Dark Cloud 2
Review by Toger
I think I finally found the perfect RPG ... it's not dark, depressing
or brooding. Nor is it just a random combat clickfest. There's
almost no religious overtone, nor is there any political intrigue.
And the people of the land don't hate you. Let the dancing begin!
Oops, I got a little ahead of myselflet me back up and start
from the beginning ...
Dark Cloud 2 is the newest RPG from Sony. It's the sequel
to the much-loved Legend of Zelda knock-off, Dark Cloud.
The hero of the original Dark Cloud looked so much
like Zelda's Link he even had a funny little outfit and
pointed ears! I played some of the original Dark Cloud and
had issues with it that made me stop playing ... Always having
to deal with keeping your thirst at bay was one. (Nothing ruins
a fun day of kicking demon butt like having to stop the action,
climb back out of the dungeon and locate a bottle of water!) And
the truly annoying fact that not only could you break your weapon
after building it up but it would disappear once it was broken
and you'd be left with your original weapon ... weak and ineffectual
against enemies as you made your way deeper into the dungeons.
Not my idea of fun.
In Dark Cloud 2, Sony has fixed those issues and made
the game much more enjoyable. Thirst is no longer a problem unless
a critter inflicts that condition upon you, and weapons no longer
vanish when broken. Instead, broken weapons now are simply ineffective
against monsters until they've been repaired.
As some English guy once said, "the play's the thing."
Dark Cloud 2 is an epic tale of adventure that spans the
long-distant past, the present and the future. It covers lost
love, abandonment, revenge and a true understanding of why people
are afraid, rightly so, of clowns. Clowns are evil, but I digress.
Our story begins in the future when Monica's father is mysteriously
attacked and killed. Quick jump to the past, and we're strolling
with Maximillian, boy inventor and only son of the richest man
in town. Max scores a ticket to the circus, where he overhears
the ringmaster, Flotsam, threatening the mayor of Palm Brinks.
Max is spotted eavesdropping, and the chase is on with all manner
of circus-related henchmen in hot pursuit. With a little help
from an oversized monkey wrench, Max holds his own and escapes.
Max learns that the evil Emperor Griffon is out to rid the world
of humans by destroying all of their accomplishments. In order
to defeat Griffon, Max and Monica will need to rebuild the origin
points of those achievements so that the future is returned to
its prior state.
In all honesty, Dark Cloud 2 is a difficult game to classify.
It's mainly an RPG, which involves the standard dungeon-crawling,
battling of monsters, upgrading weapons and running the ever-popular
FedEx quests for the local townies, but there's a huge difference
from other games in this genre. It's fun and has a lot more going
on than your average console RPG.
Along with the dungeon crawl, there's world-building, fishing,
photography, an invention system, fish racing, fish breeding and
Spehda. What, pray tell, is Spehda? Golf. (Are you laughing hysterically
yet?) Spehda is presented as a way to correct distortions in the
space/time continuum, but it's really ... golf. Before you throw
your hands up in disgust and go back to watching TV, let me tell
you that it's not necessary to do everything in order to complete
the game. You'll only need to fish twice and play Spehda once
to advance the story. The rest of the time, playing Spehda is
a way to get access to specialty items, like advanced weapons,
and the fishing simply bleeds out all of that excess adrenaline
The photography portion goes hand-in-hand with the invention
systemyou take a picture to start a germ of an idea, then
put three pictures together to come up with an invention. Throughout
the game, Max will come across notes, books and posters that will
list three items, so you're not left twisting in the wind trying
all of the available permutations. The invention system literally
is used to invent just about any object used by Max and Monica,
including weapon upgrades and health items. For the most part,
I only used the invention system for some advanced weapons not
available through normal upgrading. Why invent when I can shop?
As you progress through the game, you'll be called upon to travel
between the present and the future to set things right. This is
where the world-building comes into play. To correct the future,
you'll need to locate a georama stone, found in most floors of
the dungeons. The stones contain the information needed to create
the origin pointbuildings, trees, accessories and conditions
that must be met in order to fix the future. Conditions necessary
in the rebuilding will vary from location to location. What's
necessary to rebuild Sindain won't be the same when it comes time
to remake Heim Rada.
One of things that sets Dark Cloud 2 apart from other
RPGs is the lack of an actual "party" system of play.
