It is time to remember how good PlayStation 2 games can be with PlayStation Classics. Did you ever play Dark Cloud? It was one of the earliest Level-5 games and you really should. Fortunately, it is a PS2 Classic for both the PlayStation 3 in and PlayStation 4 in North America and Europe! You can hop on in!
Rebuild the World
Lots of games begin with evil villains out to destroy the world or beginning by burning some plucky teenage boy’s hometown to the ground. The villain in Dark Cloud, the Lagoon Empire Army’s Colonel Flag Gilgister, really commits to the bit by pulling it off. He uses the Dark Genie to completely decimate the west. Yes, the Fairy King did protect everyone and everything, sealing them into Alta orbs that were scattered around dungeons, but still. The game begins with a worst case scenario.
One of the survivors, a young man named Toan, gets the Atlamillia from the Fairy King. His task is to go into dungeons to find all of the Alta that were lost in the attack, bring them back to their original homes, and then rebuild what was lost. It sets up a very satisfying gameplay loop. You head into a dungeon, where you find these bits and pieces. You head out and go into Georama Mode to restore villagers and villages to people’s specifications. Once you have restored an area, you get to move onto the next and do it again.
Let’s Go Dungeon-Crawling and Restore Towns
Dark Cloud is an action-RPG that has some really cool elements to it! Let’s start with the dungeon-crawling. Initially, the only player in your party is Toan. However, as you go through the adventure and start to make the world a better place, you will eventually get six party members total. You can switch between them as you play, which is handy since everyone has a different sort of attack range. Everyone also has their own ability, which encourages you to swap, so Goro and Ruby could hit switches or characters like Xiao and Osmond could jump/fly across gaps.
Character leveling is handled well too. Rather than improve characters, you are constantly making their weapons better. You could take these weapons and keep using and maintaining them to level them up, eventually making SynthSpheres of past weapons to attach to new weapons to make them better. There were times that I felt like this helped make it easier to use new characters after they were acquired, because items made them better and you were really focusing on equipment. It leveled the playing field a bit and meant you could make more use of someone recruited later, like Ungaga.
Where it really gets fun, at least in my opinion, is when Dark Cloud has you start putting places back together. Each area has three objectives. You have to get all of the Alta bits from the location’s dungeons and totally rebuild the village. This involves a bit of patience and time, since you have to explore the dungeons and get everything to rebuild a city in Georama. But the thing about this feature that really shines is how you take NPCs’ desires into account. If you manage to get a 100% rating in the collection, rebuilding and wishes categories, you get an additional bonus. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but let’s say you are putting Norune back together. When preparing Alnet’s house, you need to put it on the opposite side of the village from the Macho brothers’ home, because she does not really care for them. It would really make you think!
Have Any Spare Atla?
Dark Cloud wants to give you the opportunity to do a little of everything, and guess what? It actually does a good job of giving you options! We have multiple playable characters, it tried to get you invested in maintaining your equipment, and you had control over the growth of the world. It is one of the most unique PlayStation 2 games and, even better, it being a 2000 release shows how quickly companies started pushing boundaries with this platform. This PS2 Classic is £11.99 on the UK PlayStation Store and $14.99 in the US PlayStation Store.