The original title of this article was “15 Hours with… Dark Cloud 2,” but since I’ve been having way too much fun playing Dark Cloud 2 and couldn’t manage to take a break to write about Dark Cloud 2, the whole tone of this is probably going to end up very different than originally intended. I’m on the cusp of completing this game, at least the main story and final “necessary” chapter, but I wanted to release this before I moved on to something else.
It’s not often I come across a game that I simply can’t stop playing for hours at a time. There’s only one word to describe this game based on my time with it so far, and that word is “absolute perfection.” Alright, two words. Ballsy to say about any game, as none are without their flaws, but this game resonates with me on a level that no other game ever really has. At least not in recent memory. Truth be told, there aren’t enough words to describe how much I’ve enjoyed this game.
At this point in time, I’m convinced that DC2 is one of the best RPGs ever made, and while I don’t expect to be able to articulate my case very well while I’m blinded by the desire to keep playing it instead of writing about it, I’m going to jot down some things about it really fast and see if I can convince you of it’s greatness, based solely on the gameplay elements.
If you’ve played the original Dark Cloud, known as Dark Chronicle outside of the ‘States, the second installment improves on all of the good features of DC1, fixes the not-so-good features, removes all the bad features (such as the dreaded thirst meter), and adds a huge amount of depth in the form of inventions and interactions with the physical world.
Your typical RPG consists of several formulaic elements, most of which are some sort of modification of the more traditional elements, like recruiting team members, learning movesets, different battle types, etc. What DC2 does is take all of these, spin it into an action-RPG, and reinvent the whole genre, with a ridiculous amount of unique features that to my knowledge, have never been done this well in a video game, if at all. Let’s dive into it.
The Basic Plot and Point of it All
To keep things simple, the plot can be summarized as thus: you need to collect Geostones, which are parts of history, that you then use to rebuild the past, to affect the future, and save the world. That’s about as plainly as it can be put – but the depths involved in this are way more complicated than it seems, and it gets more difficult as the game progresses. You also need to convince people to move into these new villages that you’re re-creating, and some folks are more specific about what type of home or environment they’d like to live in. All of this assists in keeping the experience unique throughout the game, as opposed to “grind dungeon floors, find Geostones, build houses, change the future” and repeat and repeat and repeat.
The Weapon Upgrading System!
In most RPGs, the typical system of advancement is that of leveling up your character. How you level up your character differs from game to game, but the overall purpose is to get more powerful, and to do that, you gain experience, and thus, levels. This gives you more strength, skill power, etc.
Dark Cloud 2 changes this around, and rather than upgrading your character, you upgrade weapons by using them. Each of the two characters you can play as, Max and Monica, come with two weapon types, ranged and melee, which can be leveled up individually and infused with magical powers. Once a weapon is infused with enough magical powers using items you find around the dungeon floor, you can “build up” the weapon, turning it into something completely different and also usually totally badass. I turned a wrech into a motherfuckin’ BATTLE DRILL. With THREE drills! What the fuck!
The Photography System!
Ever spend an hour and a half wandering around an in-game world, taking pictures of traffic lights, lamps, and beds? Well now I can officially put myself in that club! There are, literally, hundreds of common and not-so-common items scattered around the world that you can take pictures with, using your camera. The game will also identify these things, kept track as “ideas,” so take a picture of a pipe, and you now “Pipe” as an idea.
What are these ideas for? Well, they’re for you to use with…
The Invention System!
Want to build some cool things? Great! First, you need to invent those things! And the way you invent those things is by combining Ideas, or, things that you photographed. You can get clues of which three items to combine by reading books found around the world, or by talking to characters. Once you invent something, be it Bread, a Battery, some kind of shoes, or an admittedly absurd assortment of various other items, you can then build them with inventory items that you pick up from dungeons.
Like the ancient native americans using every piece of the buffalo, every little thing you obtain has a purpose. Nothing goes wasted here!
The Recruitment System!
As I touched on earlier, once you rebuild these villages in the past, you need to fill them with people, so that they can (theoretically) grow up and affect the future in the correct way. But not every person will leave the comfort of their homes to join you, and some need to be coerced, from beating them in a fishing contest or foot race, or demonstrating mastery of your weapons.
The Construction System!
As the main focus of this game is fixing the future by reshaping the past, each new village that you reconstruct has certain caveats that, together, render the village 100% complete. You have different goals to accomplish, ranging from having certain recruited NPCs to move into the town, plant specific numbers of trees, or place items on or near other items. It’s incredible, especially given the time that this game was released, just how flexible the building system is in the first place, and then to add all this specifity? Blows my mind every time.
As I mentioned up top, I’m currently in the final chapter of Dark Cloud 2. This game is an absolute pleasure to play, and has been one of the biggest game changers for me. I’m moving onto Kingdom Hearts upon the completion of the final chapter, and to be honest, I think it’s because it looks like Dark Cloud 2. It’s a third-person action RPG with a supposedly amazing storyline and I don’t want to leave that behind right now with Dark Cloud 2 ending.
Worth noting is that, when all is said and done, about 50-60 hours have gone into this game to beat the main story and a decent amount of the sidequests, but as there is such a bottomless pit of content in this game, one could easily spend 100+ hours on it without batting an eye. It’s totally worth the dollars/yen/currency of your country. Buy it. Play it. Love it.