Instead of directing two or more people at once, you'll only control
one person at any one time. As a matter of fact, the only times
you'll see Max and Monica onscreen at the same time are during
the numerous cutscenes. During the real-time combat, you can switch
between Max and Monica at will, either using the main menu or
the R3 button. I loved this method, as I could swap out Max for
Monica when her sword did more damage than his wrench. Any NPCs
that join your little soiree are used as support characters, simply
supplying boosts to stats or repairing equipment, and not as combatants.
As you wander the various dungeons, you won't get that annoying
ad nauseam usually found in console RPGs. Instead, critters are
scattered throughout the dungeon, and you'll see them appear as
red dots on the dungeon map as you enter a particular room. Dungeon
floors are cleared once you've killed off everything on that floor.
Once you leave that floor, the creatures and treasure chests will
respawn, but in most cases it's not necessary to travel those
floors again unless you're pumping your stats.
While rebuilding the origin points of each location, you can
save at any time at any one of several glowing pink save pointseach
location sports at least two save points; the town of Palm Brinks
has five. Saving in the dungeons occurs just prior to entering
each floor or once you've completed a floor. You can choose to
leave the dungeon at any time; however, if you haven't cleared
out all the monsters, you will incur the penalty of losing half
of all the gildas you've collected so far.
Gameplay is somewhat linear. This isn't a "wander where
you will, do what you want" kind of game. You'll definitely
need to rebuild origin points to near completion before you can
move on to the next location. On the other hand, I was able to
rebuild only 90% of Balance Valley before moving on to the next
Each dungeon has its own unique decor and music ... the sea caves
of Veniccio are huge echoing caverns flooded with ankle-deep water.
Moisture drips from the ceilings, and sea mist fills the air.
Here you'll battle long-dead pirate captains, trident-bearing
Medusa-like sea slugs and snapping sea turtles. In Starlight Canyon,
home to walking stone golems, crazed cudgel-toting elves and evil
circus performers in flying masks, the sunlight is so bright during
the day I kept reaching for my sunglasses. While battling though
the belly of Mt. Gundor, you can feel the searing heat of the
volcano as you wander along paths tucked between rivers of flowing
Music is as varied as each dungeon and location. The types of
music run the gamut from a jaunty little French accordion ditty
in Palm Brinks and medieval flutes and drums in Mt Gundor to Celtic
Yanni/Enya/New Age melodies at Stonehenge and jazzy speak-easy
tunes while battling one of the level-end bosses.
Dark Cloud 2 simply is a gorgeous game! We're talking
bright, bold, beautiful colors and fluid cel-shaded animation.
As the sun marches across the sky, shadows will lengthen and change
position. The sunrises and sunsets on the coast of the world map
were breathtaking. There were times I stood in wonder as the sun
slowly dipped into the far horizon. Water rippled when droplets
hit water surfaces and bubbled realistically as it flowed from
great heights. Even the level bosses were brilliantly colored.
No dull, drab, lifeless evil in this world! Characters are animated
in more of a Disney style rather than the Japanese look you'd
normally expect in a console RPG, although the two main characters,
Max and Monica, do have that long-legged anime appearance.
What really knocked my socks off was the attention to detail
as the action changed from player-controlled to cutscene. In most
RPGs, the look of a weapon will change as it's built up, but you'll
only see that change as you wield the weapon during combat. Dark
Cloud 2 goes one step further. Not only will you see the changed
weapon in player-controlled areas such as combat, but the alteration
will carry though to subsequent cutscenes as well.
Surprisingly, there's quite a bit of voice work in DC2. And
it's very well done. Most RPGs will use voiceovers for the cutscenes,
but in Dark Cloud 2 there's also vocalization while fighting,
sustaining damage, dying and lifting heavy objects. And that's
just from the main characters! As you take on various monsters,
some of them will voice their objection to being pummeled. Conversations
with NPCs are text-based, unless it involves a cutscene. All conversations,
including cutscenes, are subtitled.
I have to tell you ... Dark Cloud 2 consumed me for a
solid month. It was the only game I played. The game clocked
me at 60+ hours at the end of chapter 7 (the eighth and final
chapter is considered a bonus level), and that didn't include
the few times I had to redo a dungeon level because both characters
died. This game made me laugh out loud and gasp in astonishment.
When an end level boss made the "bring it on" gesture
with his hand, I almost blew the battle I laughed so hard.
Dark Cloud 2 has a great story, lots of adventure, unique
characters and monsters and Spehda! What's not to love? This one
is a keeper!
Release Date: March 2003
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