|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Release date(s)||JP December 14, 2000
Dark Cloud (ダーククラウド Dāku Kuraudo?) is a 2000 action role-playing game developed by Level-5 and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation 2. It was released on December 14, 2000 in Japan, on May 28, 2001 in North America and on September 21, 2001 in Europe. The gameplay combines action role-playing with elements of city-building games. A sequel with an unrelated plot, Dark Chronicle (released as Dark Cloud 2 in North America), was released in 2002.
The game's story focuses on a group of adventurers who band together to fight against an evil being called the Dark Genie, who has attacked and destroyed their home villages. The main protagonist is Toan, a boy who is given a magical stone called the "Atlamillia" by Simba, the Fairy King, which has the power to rebuild the destroyed lands.
The game was originally intended as a launch title for the PlayStation 2, but was ultimately released later in the year. Dark Cloud was generally well received by critics, who praised its blend of gameplay types, although some did criticize its combat as repetitive. It has sold more than 1 million units worldwide.
Dark Cloud is an action role-playing game in which the player moves through procedurally-generated dungeons, battling monsters and collecting items. On random dungeon levels, the player may have the option of entering a separate "back door" area which contains stronger monsters and rarer treasure. Although the majority of combat involves real-time hack and slash, the player will sometimes "Duel" an enemy. In this type of battle, the player must correctly press a sequence of buttons shown on the screen, similar to a quick time event. Whilst in dungeons, the player has both a health meter and a thirst meter. The thirst meter gradually decreases over time, and when fully depleted, it causes the health meter to decrease. To prevent the thirst meter going down, the player must drink water or step into one of the pools found on many dungeon levels.
A major component of Dark Cloud's gameplay involves special items called "Atla" which are used to rebuild the world outside the dungeons. Atla, which are present in most dungeon levels, are large spherical objects and can be retrieved by Toan only. When Atla are removed from the dungeon, they transform into pieces of the world (trees, houses, villagers, etc.). These pieces must then be reassembled in "Georama mode," similar to city-building games, in which the player can arrange the pieces onto the landscape. After villagers have been placed, the player can speak to them to discover their wishes for rebuilding the village, regarding both what they want for their own house, and where they want it to be placed. The player's progress in terms of collecting Atla, rebuilding the village and fulfilling the villagers' wishes are recorded as percentages. When the three percentages reach 100%, the village is complete, although it is not necessary for the player to reach 100% in all three to be able to move on to the next set of dungeons and the next village; only 100% in collection and rebuilding is required to finish an area. 100% of villagers' wishes is not necessary, although if the player does reach 100%, they are awarded a bonus item/ability.
Unlike most action role-playing games, instead of the characters leveling up, their weapons do. Weapons attain "absorption points" with each kill. Once a certain number of points has been reached, the weapon can be leveled up. However, weapons wear out over time, and it is necessary to repair them in order to avoid them breaking and becoming unusable. With the exception of each characters' starting weapon, a broken weapon is immediately removed from the player's inventory and cannot be retrieved or repaired. To upgrade a weapon, the player can attach stat-increasing items (attack power, speed, ability to kill different types of monsters, elemental attributes, etc.), but a single weapon can only carry a limited number of attachments. These attachments are absorbed into the weapon when it is leveled up, freeing up space for more attachments. When a weapon reaches level five, it can be transformed into a "SynthSphere," which carries 60% of the weapon's power. This sphere can then be attached to another weapon, thus combining the power of the two weapons. The characters themselves can only grow stronger with the consumption of particular items, which can increase their health points, water meter and defense.
Dark Cloud features six main characters; three melee fighters (Toan, Goro and Ungaga) and three ranged fighters (Xiao, Ruby and Osmond), each using a different weapon. Toan uses blades, Goro uses hammers, Ungaga uses staves, Xiao uses slingshots, Ruby uses magic rings, and Osmond uses guns. Each character also has a unique ability that helps them to move through the dungeons (for example, Xiao can jump across chasms, Goro can open certain types of door etc.), as well as conquer certain foes.
Setting and characters
Dark Cloud is set in a fantasy world called Terra, which is made up of two main continents; the East and the West. The East focuses on technology, and has an advanced civilization, whereas the people of the West tends to "live in harmony with nature." The game take place on the West continent, in the settlements of Norune, Matataki, Brownboo, Queens and Muska Racka. The game also features a settlement on one of Terra's moons, Yellow Drops.
The game's protagonist is a young boy named Toan, who is tasked with the restoration of the world by Simba, the Fairy King. The main antagonist is the Dark Genie, an evil genie released by Colonel Flag, a second class military commander who wants the genie's power in order to control the world.
