Last year’s Level 5 entry into the RPG/Action Adventure scene was one pleasantly taken in by some and maliciously hated by others. The game which boasted a number of shortcomings as well as bright sides was still a solid game, and this year’s brethren looks to improve on a number of things that players complained about.
Coming in with a whole new makeover, you might still be able to recognize the artistic aspect of the game; however, it’s main coat of paint has been changed up quite a bit, and rather than the Legend of Zelda-esque look we got from last year’s iteration, it will instead be cel-shaded. The significance of this change is quite drastic and changes up the appearance of the whole game thoroughly. It’s a win-lose situation, though, as some will love the new look and others will, of course, abhor it.
Whether cel-shaded or not, you can’t deny the sheer brilliance in the level design this time around. Dark Cloud’s visuals were murky and bland, exactly the opposite of its sequel’s appearance, which sports color galore, tons of detail, and a wholly better piece, visually; and furthermore, the environments you’ll venture through have also taken quite the leap in regards to width, length and breadth.
Dark Cloud included quite a large cast of playable protagonists, six to be more specific; however, Dark Cloud 2 will feature only two main playable characters: Yuris and Monica. The former character is a young boy, 13-years-of-age, whose forte in knowledge is off the charts, especially for his age. Residing in Palmbrinks, Yuris takes his spare time down to Starbre’s Workshop where he’s acting as an apprentice. Building gadgets and creating new designs of work is also something the young boy loves to do. Our other character is quite different. Monica, whose time-traveling practices have sent her 100 years back in time (to Yuris’ current day and age), has a prowess in sword-handling, and she’s quite the swordsman (woman, actually), as well. Thanks to the time-machine, these two young characters become companions and will team up to hopefully rewrite the course of destiny.
Geo-Rama was of course one of the astounding innovations Level 5 presented to us all one year ago. That system is indeed back and it’s more intricate and finely-tuned than before. One of the main premises of the game is to once again collect bits and pieces of villages and restore them to their rightful order. After building a certain piece, you can then interact in it just as before, which is great.
And who’s to forget the randomly generated dungeons, one of everyone’s favorite aspects of the first game -- hardly. Fans will be pleased to know that the randomly generated dungeon days are done with, and the expunging of that part is also complemented by the lush, expansive scenery all around.
The targeting system is rather identical to the past one, with a few minor augmentations camera-wise. Dark Cloud 2 will also offer up more weapons, more attacks, bigger enemies, and more realistic, plausible "dungeon" settings. It’s a whopper of a game all right.
Tying in with the new visuals is the newly implemented voice acting the game will hold. No longer will Toan (the main character, actually) be restrained to simply writing out the conversation on the bottom of the screen. So the cut-scenes and events throughout will be better played out and make the story more engaging as you can hear the characters act out and vocalize their emotions and thoughts. The game’s engine will support this incorporation accordingly, as each character will act out different expressions and emotional traits while lip-synching their dialogue.
Due out in Japan later this year and in the US sometime next year, Dark Cloud 2 is looking to be a promising game all around. The improved Geo-Rama system, augmented combat system, and a gamut of other improvements and additions are looking great. We hope to have more for you folks soon, such as the subtleties and more specific parts of the game.
11/8/2002 Joseph Comunale