Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 02/17/03 | Genre: Action/RPG
When Dark Cloud was released, it was greeted with mixed reviews. Although it had a few problems, I found the game to be a fun action/adventure PS2 title. Not being content to just rehash the same game, developer Level 5 went back to the drawing board and mixed in some new ideas, cel-shaded graphics, and a lot of fun in one of the best titles of 2003--Dark Cloud 2. And while the game does bear some striking resemblances to the Zelda franchise, DC2 has enough charm of its own to stand alone.
Once a player picks up Dark Cloud 2, they will be captivated by the graphics. Very different from the original Dark Cloud, DC2 takes a cartoon-like approach to the visuals. While not as crisp as Zelda, each character is very detailed as are each of the environments. Developer Level 5 uses the classic black outlining of all characters and environments that have been seen in many cel-shaded games. While I prefer the cel-shaded look of Zelda, Dark Cloud 2 does get the job done.
In the game, you start of controlling Max, a young boy who spends his time fixing things. You live in a town where the village is cut off from the rest of the world and very few exciting things happen. However, a circus comes to town and Max is given permission to go to the circus and once he gets there, he overhears the mayor of the town talking to an evil clown who is running the show. Apparently, there is an amulet that the clown is seeking in the town and has been threatening the mayor to find it for him. As you probably could guess, our young hero, Max, has the amulet around his neck. It was a present from his dad and the Max has to run for his life to escape the clutches of this evil clown.
Soon after, you learn that the world has been destroyed and Max embarks on a quest to rebuild the planet. It is at this time that he runs into another hero--Monica. By fighting through the dungeons, you will gain raw materials that are needed to rebuild the world using an enhanced georama system. Dark Cloud 2 allows you to place buildings, plants, landscape, and more into each town you build. After doing this, you can add a different color of pain to buildings, add fences and chimneys, and ultimately recruit residents from your home town to inhabit each new town. After restoring a town, you can then gaze into the future to see what kind of impact you have made.
While the system is a bit overwhelming at first, there are many tutorials that will guide you through it. And because you can customize each town in the way you want, this is yet another way DC2 adds replay value to the game.
Like the original, Dark Cloud 2 makes use of multiple playable characters and randomly generated dungeons. Players can switch there characters with ease to help make it through each of the levels. I enjoy this aspect of the game, however, I do have a problem with the random dungeons. First, the good news about these dungeons is that it greatly increases the replay value. It is next to impossible for you to experience the same dungeon twice. However, because of this, each level in a dungeon can range from easy to very difficult depending on what monsters appear, the location of them, and the setup of the level. You may find that the map and compass for a particular level will be close to the entrance. However, at other times, they will be buried near the end of the level.
Each dungeon is divided up into multiple floors. At the end of each floor, you can save the game, replay a prior level in the dungeon, return to the surface of the world, or move on deeper into the dungeon. Normally once you get deeper into the dungeon, you will run into a few bosses before completing it.
While the ârandom dungeonâ? feature of the Dark Cloud series has its problems, overall, I really enjoy this aspect of the game. Sure you have some inconsistencies on how difficult or easy a particular level can be. But the positives is that you have a new experience each time you journey into a level. Much like what Blizzard did with Diablo--this one aspect gives Dark Cloud 2 a ton of replay valueâ¦ something that is missing from most games today--especially an Action/RPG.
Combat is both good and bad. Unfortunately, like the original, there is still some collision detection problems. There are many times when you hit an enemy and it wonât register or they will hit you even though you hit them first. While this has been improved since the first incarnation of the series, it is an element that could still use a bit more work.
Each character has a melee and projectile weapon. As you use these weapons, the items slowly gain EXP but they also degrade over time. While you can upgrade the items by adding objects to them and even upgrade the weapons to be more powerful, if an item breaks, you will lose all upgrades you have made for it thus far. This makes it very important to have enough repair power in your inventory so you can fight without worrying your item will break. While you can upgrade the item to make them more durable, I would like to have seen repairs be less frequent.
Dark Cloud 2 also features an invention system that utilizes a camera. Max has to take pictures. When he puts three photos together, he might just invent a new item. This can be a very time consuming project because there are countless inventions to be made. If you need help in coming up with what photos make inventions, a strategy guide or a resource like GameFaqs.com will be needed.
Overall, Dark Cloud 2 is arguably the best Action/RPG on the PlayStation 2. While it is not perfect, Level 5 is taking this franchise in the right direction. True the game may not be quite as polished as Zelda on the GameCube, Dark Cloud 2 will still provide you with many, many hours of fun and enjoyment.