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   Dark Cloud - Reader Retroview  

It'll Put a Dark Cloud Over Your Head
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
30-60 Hours
OVERALL

2.0/5

Rating definitions 

   Yay! Another random dungeon RPG! That means I get to do the same floor 100 times! Sarcasm aside, the dungeon concept for Dark Cloud is just horrible. Before I realized I was getting myself into a random dungeon game, it was fine though. Floor one was nice and all, lots of things to do, but once I hit floor two and had to do the exact same thing again I knew that the 50 hours of play time claimed on the box would not be time spent happily. Although scenery changes every now and then, you're still doing essentially the same level over and over and over again, which just isn't any fun in my opinion. To make matters worse, there is a horrible story and poor localization. It's not all bad though, as the weapon building system and town re-building systems were fairly well done. Making awesome weapons helps numb the pain and as an added bonus helps beat enemies and get the game over with faster. Rebuilding towns was quite nice as you actually recieve some gratitude for your efforts and can see how much better the world is with your help. Still, the dungeons really ruined this game for me.

   As this is an action RPG, battles are generally hack and slash. With melee characters you have to actually get close and wait for an opening, but with ranged characters you can simply stand back and shoot with little fear. After the first few levels, new attack patterns disappear and it becomes quite easy to defeat even new enemies. There area few items you can use for various effects in battle, but you have a small inventory so this is very limited. You can also learn a few skills which allow high damage, but they quickly destroy your weapon.

Check out that airship! Too bad you can't actually drive it... Check out that airship! Too bad you can't actually drive it...

   The interface is average at best. Shopping and storing items is very difficult to do with the poor interface, but luckily they have a shortcut key that does it for you. Most of the other menus aren't much better. In battle, the camera scrolls very slowly which can be very annoying when you are surrounded by enemies that can shoot from long distances. The shortcut keys including the ones I mentioned earlier are a big help in an otherwise poor interface.

   Dark Cloud has a very average soundtrack. None of the background music is memorable at all. To make matters worse, since each level is almost exactly the same as all the others and background changes are few and far between, dungeon music rarely changes. The rarely changing dungeon music simply adds to the monotony of each level. Boss music is a bit better, but not by much. The sound effects aren't too bad though.

   While it's just another random dungeon RPG, Dark Cloud still retains a large degree of originality. Building your weapons instead of your characters is a fairly unique idea, but the town customization is where it really shines. You are able to take requests from the villagers in order to build a town that you think looks cool and the villagers like as well. I found this to be quite original and a good break from the annoying repetitive dungeons.

Floor one complete! Now I just have to do 100 more that are just like it... Floor one complete! Now I just have to do 100 more that are just like it...

   Virtually no central story exists within Dark Cloud. You chase a genie around and restore towns. That's about it. The final level has more story than the other levels, but it's too little too late. There are several minor stories from town to town, but none of those are very interesting either. Since dungeons are so repetitive, it makes the lack of a story even worse. If they at least had a good story, dungeons might have been more tolerable.

   As stated earlier, the localization is poor as well. Items often have multiple names which can be very confusing sometimes, especially when you need a certain item for some purpose. A NPC might refer to the item as one thing and your inventory another. Certain characters have multiple names as well, such as the young master/young general. I think I even noticed them referring to the main character as his default name occasionally instead of the one I gave him. It's not enough to ruin the game, but it is quite annoying.

   Since every level is almost exactly the same anyway, there's no reason to ever play this game again. There isn't enough story or half-interesting parts of the game to make up for the dungeons. If, for some reason you want to play this game more, simply rip a town apart and put it back together or something, but like most random dungeon RPGs it has a very low replay value.

   The only impressive thing Dark Cloud has are visuals. There are many well-animated characters and enemies, decent backgrounds, and some anime-ish drawings. There are a few re-colored enemies throughout the game, but not too many. The resolution is quite good as well. While it's not the most impressive graphics ever, it's still reasonably decent for an early PS2 game. Of course, you can't have a game based on visuals alone so despite their initial charm, they simply can't make up for the rest of the game.

   Battles are simple hack and slash so most enemies are easy as long as you're careful. Once you have a long-range character, you should be able to defeat 90% of all enemies without putting yourself into danger. Bosses are a different story though as they can often inflict half of your hp worth of damage per hit. This would be challenging if not for the fact that there are items that double your attack and defense and a ton of healing items. Combine the two of those and not even the final boss can cause more than a scratch. If that wasn't enough, you can escape as long as you have a single escape powder and since only one character fights at a time it's almost impossible to get a Game Over. As long as you keep a decent inventory of healing items and upgrade your weapons now and then, you'll be fine. Since gems (highest weapon stat-growth items) are fairly easy to find and later on easy to buy, you should have no problem with this. Overall, an easy game.

   The back of the box boasts that there are 50 hours of play time. Thankfully, this is not the case. If you primarily stick to a single melee and ranged character and rush through the levels you should be able to finish the game in 30 hours. If you care enough to build all of the characters' weapons, it could take you up to 60 hours to finish though.

   You probably won't be surprised if I say that this isn't a very good game overall. It has graphics and, well, that's about it. Upgrading weapons and building towns are nice, but can't make up for the dungeons. Poor localization, the lack of a real story, and fragile weapons only add to this. I don't recommend Dark Cloud unless you can tolerate random dungeons and are looking for a game that has a fairly high play-time.

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