During the course of the game, Toan meets several characters who join him in his quest: Xiao, a slingshot-wielding "catgirl" from Norune; Goro, a hunter from Matataki Village; Ruby, a good genie from Queens; Ungaga, a desert warrior from Muska Racka; and Osmond, an inventor from Brownboo.
The story begins during a ceremony to awaken the Dark Genie, a legendary creature of great power. The ceremony has been organized by Colonel Flag Gilgister of the Lagoon Empire Army of the East, who wishes to use the Genie's power to control the world. After the completion of the ceremony, the Dark Genie materializes from inside a large urn and accepts Flag as his new master. Under Flag's orders, the Genie then attacks the West. However, unbeknownst to Flag, the Fairy King casts a protective spell around the land which seals the buildings, objects and people inside magical orbs called "Atla."
However, due to the power of the Genie's attack, the orbs are scattered throughout different parts of the world. Toan, whose home village of Norune has been destroyed, is given a blue stone by the Fairy King called "Atlamillia," and is tasked with finding the scattered Atla, which can be absorbed by the Atlamillia, and transforming it back into its original form. Toan heads to a nearby cave and sets about restoring Norune. In his exploration of the cave, he meets a man named Seda, who challenges him to a duel. Toan loses when he attempts to protect a cat that has wandered into the battle. As a reward for his kindness, Seda gives Toan a "changing potion," which Toan uses to transform the cat into a "catgirl" named Xiao, who then joins him on his quest. At the bottom of the cave, Toan and Xiao find Dran, guardian of Norune. However, Dran is possessed by the Dark Genie, and attacks them. They defeat him, releasing him from the Genie's control, and he tells them of the legend of the "Black Demon" that nearly destroyed the world, until it was defeated and imprisoned in an urn by the Moon People. As such, he suggests they seek out the Moon People for advice, telling them to visit a wise and ancient sentient tree called Treant in Matataki Village.
When they reach Matataki, Toan is challenged by a boy named Goro. When Toan defeats him, Goro returns to his tree house. Toan and Xiao begin to rebuild Matataki and eventually, they reconnect the river flowing through the village, at which point Goro joins them. Treant then tells them that to get to the Moon People, they must pass through the Wise Owl Forest. They make their way to Brownboo, a village unaffected by the Genie's attack, where the Moon People reside. Toan asks them if they can seal the Genie again, but they explain they cannot as, over the centuries, they have forgotten how to use magic. However, the Moon People who live on the moon can still use magic, and so they decide to visit the moon, using a ship prepared for just such an event; the Moon Ship, which can be activated using the Moon Orb. However, they discover the Orb is missing, having been accidentally traded with a batch of Moon Fruits.
To find the Orb, the party travel to the seaside village of Queens. Queens has suffered the same fate as Norune and Matataki, apart from one shop run by a man named Rando. While searching a shipwreck for the Orb, they restore Queens, and Toan finds a lamp that releases a friendly genie, Ruby, who joins them. As they rebuild the city, they learn the story of the former queen, La Saia, who, one hundred years ago, was abandoned by her lover at the altar, and who threw herself into the sea in despair. They also learn of the Life Orb, which will grant immortality at the cost of whatever the owner most values, apart from their own life. Eventually, the party meet La Saia's ghost in the shipwreck. One hundred years of bitterness has turned her into an Ice Queen. After defeating her, her fiancé from one hundred years previously arrives; Rando. He apologizes to La Saia, explaining that he was knocked out by the Life Orb prior to the wedding, in order to destroy what he most valued; his love for her, in return for making him immortal. He gives Toan the Moon Orb, and joins La Saia by destroying the Life Orb.
Still unable to summon the Moon Ship even with the Moon Orb, the Moon People send the party to the Sun and Moon Temple in the desert village of Muska Lacka, where the Moon Ship is stored. There, they meet a sand warrior named Ungaga, who tells them the Temple is full of monsters and the village has been destroyed. After clearing out the Temple and restoring the village, the party, now joined by Ungaga, find the Moon Ship, and with the help of the Moon People, activate it. They travel to the moon city of Yellow Drops, where they meet Osmond, who asks for help in collecting the scattered pieces of a giant battle robot called the Sun Giant. The Moon People, who have lost their magical abilities, believe they can destroy the Dark Genie by using this robot, and Osmond joins the party as they collect the pieces. When the Sun Giant is completed, the party join a crew of Moon People who pilot it towards Dark Heaven Castle, where the Dark Genie now resides.
