This review must first state that every player who disliked Dark Cloud, the PS2 launch title, should not, under any circumstance, think that Dark Cloud 2 is a sequel. Sure, they both have the Georama feature. Yeah, each title has the player keep eye on their weapons hit points. Ok, the title is labeled Dark Cloud 2 and produced by the same studio. Hmmm?c. OK! So, Dark Cloud 2 is a sequel to the lack-luster launch title Sony released for the PS2. Fortunately, Level 5 wasn?ft so rushed with Dark Cloud 2.
Those unfamiliar with this studio should not rethink if they are still that gaming god, Level 5 has been in hiding for sometime and with all that time they have come up with a lot fresh ideas. And let me tell you, Dark Cloud 2 shows a whole host of them!
Without giving much away, Dark Cloud 2 puts in role of Max who carries a gem stone that allows him to travel through time. Throughout his journey, Max is trying to save the future by changing the past. Along the way he meets many new people and learns a lot about his past. Long-story-short, the plot in Dark Cloud 2 is similar to that of a Saturday morning cartoon.
Excellent story or decent story, it?fs all about the gameplay and Dark Cloud 2 offers tons of it. In fact, even the keenest and exceptional gamers will still get 70 hours of gameplay. Those who must find everything (and you know who you are) should get at get least 80 hours of gameplay. That?fs a lot of gameplay for a $50 price tag. Luckily, throughout the entire trip, the player is given so much to engage in, the game rarely gets boring. Naturally, there are problems. We?fll address these later.
Gameplay in Dark Cloud 2 is just a fine and well balanced version of Dark Cloud. Your character still uses a targeting system in which you can either engage enemies with your handheld weapon or engage with your long range weapon. You can evade and block attacks from most opponents. The biggest difference between combat when compared to Dark Cloud is the addition of using multiple characters. If a seal on a level isn?ft present (seals keep the player from using certain characters in certain levels) you can switch between Max, Monica, or Steve the Ridepod. Steve is a player controlled robot that you can upgrade, equip with weapons, and kick a lot of ass with. Combat does become slightly dull but the large array of enemies keeps things interesting.
Graphically, Dark Cloud 2 will be visual feast for the eyes at every step. Level 5 decided to incorporate a cell-shading technique on most of the characters in the game. The effect delivers a very impressive presentation and couples this with amazing animation; you have a game that looks like a cartoon. The environments, on the other hand, are not cell-shaded but they are beautifully done. Each chapter opens up an entirely new land and Level 5 held nothing back, in terms of creativity, for each chapter.
Audio in Dark Cloud 2 comes in a mix bag. The game offers the best voice acting heard in quite sometime. Although the voices have a cartoon feel to them, they are very appropriate and add a unique experience to the game. Unfortunately, other aspects of audio were not nearly as well addressed. Nothing is terrible, it just doesn?ft standup to how great this game is. Music and environmental sound are usually mediocre. Let me stress ?gusually?h, there are occasions where the music in Dark Cloud 2 is just absolutely stunning.
As stated before, the most enticing thing about Dark Cloud 2 is the sheer amount of things the player is capable of doing. Fishing, inventing, photography, golf, weapon upgrading, etc., it?fs all here. This game is every RPG players dream. You rarely become bored because the variety of things to participate in. In fact, a large portion of my first 25 hours were solely devoted to taking pictures and attempting to come up with new inventions. Although this may sound repetitive, the presentation Level 5 has created with Dark Cloud 2 avoids this problem. It?fs an RPG you can play for hours on end and never get bored. It?fs just that fun!
Dark Cloud 2?fs brightest spot is also its weakest feature. Usually, all these acts rarely affect any aspect of the game. In fact, the player is sometimes forced to participate in these events in order to progress through the game. This is fine, but it would have been nice to see the use of these events used more. So, eventually, the player just finds these completions of events such as golf or fishing, as form of self-satisfaction. In simplicity, the goal becomes to get the highest score and that?fs it. Fortunately, this is the only major flaw in the game.
I could continue on and on about how great this game is. We could talk about the great menu system, the ability to skip cutscences, the joy one attains when playing in any of the events, but we won?ft. No, you need to go purchase Dark Cloud 2 and experience it for yourself. This easily has ?gGame of the Year?h written all over it and it?fs easy to see why. With the clever marketing commercial and huge push Sony seems to have for this title, it?fs possible this game could break the million mark soon. Let?fs just hope it doesn?ft pass under everyone?fs radar.