When the first batch of PS2 games for PS4 were announced, a near universal cry erupted from the gaming public: “Ok, Dark Cloud is nice, and all, but we’d rather have Dark Cloud 2!” Dark Cloud 2 (aka Dark Chronicle) expands and improves upon the action RPG and world-building elements of its predecessor, crafting something gorgeous, gleeful, and grand. It also includes some golf, but try not to hold that against it too much.
Dark Cloud 2 is the story of Max and Monica, who are fighting together to defeat Emperor Griffin, who is taking a page from The Terminator and mucking with the past to change the future. Max is a whiz with a wrench and Monica’s handy with a sword, so the duo bash and slash their way through time, trying to put everything back the way it’s meant to be. The enemies are a delightfully odd assortment (you fight clowns at one point), and, interestingly, the experience you gain from defeating them doesn’t improve your stats, but those of your weapons. Not only do they get stronger, but you can also add to them by breaking down items you find during your adventures. It’s a pleasantly complex system, offering lots of options - which will either delight you or send you into an OCD coma, especially given that the weapon tinkering is just one of Dark Cloud 2’s detail-heavy features.
When you’re not pondering the best way to boost your offensive capabilities, there’s Georama mode to play with, where you use objects collected in dungeons to build towns to certain specifications. The world building of Dark Cloud 2 is a satisfying break from the dungeon crawling, a pretty puzzle of resource management. When you’re not doing that, there are photos to take all over the place, and oh, yes, did I mention the robot that you can build to take into dungeons? It can roller skate. Yeah. The golf is a strange mini-game addition called Spheda, where you have a limited number of strokes to reach the hole. Why? Um...yeah, I don’t know. Because Hot Shots? Look, just roll with it.
The one area where Dark Cloud 2 best deviates from the path laid down by Dark Cloud is in its art style. Whereas the first game skewed more towards realism (well, RPG realism as defined by PS2 graphics, anyway), Dark Cloud 2 adopts the stunning cel-shaded look that adorns every game Level 5 touches. The PS4 version is even more beautiful than the original, which was pretty damn gorgeous to start with.
Many elements of Dark Cloud 2 will feel quite familiar, and in some ways rather small compared to more grandiose RPGs of recent years, but its charm is undeniable. It’s sweet and cheerful, childlike without being childish. The dreary days of winter are the perfect time to revisit it.
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