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Dark Cloud
Review By:  Christopher Coey
Developer:   Level 5
Publisher:   Sony
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Adventure/RPG
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:   12-08-01

I can't believe I played the whole thing! I know I complain a lot about how short some of the last years PS2 games have been, but I guess now I should eat my words. Dark Cloud is ridiculously, and needlessly long.

The story is interesting enough: An evil, power hungry general has released an imprisoned Genie from his tomb. Said Genie proceeds to destroy most of the world. Bummer. Yet there's hope. As it turns out, just before everything in each village is destroyed, a wise wizard encapsulated every item, building, and person into magical Atlamillia, and scattered the pieces throughout the land. The wizard then chose one boy, Toan, to bear the burden of rebuilding this ruined world, and to attempt to re-seal the Dark Genie in a new prison. Fun ensues.

In total there are six playable characters. Although, there isn't much need to play more than two (obviously Toan, and one of the two 'ranged-weapon' characters). The others are cool in there own ways, but personally, I only played them when certain levels forced me to. The graphics are not going to blow anyone away. They are what we've come to expect from a PS2 game. There are a lot of nice details (particularly the lighting effects as time progresses throughout the day), and I like how each village/dungeon has it's own unique 'feel'. The sound effects are also standard. But the music is certainly above average. In retrospect, the fact that I played a game for THAT long and didn't ever consciously think how monotonous the music was is a real credit. Not exactly a huge accolade, but in truth, the score is very well done.

One of the most beautiful things about this game goes relatively unnoticed. There are almost no load times. When world building, you can plop one building and character into a village area, then move right into the world and speak to that character, with no wait. Even the cut-scenes are rendered real time, not the usual pre-rendered CGI on disc that we have grown accustom to seeing; again, almost no waiting. Speaking of the cut-scenes, an interesting little detail that I got a kick out of was that Toan never actually speaks himself - an occasional grunt or exclamation, but no dialogue.

Dark Cloud does a good job in weaving a number of interesting (if not original) ideas into a nice whole. Basically, there are four elements in the game: dungeon crawling, village building, weapons management, and world map. The 'weaving' goes something like this: talk to characters in the villages to find out what they need, go into the dungeon to find those things, then place them into the world while you rebuild the village. Problem is, the deeper you go into the dungeons, the harder the enemies become. That's where the final, and most interesting element comes into play - the weapons management system. Instead of the characters 'leveling up' like in most RPGs, in Dark Cloud the WEAPONS level-up. You add abilities to your weapons by placing attachments, in the form of gems or magic stones, onto the weapon. The attachments are then absorbed into the weapon each time the weapon increases in level. At a certain level, you can change any weapon into a separate attachment which you can then add to another weapon. Through this process, you can gain powers, abilities, and increase a number of other categories for all of your weapons. There are a TON of weapons available, so the player can choose a favorite, and build that weapon into new and more powerful forms. Eventually, you can reach a point where you have an "ultimate" weapon, which is so powerful it can't be built up anymore. But you probably won't reach that point until AFTER you clear the game (more on that later).

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