Welcome to the world of Dark Cloud – or as I call it “RPG for dummies.” Let’s face it people: I am not an RPGer – I can’t spend that much time leveling up my characters only to find out I missed a crucial sidequest that I now have to go back 20 levels to get. That just plain sucks the fun out of my life. Why do you care? Simply because if you, like me, prefer the platformer/adventure/sim side of gaming, then this is the RPG for you. Level 5’s Dark Cloud 2 is a charmingly fun ride with very little heartbreak over missed events.
Where the Hell Is the Town?
The base of the Dark Cloud games centers around the idea that parts of the world have been erased and you, my lucky friend, get the job of putting them back together. In Dark Cloud 2 we find that a bad guy named Griffon has somehow managed to reach through the centuries to destroy the origin points of several key places/people in the future. The game starts out with Monica, your female character, traveling back a hundred years to try and recreate those origin points. There she enlists the help of Maximilian, your male character. Together, they recreate the future in order to stop Griffon.
So how do you recreate the towns? Simple: run through the dungeon levels, find the geostones and upload them into your Carpenterion. From there, you can place items in your georama (a little bit like simcity) and fulfill certain conditions (like object placement) in order to bring back the future that Monica knows.
While this part of the game has been upgraded from the first game (more flexibility in placement of objects, paintable items) there is a certain charm missing in not having to ask the residents where they want their houses. In fact if anything the objectives are oversimplified – I completed one area (100% fulfillment of the goals) without even noticing that I hadn’t attached the floating piers to the main dock.
Dungeon Crawlers “R” Us
The big reason I call this game “RPG for dummies” is the fighting in the dungeons. The dungeons progress through several randomly generated stand alone levels that contain increasingly tougher monsters. Per all RPGs fighting enemies levels up your weapons and gains you items and money. But you can see all of your enemies before you attack them and you attack them like you do enemies in platformers – no turn based fighting here! You can take several hits and can always use items to cure yourself or food to replenish your health. So you don’t have to dies unless you’re foolish.
The dungeon levels are great – some dungeons will be very familiar to those who played the first game and some have new tweaks that make life fun – like the bi-level dungeons by the coast line. The monsters are great, too. There are different types from plants, to beasts, to the undead, to magical monsters and more, many which require strategy in order to defeat them – such as the masked tribesmen whom you have to wait until they get bored and turn their back on you. All in all, you’ll find it’s relatively easy to make your way through dungeons and get really good weapons.
My Beautiful Wrenches
The weapons in Dark Cloud are wicked fun if maybe too plentiful (all told there are 21 wrenches/hammers, 19 guns, 46 swords, and 19 armlets.) Since your only have two fighters here (not the six of the first game) each of your characters has been given two kinds of weapons: short range and long range. Monica is now both the sword fighter and the magic armlet girl, while Max has taken on the hammer and gun weapons. Many of the old weapons are still available, along with a few new ones – like Max’s wrenches. Leveling up the weapons has been made easier this time around – now items and tricks to add power to you weapons are plentiful. One new twist, however: as you get close to ultimate versions of your weapons, you will have to kill certain monsters in order to be able to evolve you weapons up to the next level.
Quality Doesn’t Have To Amaze
A game like Dark Cloud is not a game that will stun you with gorgeous graphics or inspiring music. Yet, both are quality items. The cell-shaded characters are well drawn and move as they should, the backgrounds are nicely detailed and the sky looks beautiful at any time of day. The game’s music, which matches perfectly, and is pleasing and reminiscent of Dark Cloud 1, though you will get tired of the same battle music every single time you get in range of a monster. I, myself, am quite fond of the music in the final level’s of the dungeons and not just because it’s a nice warning that you are on your way to a boss battle – i.e. time to save.
Obviously, the developers felt that this was too simplistic a game in the original form. While we did have the fun of fishing (and catching the Mardan Garayan) and a bonus dungeon to beat after the game was over, now there’s way more extra stuff. You can fish, raise your fish, race your fish, play Spheda (golf with time distortions), collect badges in the dungeon levels to trade in for clothes, change your character’s clothes, acquire friends to help you on your journey, photograph scoops, take photographs to invent stuff, and play with two extra versions of your characters. Monica can roam the dungeons in various monster forms, and Max has his ridepod to zoom around the dungeons in. Both of these extras can be leveled up and the inventions you create are often items that make your ridepod stronger and more fun – samurai or motorcycle robot anyone? And never fear, there is an extra dungeon.
While Dark Cloud 2’s plot isn’t all that thought provoking, I think you’ll find that the quality and pure fun of the game itself will charm you and keep you roaming around it for a long time. Maybe you’ll get sucked into the idea of making your own towns or maybe you’ll find you especially enjoy the dungeons or maybe the game will make a photographer or inventor out of you. Whichever the reason, I think you will be pleasantly pleased by this simple yet solid game…filled with moon rabbits.