Gamestyle Archive intro: Another preview, this time for an epic PS2 RPG which would go on to be one of the strongest genres for the console. Gamestyle did review Dark Cloud upon release but this review is currently not within the archive resources.
Published February 2001
ACCESSORIES: memory, vibration
RELEASE: Out Now (Japan) TBA (Rest of World)
Dark Cloud the game was previewed during the Playstation 2 announcement to a great deal of excitement. Dark Cloud promised to bring several new and revolutionary features to the traditional RPG genre. Amongst the list of features included being able to create, build and explore your own village, realistic swashbuckling, lighting effects and a compelling story. Could this be an attempt by Sony to create their own RPG Final Fantasy Franchise?
Now that the game has been released in Japan we can look and see if it delivers what was promised. The story begins after the Lagoon Republic Force aided by the demon Dijnn has destroyed the village of Norn. The central character, which you play (Toan), survived the destruction and aims to rebuild his village. The King of Spirits gives Toan the mission of collecting various capsules across several dungeons. At its heart Dark Cloud is very much a traditional RPG with two opposing forces, one magic (West), the other militaristic (East), locked in conflict. Of course you will interact and become familiar with many other characters in this world from the leader of the Lagoon force Colonel Flag to the young distinctive Shao.
The capsules that you find in the dungeons do not contain magic powers or immense destructive weaponry but rather actual villages. It seems that the wizard placed various towns and villages into the capsules to protect them from the Eastern forces until a hero (Toan) could be found to retrieve them. You therefore have several motivational factors, namely revenge, rescue and rebuilding.
So the overall concept looks sound and has a degree of originality but what about the execution? Reviews after the release in Japan have been solid but not spectacular with the battle and control systems being criticised. During battles you only have one attack button, which can become very tedious in an RPG as it does not involve much strategy. Certainly the signs have not been promising with even the director, Kentaro Motomura, admitting that due to time constraints (and perhaps pressure from Sony?) many features were dropped, or perhaps as I suspect finished. Not only is Dark Cloud half the game it should have been, from the demos and footage released it seems very average.
Graphically while Dark Cloud has some splendid water, lighting, shadow and magic effects however the game world itself is not as impressive. It is reminiscent of an N64 release with its blurred textures, character animation and sparse levels. The characters, control system and screen icons are very similar to Zelda but not as well implemented.
As a basis to build upon Zelda is a great starting point but we do hope that Dark Cloud with its features can retain an identity of its own. Certainly the features are very intriguing but hopefully the game before its Western release is re-vamped in response to the criticism it has received. Expect a full review hopefully around May.