Review by PS2JUNKSTA
"Dark Clouds Bring Sunny Days.."
The original Dark Cloud debuted on the Playstation 2 in March of 2001, it met average and poor reviews. Fortunately for Level 5, the PS2 was in an RPG drought so RPG fans rushed to pick the game up, despite its mixed reviews. The game sold over 400 000 units worldwide and collected enough of a fanbase that a sequel was announced by Level 5. Fortunately for us, Dark Cloud 2 is single handedly the best RPG experience the Playstation 2 has to offer.
Unlike the last Dark Cloud, DC2 utilizes the technique of cel-shading found in games like Jet Grind/Set Radio, Fear Effect and Sly Cooper. Level 5 really made great use of this technique because Dark Cloud 2 looks absolutely stunning in motion. Character models are colorful and cute which really fits the characters personalities well, while not as interesting as say Final Fantasy characters. Animation is superb, cartoon-like in transition plainly put it’s smoother than a baby’s bottom. The dungeon design is done quite well, and various which helps through the dungeon after dungeon battling you go through.
The city design is completely up to you so you can have your town/city according to your tastes. The water and particle effects are great; they really accentuate the polish this game possesses. Boss and enemy designs are all various and some are downright nuttier than a squirrel’s turds. Level 5 really went up and beyond expectations of fans by making such a fun looking game.
Aside from minor fog and pop-in glitches Dark Cloud 2 is a game graphic whores would like to add to their collection.
The tale of Dark Cloud 2 isn’t as complex or deep as perhaps Final Fantasy 10 or Xenosaga, but it is an interesting tale nonetheless. You assume the role of Maximilian, a young handy man who is on a quest to find his Mother and piece back the world bit by bit. Monica, a girl shrouded in mystery from the future, accompanies Max. The main antagonist of DC2 is “Emperor Griffon”, a villain who has been attempting to erase the existence of all humans, and life forms in the DC2 universe. There are a few twists and turns in the tale, but nothing to overly dramatic. Characters are cute and sometimes quite humorous, which is expressed greatly through the very solid voice acting. If you’re an RPG fan looking to be compelled to beat a game due to its depth in plot, you may find DC2 a little shallow. But to RPG fans that love solid gameplay, with a solid but not exaggerated plot, you will definitely like DC2.
If there is one word I could best use to describe Dark Cloud 2’s gameplay, it would have to be “Deep”. Dark Cloud 2 has amazing depth, there is so much to do that you will always find yourself busy with something. You can battle in dungeons, upgrade weapons, invent items, go fishing, breed/battle/feed/eat/race the fish you catch and even play golf (known as “Spheda”). I’ll sum the categories of gameplay options into 4 sections:
1. Dungeons and Battle: 8/10
Dark Cloud 2 is based on the same formula as most traditional RPGs, dungeon crawling. Throughout the various locations you battle in, you have 2 main goals in mind; you must collect the Geo Stones in each level and find the key to the next floor.
Along the way you battle enemies with a lock-on battle system similar to the Legend of Zelda series. Throughout your battles in the maze-like dungeons, you pick up experience points and money dropped by your enemies. The experience points are not for your character but for his/her weapons, every time you pick up experience points (ABS) a meter is filled under the weapon you used to defeat your foe with. Once that meter is full, it gains a number of “Synthesis points”, you use these synthesis points to fuse elements and minerals (earned in dungeons and purchasable in shops) to your weapons to give them new, and stronger abilities. After your weapon meets a certain standard, that weapon can be upgraded to a stronger weapon (ex: Gun>Grenade Launcher).
The only thing that detracts from Dark Cloud 2’s score for gameplay is it’s repetitive nature. Go to dungeon, get key, move to next floor that sums it up. I personally have seen more variety in my underwear collection (which is quite bland). While the addictive up-grade system makes it less tedious, it doesn’t help it enough to make it perfect.
2. Town Building: 10/10
Dark Cloud 2 has an amazing amount of freedom when it comes to personalizing the locations you visit in game. Aside from one location of the six you deal with, you can customize the appearance of the towns you want in every way. All you have to do is follow the guidelines laid before you by the Geo Stone objectives and the preferences of the citizens in the DC2 universe. Fans of the first DC game will instantly fall in love with the revamped Geo Modification engine. It allows you to do just about anything with the environment and accessories (houses, etc) given to you. You can paint everything, place things where you want them, place tenants in the houses you like, and add accessories to the houses, etc (mailboxes, chimneys, etc.). If you’ve ever dreamt of creating your own town/locations in an RPG this game is as good as it gets at allowing you to achieve that goal.
