Dark Cloud 2

a game by SCEA
Platform: Playstation 2
Rating: 8/10

As an RPG fanatic, there are three things I always look for in judging a Role Playing Game:

Good story/storyline or plot. Does the story inspire me to play and is the evil that populates this world so bad that as a human being I cannot let them get away with whatever insidious plot they are devising? Random unexpected events and plot twists are a must.

Battle system. Whether it's turn-based or real time, it makes no difference to me as long as the game has a user-friendly setup that allows for quick play. This also includes upgradeable weapons/magic. A must for any RPG.

Creative characters. If I plan to invest 30-300 hours playing an epic game, I must like the person(s) I am controlling. Creative, uncommon characters, whether good or bad, can make or break any game. To this day, I have yet to find a cooler, more striking character that inspired me to play more, than Red VIII from Final Fantasy VII'a mysterious creature that for all intents and purposes broke the mold of the traditional character (A big mean looking cat?).

So, with these three things in mind, I eagerly popped in Dark Cloud 2, started it up and watched the intro' for a very long time. Dark Cloud 2 has one of the longest intros to any game I have ever played. Not to say that it was a bad thing, as you kind of play through the intro occasionally, familiarizing yourself as to how the game is controlled.

Now what got me going on the right foot was the fact the game contains an evil traveling circus, complete with a madman ringmaster (In my opinion most games could benefit from an evil traveling circus). And as the resident hero thrust-into-a-situation-only-he-can-stop, our hero Max (you) must escape the comfortable protecting walls of the city and venture forth into the vast unknown land being chased by bad guys because you carry an all too precious stone that you will use to help rebuild the world. Whew! And oh yeah, a warrior girl from the future travels back in time to aid Max in his quest.

So with that plot, I decided that I would continue forth. I felt the storyline was a bit weak at this point but other small details kept me playing.

As Max, you are a mechanic who repairs things and invents items to use in your travels. And what does a good mechanic use for a weapon? Why a wrench of course! But not just any wrench, a BATTLE-WRENCH. Yes, I thought it rather silly too, but think about it, if you had a giant plumbers wrench and smacked a monster upside the head with it, it could do some damage. Plus with Dark Cloud's weapon upgrade system, you must maintain its durability and improve on it by monitoring each weapon's ABS gauge (weapons gain experience) to make it a better weapon. Couple this with a real-time, fully controllable combat system and you can repair leaky faucets AND kill a giant rat at the same time.

So there's number two on my list, I like the real time combat and the fact that weapons can be upgraded, but I didn't care for the fact that weapons can break if you don't maintain them (you are constantly repairing them).

Max and Monica (girl warrior from the future) are nothing particularly inventive or original as far as the characters are concerned. You've played as them before in different games and although they look different, there is nothing truly compelling about either one of them. As a matter of fact, the first thing I think of with Max is that he has a very annoying voice. You can't turn it off and you don't dare skip any of the looooong cut scenes because you run the risk of not knowing what to do next. Not the kind of kick-ass heroes I had hoped for. Admittedly, they do get caught up in some clever fights and inventive action sequences, but I like my heroes a little more mature acting and looking.

Number three on my list, not the worst characters I've ever played, but nowhere near the best.

Lastly, it's important to talk about the game's one true defining point'the creation and rebuilding of the world. As Max and Monica adventure through the various dungeons, they will collect materials from nearby towns. Through the magic of video games, Max can recreate these towns and in some cases improve upon them. Depending on how you rebuild the town, the game may take you into a different direction. It's a clever idea that obviously was the selling point of the first Dark Cloud game. Dark Cloud 2 takes this unique and fun approach and expands on it by making the game more diverse and branching.

So let's recap. I thought the game's storyline was just OK. I thought the real time battles and weapons upgrade system was pretty good, but didn't like the fact that you need to repair your weapons so often. I really didn't care for either Max or Monica, but I did however like some of the bad guys. and that evil traveling circus was a winner. If that was all I was scoring on then I would say stay away, it wouldn't be worth it. But since the game does contain the 'rebuild the world'? feature and the differing outcome on how you rebuild the world, I say RPG fans should pick this one up.

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