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Dark Cloud
Preview By: Joe Rolfe
Developer:   SCEA
Publisher:   SCEA
Genre:   RPG
# of Players:   1
ESRB:    TBA
Release Date:   Q1/Q2 2001
Posted:   01-18-01

After releasing a simple puzzle game and a myriad of poor sports titles, Sony really doesn't have much to be proud of on their very own PlayStation 2. The future for the gaming juggernaut, however, looks bright. With multiple quality 1st party games on tap for 2001 from under the publishing label of Sony, PS2's daddy appears as though the New Year should treat them kindly. Part of this plan, though, is their upcoming action/adventure, Dark Cloud. Despite being one of the first PS2 titles shown with real footage over a year ago, the SCEA-developed hack 'n slasher has taken pretty long to arrive. Nevertheless, Dark Cloud is practically in our hands. With the Japanese version in finished form, the U.S. edition should be right around the corner - we hope.

The most obvious reason for Dark Cloud's attraction (outside of it's bright and crisp visuals) are the immediate comparisons to Nintendo's epic N64 hit, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Dark Cloud contains the same basic premise of Link's many classic adventures - find a dungeon, search it and solve puzzles, then defeat enemies and a boss. Repeat. Notice, however, that this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the Zelda titles have always been my favorite form of game no matter which platform it arrives on. What Dark Cloud does bring to the table that is (although slightly borrowed) not a common sight in a Zelda title is it's nifty town rebuilding. Comparisons to the Landmake system in Square's Legend of Mana is inevitable, but Dark Cloud has created a unique correlation. Players are forced to enter randomly generated dungeons, in which by defeating enemies, one can attain geometric parts to creating a town above ground. Fans of Diablo's mindless baddie whacking, or those fond of the deep, sprawling adventures into vaults as seen in - guess - any Legend of Zelda games should feel right at home.

Weapons and items may wear and tear over time, so it is necessary for the lead character to stop and refurbish his multiple arms. (Weapons, not limbs, you sicko.) Players will also be confronted with completing puzzles and other quandaries, too, so belligerent sword slashing won't be quite the entire heart of the game. SCEA has borrowed the revolutionary Z-targeting system from Shigeru Miyamoto's adventure brainchild, giving gamers the ability to center the camera and lock on their current point of view.

As for the aesthetics? Well, in case you can't tell from the screens, Dark Cloud has some of the sharpest graphics ever seen in an adventure title. Like explained before, the game's visual flair includes not hyper-realistic characters or incredibly detailed towns and locals, but rather Dark Cloud throws the gamer into a mix of goofy and upbeat environments filled with quirky, charming characters and towns people to meet.

So, is there really anything about Dark Cloud that isn't like Zelda? At this point in time it's hard to say without a full playable game in which one can pull out the smallest, meticulous details about the game. While Nintendo's famed elf may point out too many similarities to Dark Cloud for the title to really separate itself from the pack, Sony's effort in releasing an honest, quality 1st party game proves that Dark Cloud should not be taken lightly. Look for SCEA's dungeon hack to arrive before summer 2001.

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