Dark Cloud 2
Score: 8.0 / 10
playing this game the first thing that jumped to mind for me was the
saying, ďThe more things change, the more they stay the same.Ē
This could not be truer in regards to Dark Cloud 2.
Visually the game is absolutely stunning with its use of cel
shading in comparison to the presentation used in the first game.
A longer quest, and a plethora of mini games also help to give
the sense that this is a very different experience from the original
Dark Cloud. But not so, as
the core, fundamental way in which the first Dark Cloud worked is still
the core, fundamental way Dark Cloud 2 works.
Thatís just fine, however, as the end result is more fun hack
and slash action through randomly generated dungeons with engaging
puzzle-like town building on top.
now and then a game will come along that tries to play like a Saturday
morning cartoon with its visuals, especially now that everyone and their
mother seems to want to cram some cel shading into their title.
Dark Cloud 2 has really hit the nail on the head with this.
The textured cel shading looks really nice, the way the colors
play off of each other, the character and monster design, the motifs of
the dungeons and cities, they all have a whimsical, fantasy air to them.
With some nice lighting effects and very smooth animation, even
with a number of enemies in close proximity, the visual appeal of Dark
Cloud 2 is hard to resist.
sound on the other hand is a bit sketchier.
The sound effects are fine and dandy, but the music needs some
work. The composition of
the tunes is fine, but where the songs are placed in the game feels a
little off. Thereís
plenty of dungeons where the music thatís being played in them feels
like something more appropriate for a calm, peaceful village.
I want music that will make me want to pummel monsters left and
right, or at least something full of mystery and whimsy.
Thankfully there are still plenty of dungeons whose music does
feel appropriate, more than making up for the others.
Dark Cloud 2 is a shining example of how games need more varied
battle music instead of the same song over and over, however.
The piece used here is fine the first few times you hear it, but
it gets old fast. If there
were three or four different songs that loaded up at random it
wouldnít be so bad, but as it stands the repetitive, aggravating
battle music in the game only encourages players to hustle in finishing
a fight so the bloody tune will hurry up and go away.
Surprisingly, the voice acting is very good in the game.
The voices sound just right for each character and thereís no
sign of poor acting anywhere. If
only more games were like this.
story itself is a wonderfully lighthearted affair.
A villain by the name of Emperor Griffon is making points in
history disappear and it falls upon the gameís heroes, Max and Monica,
to set things right by rebuilding the world and traveling through time.
Along their journeys thereís a number of little stories in each
town that are quite entertaining, not to mention large portions of the
storyís plot is told as a letter from Max to his long missing mother.
The story never tries to take itself too seriously, instead
simply trying to provide a fun ride and succeeding in this task.
through the game is generally straightforward.
The controls are very intuitive, feeling natural at all times.
Players can lock onto individual enemies to attack, and switching
between close up melee and ranged attacks with ease.
The one problem with the gameís controls comes from being able
to switch between Max and Monica by pressing down on the L3 button.
Unfortunately this is also the directional lever on the Dual
Shock 2 that controls the charactersí movement.
There have been many times in the heat of battle that Iíve
accidentally pressed down on the L3 while trying to dodge enemies
resulting in a character being called up that I didnít want to use.
This problem could have been easily avoided by assigning this
character switching hot key to one of the shoulder buttons, but that
isnít even a choice in the options menu.
Itís a very unfortunate, and glaring fault in the Dark Cloud
2ís control scheme.
it isnít enough to ruin the core gameplay of the title.
Searching through one random dungeon after the next, hoping to
find treasure of one sort or another, all the while hacking and blasting
away on all sorts of enemies is great.
More importantly, itís very challenging.
The enemies in Dark Cloud 2 wonít go easy on you for a minute
so it becomes important to learn their attack habits early on or
youíll be restarting from save points frequently.
Blocking, dodging, and carrying lots of healing items are key to
performing well in combat here. When
going through the dungeons players can also choose from branching paths
at times, but unfortunately they donít provide any non-linearity since
youíll be forced back to complete the other path in order to perform
some mandatory task or another anyway.
The selectable fighting characters all bring something useful to
the table. Max has a slow
attack, but it does a good job of penetrating armor and dishing out high
levels of damage, while Monica is all about the finesse with smooth,
flowing sword strokes. On
top of this players have access to the Ridepod, a large robot piloted by
Max capable of dealing high amounts of damage against larger enemies.
Thereís no real set order to use these characters in, but they
each serve a distinct purpose and devising a strategy as for how best to
use them is very rewarding. We
also see the return of the highly addictive leveling up of weapons,
building them up into newer, shinier bringers of destruction.
A big part of the fun in Dark Cloud 2 is building up a weapon to
see what it turns into.
Georama portion of the game (aka the city building) is thankfully a lot
more forgiving than it was in the original.
Unlike the first game where you needed to fulfill very strict
guidelines in order to make everyone in the town happy, in Dark Cloud 2
building and item placement is a lot more open to interpretation.
However, adding a degree of challenge is the need to find the raw
materials to make the different things that must be planted in the city
youíre trying to rebuild, be it plants, buildings, landmarks or
whatever. Thankfully these
materials can be found in the dungeons, but for those who want them
quickly a few characters in the game sell the them so you can get back
to fixing a city right away (assuming you have enough gold for the
we have here is a sequel that retains all that made the original an
entertaining romp, while adding a whole lot more to fatten it up.
There are a few sticking points that prove to be nuisances, but
they arenít nearly bad enough to ruin the game.
There isnít a lot of action RPGs on the PS2, so if youíre
looking for a new game in the genre Dark Cloud 2 is definitely one to
(April 6 2003)
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