They arrive at the castle and attack the Genie. However, after defeating him, they learn they were actually fighting a mouse that had absorbed some of the real Dark Genie's powers while sealed in the urn. The true Dark Genie has no fixed physical form and has possessed Colonel Flag. The Genie then destroys the Sun Giant. However, the Genie's power proves too great for Flag's body, and he dies, leaving the Genie without a host. Toan and the crew are rescued by Dran, and the party continue to pursue the Genie into the castle, where they encounter Seda. He explains that it was his fault the Dark Genie was originally created. He reveals he was the King of the East, who were losing a war to the West. He was approached by a dark wizard, who offered him tremendous power, which he accepted and used to win the war. However, the dark power remained in his body, and after suffering a tragic loss, it was released in the form of the Genie. Seda searched for a way to defeat the Genie, learning the only thing strong enough was Atlamillia. However, no Atlamillia would appear for another 400 years, so he opened a portal to the future. He tells Toan that because the Genie isn't alive, he can't be killed, and the only way to stop him is by preventing his birth in the past. Struggling to fight the remnants of the Genie still in his blood, Seda opens the Gallery of Time to allow the party to travel back to the past to ensure the Genie is never born. The Genie then attempts to reunite with Seda's body, but Seda kills himself to prevent this.
In the Gallery of Time, the party learn the full story of the Genie's birth; the tragic loss suffered by Seda was the death of Sophia, his fiancée, at the hands of an assassin seeking to kill him. Seda's rage and bitterness at her death gave birth to the Genie. The party travels back in time, but are unable to prevent Sophia's death and the subsequent birth of the Genie. However, they face the Genie's true form, and are able to defeat it. Toan then completely expends the Atlamilla's powers to revive Seda's fiancée, Sophia, thus preventing the original birth of the Genie. Upon doing so, the party is returned to its own time, and the Fairy King informs them that the Genie is gone, at least for now.
Dark Cloud was the first game from developer Level-5, led by designer Akihiro Hino. Development began immediately when the company was founded in October 1998 with a projected development time of two years. When the PlayStation 2 was announced on March 2, 1999, Sony president and CEO Ken Kutaragi used a demo of Dark Cloud to show the capabilities of the platform. The demo showed a magic carpet flying through a valley, and some waterfall effects.
In September 1999, Sony showed an early playable version of the game at the Tokyo Game Show. This version featured a character who must return a floating piece of land back to where it originally came from. However, this original location has been usurped by an evil kingdom. Georama mode was a major component of the demo, with both IGN and GameSpot comparing it to Legend of Mana's "Land Make" system. At E3 in May 2000, a 30% complete playable demo was shown. IGN's Dave Zdyrko praised the graphics, especially the water and lighting effects. The demo was mainly centered in Norune Village, and although it did feature one accessible dungeon, the camerawork for the dungeon portions of the game had yet to be finalized.
At the Tokyo Game Show in September 2000, a more complete demo was available, similar to the final version. In December, GameSpot previewed the game, calling Toan "Link with an Ali Baba twist." They compared the combat system to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the duels to Shenmue, and they praised the graphics, water effects and transitions from day to night. IGN wrote "Without fully playing through the game, it's very hard to determine whether or not this title will prove to be revolutionary or just a gimmicky way to show off the real-time rendering powers of the new console."
The English language release of Dark Cloud in May 2001 had additional gameplay features, including new weapons and monsters, improved AI, extra duels and an extra dungeon after completing the game, the Demon Shaft; this location does not appear in the Japanese version.
|Dark Cloud Official Soundtrack|
|3.||"The Village Festival"|
|4.||"The Destruction of Norune Village"|
|5.||"The Resurrection of Norune Village"|
|6.||"Open Your Eyes"|
|8.||"Divine Beast Cave"|
|9.||"The Spirit King"|
|10.||"Divine Beast Dran"|
|15.||"Legend of Hunter"|
|16.||"Wise Owl Forest"|
|17.||"Forest Guardian Master Utan"|
|19.||"Broken Promise (Orgel Version)"|
|22.||"The Ice Queen"|
|24.||"The Daily Life"|
|28.||"If You Strain Your Ears"|
|29.||"Sun and Moon Palace"|
|31.||"The King's Curse"|
|36.||"The Land of Hope"|
|40.||"The Gallery of Time"|
|41.||"Dark Heaven Castle"|
|42.||"Time of Destiny"|
|46.||"Main Theme (Bossa Nova Version)"|
Dark Cloud received generally positive reviews. It holds an aggregate score of 78.82% on GameRankings, based on fifty-two reviews, and 80 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on twenty-seven reviews.
The gameplay of Dark Cloud was often compared to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, while the weapon system was likened to Vagrant Story. GameSpot's Shane Satterfield and IGN's David Zdyrko both felt the Georama mode borrowed elements from ActRaiser. IGN, GameSpot, Allgame and others praised Dark Cloud for blending different types of gameplay together successfully. Satterfield argued that "no game has blended all these compelling and unrelated ideas together into one highly addictive and surprisingly cohesive experience until now." Zdyrko called it "a highly-enjoyable and insanely addictive role-playing experience that wouldn't have been able to stand alone with just its story, just its battle system, or any single one of its gameplay elements. The game works because each element aids in the enjoyment of the other parts." The battle system received mixed reviews, with some feeling the dungeon crawling aspect was repetitive and monotonous. However, many praised the weapon system and its ease of use.
