Dark Cloud 2

Sequels! Ah yes, more delicious sequels. Dark Cloud 2, released as Dark Chronicle in everywhere but the States, was a bit of a sleeper hit back in 03′. Level-5 was a newly formed developer when it first released the original Dark Cloud at the turn of the century, and it was met with a mixed reception, both critically and commercially. Thankfully their second effort turned out much better. Dark Cloud 2 put Level-5 on the map as a AAA developer and was the precursor to a number of  successful franchises.

The basis of the game has you traverse dungeons, fighting enemies, and collecting georama pieces to restore destroyed villages. The Georama is probably the most unique feature in the game, allows you to place houses, people, and other environmental elements to bring life back to these villages. The ability of your characters to time travel then allows you to see how your actions, and strategy in the past have affected the Georama in the future. This is ultimately a very rewarding game-within-the-game that defines what Dark Cloud is all about.

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At its core  it’s a simple Action-RPG with randomly generated dungeons, but it’s style, uniqueness, and depth are what set it apart and really make it stand out. The combat would seem to be standard hack and slash fare at first sight, but early on you learn that defense is just as important as your offense. Tie together the snappy gameplay with a highly addictive weapon upgrade system and you have a winning formula. The dungeons never get dull, and the ability to switch characters at any point between, Max, who wields a wrench and has a giant robot he can ride, and Monica, who wields a sword and magic, always keep the action fresh.

Lastly, its visuals are breathtaking. The cel-shaded graphics have never looked so good, and it still stands today as arguably the best use of them in a game to date. It makes you wish more developers would take the risk and go with the cel-shaded style more often.

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