Video Game Review of the Week

--Review by KenshiroKing @ 6/3/03 7:57 PST.

Dark Cloud 2

I've been playing Dark Cloud 2 eight hours a day for three days straight and it is my firm belief that this time was well spent. The plot of this game is thus: You play as a young adolescent who lives in an isolated town. As the game progresses, you meet a girl from the future who informs you that the evil "Emperor Griffon" is going back in time and changing the origin points of certain people and places. By changing these origin points, he has ensured that these people and places no longer exist in the future. Yet somehow, everyone in the future remembers these now non-existent things despite the fact that, in the new time, they never existed. (Clearly someone didn't watch Back to the Future). I could go on and on about the inconsistencies of time travel, but I'll let these guys do it instead. So basically, the point of the game is to restore, in your own time, the origin points of these future objects then travel to the future and find out how to stop Griffon from destroying the world.

In order to restore these origin points you must reconstruct different areas by placing houses and other village necessities then moving people into them until you have fulfilled the requirements for restoring the origin point. You find out what these requirements are, as well as acquire templates for village item construction, by clearing dungeons and picking up "Geostones." Dungeon crawling and world building take up the majority of the gameplay, but there are other mini-game type pastimes that you can use to, well, pass the time.

As in the first Dark Cloud, you can fish almost anywhere there is a body of water. You can enlist your fishing skills at various points in the story as well as compete in fishing contests held at regular intervals in game time. There is also a golf game called "Spheda" that is only barely justified by the storyline as hitting a "fragment of time" into a "time distortion" with a "Spheda club" which in no way resembles golf at all... Whatever, who doesn't like golf games?

Another way that Level 5 used to add hours to the game is by awarding medals for completing goals for each dungeon level. For instance: Kill all the monsters in under 5 minutes, get a medal. Kill all the monsters using only items, get a medal. And so on. These medals can be traded in for costumes that the two main characters can wear. Luckily, there are skimpy costumes for the female character, despite the fact that she is obviously barely a teenager. This proves once again, age is not an issue for Japanese game developers.

One of the most innovative features of DC2 is the ability to invent. By taking pictures of various objects spread throughout the world, then combining three of these pictures as the seeds for ideas, you can come up with an idea for an invention. From there it is simply a matter of getting the requisite materials to construct the object in order to create one of your very own.

Graphically, DC2 is adequate. The somewhat-more-than-dated PS2 is usually a graphics nightmare, but the addition of cell shaded characters saved this game from what could have been a visual nightmare. No traces of anti-aliasing to be found here. The backgrounds are well conceived and attractive by PS2 standards, while the character designs are well designed if not entirely original.

The music of DC2 is very appropriate. When you are cruising around and accessing the world building tool, it is very mellow and has just a touch of Muzak. During the dungeon crawling sequences the music retains its pleasant tone but transforms into the standard role-playing fare when you engage enemies. The sound effects are solid and support the game very well.

The combat system is real-time and action based, not the standard turn based of other role-playing games, which enables those of you with twitch gamer skills to excel. You do not so much gain levels as procure items which increase your health and defense. This aspect of the game which most represents traditional level building is the weapon-synthesizing feature. As you defeat enemies your weapon gains experience then levels up. You can then turn just about any item into a "synth sphere" which your weapon can absorb and increase its stats. When certain requirements are met, you can upgrade your weapon into something better and start the whole process over.

All in all, DC2 is a very enjoyable game. There is a little bit for every kind of gamer in this title. The primary classification for the game is a RPG/World Builder, but it is enough of a departure from the norms of those genres that it becomes a unique title that is worth a rent, at the very least.

Score: 8 of 10

Video Games