I was browsing the PSN the other night and I was surprised to find Dark Cloud 2 on the PS2 for PS4 section. Why was I not told of this?! I loved this game on the PS2. I felt it had an amazing story, great invention system, and improved on the mechanics of the first game while maintaining the spirit it had. I immediately bought it and started playing it with my Wife, as she had never played or heard of it. And there were some surprising things I learned, trying this classic again!
First and foremost I really do have to compliment them with their work with the visuals. They retained the old games visual charm while also bumping it up enough to really showcase the bright colors and the fun characterizations. From the towns, to the NPC’s, to the main protagonists themselves this game is bursting at the seams with Level 5's trademark style and quirkiness. One thing I really love about this game is that the side characters feel like they have their own personality and lives wholly separate from what the player is doing. Little things like posing when you try to take their picture go a long way towards making these characters feel more fleshed out.
The second thing that really struck me is that this game was definitely ahead of its time in that it managed to have one of its protagonists be a girl without making a big mess of her character! Monica is written and handled just as well as Max the other protagonist. They are both written very well and I really appreciate it now replaying it. I don’t think I noticed it when I played the game way back when. Plus she is a badass. No shrinking violet here, Monica can take on bad guys with her sword or eventually even use magic to transform into Monsters to help her take on bigger threats. I kind of hate the trope of taking the female character and immediately giving them a bow or a crossbow because girl so the fact that Monica is the one using a sword and chucking fireballs is really awesome to me.
I think the next thing I really need to mention is how kickass their inventing system was! Taking pictures with Max’s camera to find ideas and then putting ideas together to think up inventions is some of the most fun I have had in games in a while! Taking scoops like Manhole, Old-Style Robot, and Post to create a Cannonball Arm for Max’s ridiculously fun Ridepod is great. I have spent a good while just going around and taking pictures just to see what ideas I could find and then experiment with putting them together, sometimes using recipes or possible ideas found in books spread throughout the town. This gives opportunity and reason to go around and take pictures of the people and places of the world that is around you in game and I thought it was a very smart mechanic. That, mixed with a similar rebuilding the world mechanic similar to the first game, and an annoyingly addictive Mini-golf esque minigame really do make Dark Cloud 2 stand out, even after all these years.
The only things I think they kind of missed the mark on are the kind of clunky battle system. The battle system can definitely feel a little dated with the way the characters move and attack but honestly after the initial awkwardness of getting used to it again it ceased to bother me. I think it is an adequate battle system when you mix in the added difficulty of keeping track of weapon durability and the pretty deep weapon upgrade system.
If you haven’t played Dark Cloud 2 before, or if you just haven’t played it in a really long time I would really suggest picking it up and giving it a try. The port is really good and I am surprised at how much I still love this game!