to the game.
Max also gets a camera to play with for the game (whether in dungeons or in towns). Taking pictures of certain things (a lot of things, actually, since I think there's almost 800 different things you can take pictures of) will get you an idea, which can be combined with other ideas to create inventions. Inventions can then be made with materials to make yourself a new weapon, an item, an outfit, and so on. This is actually a really nice idea, and it works out really nicely. This makes you pay attention to everything around you, and also makes you think about how items could be combined to make new things. This is a very refreshing concept to the game.
The other two little bits of gameplay are mini-games of sorts. There's fishing and Spheda (which is pretty much golfing). Neither one is required to advance the game (except for when each is introduced), but are just something you can do in a dungeon after you defeat all enemies in order to get metals or other rewards. I honestly didn't care to do either one of these too often, but it's nice that the game provides a little extra to do after you beat all the enemies in the dungeons.
All in all, the gameplay is very fun, and is a system that I would recommend to anyone.
Dark Cloud 2 uses cel shading for a lot of its graphics, and the graphics look very nice for the most part. The town graphics are very nice and smooth, and the parts you can create look very nice and natural in the environment you put them in. In battle, the enemies have very nice looks, and most animations are done very well.
However, there are a couple places in the game where the graphics are not as good. These places are mostly in a couple of larger cut-scenes, and the animation there seems kind of choppy. These scenes are few and far between though, so they don't really affect the game in that negatively of a way.
All in all, the graphics for this game are very good, and I have no problems with this part of the game.
Honestly, the music for this game is okay. There aren't very many astounding songs, but none of the songs hinder the game either. Most of the dungeon themes fit very well, and you'll appreciate the background music, but won't feel obligated to listen to it if you don't want.
There is only one battle theme (and another one for the final dungeon), so for the amount of battling you'll be doing, it gets quite old pretty fast. There's also only one song that plays when you kill all the enemies. That song is nice, but will also get old pretty quickly.
The voices for this game are all right. Max's voice actor is the same as Lloyd's from Tales of Symphonia, and he does a decent job most of the job. I don't like Monica's as well, since she seems to not quite get certain reactions or feelings right all of the time. Every one else is basically not even notable, since they don't do a lot of talking at all. Overall, the voices are all right.
I don't really know what to say about this category. There's nothing specific in this game that you need a second playthrough for. However, every floor in each dungeon has three or four goals that you can achieve to get medals. You probably won't get anywhere close to all of these the first time through, so you might want to replay a large portion of the game to get these. There are also a variety of sidequests (most of which are recruiting different characters), and tons of photos you probably missed. Add to this the game's fun gameplay, and you'll probably want to go back and do a lot in this game, which is saying a lot. This game took me roughly 55 hours to beat the first time, and apparently it takes some people upwards of 90 or 100 hours to beat. Depending on how much you do in the game, this game will last a while.
Final Rating (8/10)
Overall, this game's excellent gameplay outweighs its terrible story and dialogue, so much so that you won't mind putting up with the cutscenes. There are a LOT of levels to explore, and the gameplay will take a long time to get boring. This is a very fun game. I'd recommend it to anyone that hasn't played this gem of a game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/26/09
Game Release: Dark Cloud 2 (US, 02/17/03)
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