Dark Cloud Review

For PlayStation 2

By Contributing Writer Jimmy Payne

Rating: Good
   Dark Cloud is a decent attempt at giving the PlayStation 2 a much-needed 
RPG, but it falls short of being memorable in every conceivable way.  The 
inevitable comparisons to games like Zelda make this game look even worse.
   A gripping story line is the most important quality that RPGs need to 
have, but the creators of Dark Cloud decided to "pull a Zelda" and give us a
watered-down story line.  To make matters worse, the story line is never even 
acknowledged for large parts of the game.  The gameplay mainly consists of 
completing dungeons, finding pieces of your town so that you can re-build it,
and every once in a while referring back to the hastily-thrown-together plot.
   Dark Cloud's graphics are respectable thanks largely to the water and 
fire effects.  The towns are also well done in terms of detail and overall 
art design.  Sadly, the dungeons have so little detail to them that 
witnessing an impressive flame effect only serves to remind you how bland 
and color-less the environments are.
   The most disturbing trend in recent RPGs is the fact that developers 
don't seem to think there's anything wrong with making the dungeons as 
stereotypical and generic as possible.  Dark Cloud takes this epidemic to a 
whole new level with dungeons that have a much higher chance of making you 
drowsy than making you sit on the edge of your seat.  If you derive pleasure
from going through room after repetitive room until you finally find the one
room with the big treasure chest that holds the key, then Dark Cloud is the 
game for you.
   The baffling design logic continues with weapons that can actually break 
during battles from over-use.  The quiet beeping noise which serves to warn 
you that your weapon is about to shatter is sometimes hard to hear over all 
of the other audio, which leads to lots of wonderful occasions where a big 
battle comes to a screeching halt because your freakin' sword breaks.
   Sony has clearly been afflicted with Shenmue Syndrome, a terrifying 
illness that makes video game developers forget that realism doesn't 
necessarily equal fun in video games.  This condition further manifests 
itself in the fact that you have to drink water every so often or you'll die.
Shenmue Syndrome clearly gave Sony the following logic: "Making gamers save 
the world in RPGs is soooooo 1999... if we really want to innovate, we have 
to make gamers save the world AND periodically quench their thirst!"
   Dark Cloud has a couple of redeeming qualities, but they don't come close
to out-weighing its flaws.  The combat system is moderately entertaining, 
but it's a blatant rip-off of Zelda if there ever was one.  The town-building
elements of the game could have been fun if there weren't so many 
restrictions placed on you.  It would be nice to be able to build your very 
own town rather than rather than a replica of the way the town used to be.
   For die-hard Zelda fans, this game is worth renting because it's the 
closest thing to Zelda that Sony has to offer.  On the other hand, if you 
don't like dungeon crawling, Dark Cloud isn't going to change your mind.

Send your thoughts on this review to jimmy@mastergamer.com

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