Reviews of the plot were mixed. IGN's Dave Zydrko thought the story was "good enough to keep you wanting to find out more." Gameplanet, however, thought the plot was "bland" and "negligible," and that it was one of the factors that brought the game down. Reviews of the game's graphics were also mixed. PSXExtreme's Arnold Katayev said it featured "some of the prettiest textures I can think of." However, RPGamer's Anna Marie Whitehead and TotalPlaystation's Sam Bishop felt the graphics were not as good as found in comparable games, such as those made by Namco and Square. GameSpot's Shane Satterfield felt "Dark Cloud would have been visually arresting if it had been available at launch, but now that the second generation of PlayStation 2 games are hitting the market, it falls a bit flat in this regard."
Absolute PlayStation's Robert Gibson felt the music was "not too inspiring and sometimes can get monotonous," while PlanetPS2's Russel Garbutt felt the score was "mediocre." Both felt that the ambient and general sound effects excellent, however. RPGamer's Anna Marie Whitehead, on the other hand, praised the music, arguing that it "does an excellent job of setting the mood," although she felt some of the character sound effects were overused. PSXExtreme's Arnold Katayev compared the soundtrack to Chrono Cross, which he felt is "actually a very good thing."
According to Famitsu, Dark Cloud was the 15th best-selling video game during the week of its debut in Japan, with 19,615 copies sold. By the end of 2001, the game had sold 70,471 copies in the region. It went on to sell over 800,000 copies worldwide. In 2002, the game received best-seller re-releases in both Japan's The Best range and North America's Greatest Hits range.
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- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Fairy King: "Let me bless you with power. There, surprised? That's called "Atlamillia", it's a stone with a magical power.""
- Zdyrko, David (May 30, 2001). "Dark Cloud Review". IGN. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Ceremony Organiser: "400 years ago, the Genie of darkness appeared in the East, and with his evil power, the world was burnt away.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Fairy King: "Just before the village was destroyed by that Genie, I saved the buildings and people by sealing them into spheres called "Atla".""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Seda: "It's not that you couldn't dodge....You simply didn't dodge...Deliberately.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Seda: "I have a gift for you. Have that little one return you the favor.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Xiao: "Woah. I'm like, totally a human.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Dran: "I don't have a clue just how powerful this Genie is, but it was powerful enough to control me.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Dran: "Long ago a monster called the "Black Demon" appeared in East Terra. The creature caused massacre after massacre, and almost brought the world to an end. Neither the most gallant knights nor the most powerful of sorcerers could stand before the horror of the creature, much less harm it. Its power seemed as vast as the limitless power of Genies. Thus people started to call it the "Dark Genie". It wiped out nearly all of the known kingdoms of the world. Ultimately, only a few people survived on Earth. Then, when all seemed lost, a tribe called the "Moon People" created an enormous urn that could seal tremendous magic power and trapped the Dark Genie inside.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Dran: "Once you reach Matataki, first thing, visit Great Treant.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Goro: "Get ready, the hurt's comin'!""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Brownboo Village Chief: "The orb of the moon is a sphere to move the Moon Ship.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Brownboo Villager: "Say, why not go to Queens to find the orb?""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Ruby: "Okay, I've made up my mind! I'm in. I'll fight that Dark Genie with you!""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Rando: "I'm sorry, Toan. Here, this is for you." <Moon orb acquired>"
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Brownboo Villager: "That's strange...it's not working.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Osmond: "Listen Toan. The destination is Dark Heaven Castle.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Colonel Flag: "What you'd called the "Genie", that was this little one here. A lucky little rodent that found its way into the urn while I was still imprisoned. Its mere proximity to me allowed it to absorb tremendous magical power.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Colonel Flag: "I used this fool's body. The fool broke the urn's spell, blinded by greed.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Seda: "He was born here in this castle, long, long ago. This is where the 400-year nightmare began.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Seda: "Follow the Fragments of Memory I left in the Gallery of Time. They will show you what you need to do...""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Seda: "I can't give up this body...yet...""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Seda: "Something was born from me. Something evil and powerful. Black blood in me gave birth to the Devil. My endless hatred and bitterness from losing you is his energy.""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Fairy King: "Now is the time to use that hidden power! The power to bring a lost soul back!...It is not too late. Call out for Sophia's wandering soul!""
- Level-5. Dark Cloud. PlayStation 2. Sony Computer Entertainment. "Fairy King: "Toan!! so it's over now! That evil will never come to life...At least not for some time...Let's go home.""
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