3. Mini-games: 9/10
There are quite a few very addictive mini-games in DC2’s arsenal. I’ll start from the most obvious, fishing. In the world of Dark Cloud there is water, there are lakes, ponds and yes there is the sea. Where there is water, fish can’t be too far behind. Every fishing location holds different breeds of fish, there are so have fun trying to catch them all. Every fish has different tastes when it comes to bait some fish prefer hard shelled bait, some prefer worms, some like fruit and some like combinations of both. A great feature in DC2 is the ability to keep the fish you catch and raise them like your children (minus the confined space and feeding of raw bait, and power to make them battle to death). By keeping your fish you can, feed them, breed them and battle them. The whole point of this is to create strong fish perfect for racing..Yes I said fish racing. By participating in fish races you can earn items and weapons that you could not find elsewhere. Aside from these being very addictive and fun to participate in, they make your fish stronger which helps create the best spawn during breeding.
There is also another game in DC2 that is a rather nice addition. It’s known as “Spheda” *cough* Hot Shots Golf *cough*… Spheda is a golf game that you can play in the dungeons you battle in, the downside is, it can be near impossible to complete in some stages, which can be quite frustrating. But overall it does give you another reason to play through the dungeons again.
4. Inventors Mode: 9/10
This mode alone makes DC2 a treat to play, it adds another layer of depth to the game, and it will have you tinkering with fusing items to create new/better items. The whole invention process is made possible by the camera max carries around; he can take pictures of just about anything rendered in 3d in the game. When you get 3 pictures (the camera holds 30), you can fuse the pictures together and hope they make something of use.
The only downside to this process is that you need to have the right amount of raw materials to create the item you invent, that means a lot of your hard earned money will be going toward items such as “Sticky clay” and other oddities like “Scrap of Metal”. Its realistic that you have to buy your own raw materials to make things out of, but its just no t fun to be realistic in such a fantasy based RPG. Overall though DC2 adds something new to the RPG genre, something fresh and interesting that should be in every RPG from this day forth, with minor tweaks to the invention engine it could be the perfect sub-game accessory.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of DC2 is its sound, well its musical themes that is. You will not find anything memorable when it comes to the ballads and orchestral themes in Dark Cloud 2, because really there are none. If you were expecting epic, fantasy transcending musical entourage, don’t expect such a thing from DC2. Sure some of the themes are cute but none really give you the sense of atmosphere that games in the Final Fantasy or Star Ocean series possess.
The voice acting in DC2 is generally well done; there aren’t any bad translations, or horrendous voice acting scenes whatsoever. Max and Monica have kind of cute voices, which can lead you to believe that you are witnessing a conversation between over-grown pre-schoolers discussing how they shall “save the world”. Minor gripes aside (man I’m an asshole), DC2 has an acceptable, yet not exceptional sound track.
Dark Cloud 2 has a simple game control structure, so even the least experienced RPG gamers should fit into the mix nicely. The basic set-up is x- accept/attack/interact, o- camera/cancel/lock-on, square- use item, triangle-menu, R1- block, L1- secondary weapon, D-PAD- scroll through items, R2- first person view, Left+ Right Analog- movement, SELECT-call up the geo-modification engine and START- pause.
You’ll get used to the simple controls instantly, and navigating will become as easy as racing a man with no legs. Dark Cloud 2 is another testament to the gamer friendly approach Sony is trying to implement into their current repertoire of games.
Replay Value/Fun Factor: 9/10
This incarnation of DC2 happens to pack more bang for the buck than the last. DC2 is the most fun I have ever had with an RPG. There’s so much to do that you’ll always be occupied. Building characters up, and participating in “Finny Frenzies” (fish races) is really enjoyable. After you participate in your first fish race in the game, you can unlock the fishing race option at the title screen, which lets you and your friends race your best fish.
You can sure make a couple of easy bucks betting money on your best fish, this extra mode really adds to the replay value and enjoyment of the game.
Overall: 52/60= 9/10 (rounded)
Dark Cloud 2 is an RPG that anyone can enjoy, casual RPG players and even the most hardcore followers of the genre. It has great gameplay, stellar graphics, good replay value, and excellent controls, making this an experience you are robbing yourself by missing out on. Very few RPGs glisten with such an aura of spirit and fun, which is found in Dark Cloud 2. Minor quarries aside Dark Cloud 2 is a franchise Sony had best continue because it is truly a gem.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/19/03, Updated 04/19/03
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