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Dark Cloud

Developer: Level 5 | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 05/28/01 | Genre: Action/RPG

If there is one genre on the Playstation 2 that has yet to see a great title, it would most certainly have to be Role Playing Games. While this genre used to be something only the hardcore geeks played in the US, the popularity of the Final Fantasy franchise on the Playstation breathed new life into all RPG's. Instead of only getting a handful of new RPG's every year, the Playstation brought us many classics. In fact, there were so many good RPG's released during the life of the Playstation, I am still trying to play through them all!

Dark Cloud is Sony's first attempt at filling the RPG void on the Playstation 2 in the US. Sony has gone out of their way to ensure players are happy with Dark Cloud by adding a ton of new features into the title. With a "more is better" strategy, Sony added more bosses, more items, more weapons, and more dungeons into the game world. The end result is a very enjoyable adventure that any RPG fan with a PS2 will want to play.

I found Dark Cloud to be a hybrid of Zelda 64 and the SNES classic, Actraiser. Players control Toan, an elfin teen who is given a rather large assignment. The evil Colonel Flag revives a giant pink genie known as Dark Genie and begins destroying the world to further his plans for world domination. Toan's town is one of many that are destroyed. However, you are given special powers to go within dungeons, collect magical orbs that contain villagers, houses, and items that were destroyed within the world. After collecting these orbs, you can leave the dungeon and begin to put the world together again. Players are free to create the world as they want to. After placing houses, people, and trees, you can walk through your creation. It is very nicely done and adds a ton of replay value to the title. At the same time, it will remind you of what a next generation version of Actraiser could have been.

Graphically, Dark Cloud is stunning. The game starts off in a lengthy cinema that sets up the story. I was very impressed with the sound effects within the cinema. It seems that far to many times developers are content with using flashy graphics within a cinema but leave out any sound effects. Not true in Dark Cloud. Our first glace of Toan is at the dinner table where he is eating. The simple clanging of dishes and sound effects like this really show the extra mile the developers went in Dark Cloud.

Within the dungeons, Toan leaves behind a trail of dirt when running through the dusty floors. Also, the lit torches burn brightly through the dark corridors. These realistic looking flames were just another small element that impressed me. There are countless titles where the developers don't take the time to go that extra mile and add graphical improvements like Sony has done in Dark Cloud.

The gameplay surrounding Toan with Dark Cloud will definitely remind you of Zelda 64. However, I found the control and cameras not nearly as polished as Miyamoto's classic. Most of the time, you will find yourself fighting the very loose controls. Also, when in the dungeons, I had a very difficult time controlling the camera. It seemed to never be in an optimal position. However, my biggest gripe is not with the controls, but the gameplay. Your character is forced to drink water to stay alive. I found multiple dungeons where there was no water supply� This caused me to die of thirst or exit the dungeon to refresh myself when I did not have any bottles of water in my inventory. The problem is, the dungeons are randomly generated. Meaning, if you leave one level and return to it later, you start at the beginning and have to work your way through it again. While this adds to the replay value, it can be quite frustrating if you are trying to complete a level and can't due to the design of the dungeon.

Another frustrating feature in Dark Cloud is the weapons system. Your weapon can only take so much damage until it breaks. To avoid this, you must repair it by using items in your inventory or items you pick up within the dungeon. I found my weapon was almost always on the verge of breaking and I never had enough "repair powder" in my reserves to keep my blade strong.

Despite these small annoyances, Dark Cloud is probably as close as the Playstation 2 will ever get to copying Zelda's gameplay� That is of course unless Miyamoto makes his next version of Zelda for Sony, which is about as likely as the Xbox succeeding in Japan.

While Dark Cloud is not the greatest RPG ever made, it is the best the Playstation 2 currently has to offer. However, this is not a bad thing. With over 30 hours of gameplay, multiple dungeons to explore, and a whole world to rebuild, Dark Cloud is a fun and enjoyable experience despite a few nagging problems. If you have a PS2 and are hungry for some next generation RPG action, Dark Cloud is your ticket to fun.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 08/21/01
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