Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude (PS2, Xbox)

This Halloween, I brought you guys and gals a tale of terrifying terror. A game so horrifying that you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy's worst enemy. It's called Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust and it's a sad, sorry excuse for a game. The humor was humorless, the characters were unlikable, the scenery was one-dimensional, and the controls were absolutely broken. For a current-gen game, it wasn't close to worth the already budget price it sold for at release (roughly 30 bucks) and I would really think twice about it at just about any price.

However, Leisure Suit Larry games have not always been this mind-meltingly bad. As a matter of fact, I grew up on these games! Leisure Suit Larry: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards was my introduction to adventure games at age 12 and by 16 or so I snatched up the whole collection for the PC. My favorite two games of the series are 5 and 6. LSL5 was innovative in having you spend half of the game as Larry and the other half as Passionate Patti (as well as showcasing a new art style that would be adapted and refined over the next two games) and LSL6 had voiceover work, great animation & art for its time, and humorous puzzles. Sure, the games were supposed to be for adults and had some raunchy humor and situations - but nothing in those games was ever near as explicit as one of those American Pie films. I discovered my love for the adventure genre through Larry Laffer's lovable antics and while I still enjoy a great variety of adventure games - King Graham never had to occupy a Pimp's attention by turning on scrambled Skin-e-max. That's the kind of shenanigans that only a nerdy, 70's obsessed 40-something could get into.

Leisure Suit Larry + Organ = comical caption!

Sadly, the late 90's resulted in what was once Sierra Online crumbling with big layoffs (including Larry creator Al Lowe,) Ken and Roberta Williams leaving the company and it changing hands numerous times - the future of Larry was uncertain while in the hands of new owners Vivendi. However, Larry was (more or less) resurrected in 2004 in this Xbox and PS2 college-based Larry game; Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. The game was developed without any involvement from original creator Al Lowe and many audience members panned it for not feeling like a legitimate Larry game and for relying too heavily on minigames rather than more classic adventure strategies. I originally felt myself split on the game. Tes, the game was funny (but in a more sophomoric way that the original games were,) and to me the minigames never got too intrusive, and the new dialogue feature was actually a clever invention. Also, it seems true what they say - "absence makes the heart grow fonder." I've been without the game for years now and I miss it. I realize that my first reactions were harsher than they should have been. So let's dig into the pros and cons of the revamped Larry. Heck, at least it ain't Box Office Bust!

Ladies...there's room in my heart for all of you!

In Magna Cum Laude, you star as Larry Lovage, the nephew of that iconic loser Larry Laffer. The plot centers around Lovage's community college exploits as he tries to earn a spot on the television show Swingles. You must succeed (however embarrassingly) to gain the affection of all of the main female characters in the game in order to gain your spot on Swingles and finally complete the game. You'll run across country cowgirls, Joizy Shore foul-mouths, a mime with something to hide, a granola feminist and many other interesting college stereotypes. All-in-all the plot is not too far removed from the original Larry games meets the film "PCU." Throughout the game, you'll even receive advice from your ol' uncle Larry - voiced by none other than Jan Rabson of LSL6 & 7 fame. So what exactly is it that fans didn't dig about this new incarnation of Larry?

Uncle Larry Laffer - the shining beacon of wisdom

For starters, the minigames in MCL make up the bulk of the gaming experience. Sure, you can walk around and interact with different objects, collect coins and secret items (all adventure game staples;) but it's these conversation games and other minigames that were unfamiliar territory for gamers who were used to typing in commands for Larry and had fun hunting through a mountainous inventory to find what item will help you to enter a cruise ship or survive for days adrift in the sea. In conversation minigames you control your little ah-hem "swimmer" through various obstacles to different options highlighted by smiling emoticons, beer-steins, frowny-faces and other assorted choices. Wherever your swimmer lands during a portion of the conversation dictates what Larry is going to say next. While this was jarring at first - I've come to appreciate how clever this minigame is. It leads to a game experience that can be different every time and some really wacky Madlibs style conversations with members of the fairer sex. The highlight of the game has to be a call-and-answer version of Grease's "Summer Nights."

Hellooooooooooo Cowgirl!

Unfortunately, some of the other minigames are not quite as clever or amusing. Just as the liars dice minigame in LSL7 had me pulling my hair out - Magna Cum Laude has the dreaded quarters minigame. If you're not necessarily the most coordinated person in the world, this game can be absolutely maddening. There's also a dance-off mini game and a trampoline minigame both of which can be frustrating too - but not near as much as the quarters one. You'll run into other minigames here and there, but thankfully most of the game tends to revolve around the conversation game, which if you're a fan at all of the humor of this game; should be considered the biggest strength that MCL has going for it. Sure, the humor isn't quite as subtle as Al Lowe's - but there's a lot to love in MCL even if it's a goofy, fratboy, college humor sort of love.

Forget anything nice I said about ... anything.

The graphics and sound are really well executed here. There are a handful of licensed songs sprinkled throughout the game and plenty of fun, wacky dialogue to enjoy and the in-game score is fun and funky without being too "in the way." Since most of the game is dialogue based anyway - the background score is there without being too overbearing. The graphics are cartoony and goofy as heck - but work perfectly for the overall comedy theme. Some characters have harsh pixel edges - so don't expect top-of-the line Kingdom Hearts level graphics here, but for a 10 year old game it holds up really well and would need very little tweaking to compete with today's batch of humor-based, cartoony games. Comparing Magna Cum Laude with Box Office Bust is no comparison - this game trumps Box Office Bust in every facet. The characters don't look like deformed aliens with crooked smiles and dead eyes, the levels are cheerful and bright, the ladies are as sexy as cartoon video game ladies are supposed to be, and the camera doesn't become a nuisance with a mind of its own.

While Magna Cum Laude isn't the funniest, smartest, or best entry in the Leisure Suit Larry franchise - it certainly isn't the worst. Over time I've come to appreciate what the developers were trying to do with this game and the changes they made to the Leisure Suit Larry formula were mostly positive (aside from a few less than wonderful minigames.) I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes goofy, fun, cartoony and most of all raunchy action/adventure games. It's a fun adult-themed ride through all of the best (and worst) parts about college life and you can buy it or put yourself on the waiting list for it right now over at Lukie Games! The holiday season is upon is - buy it for someone you love (or someone you want to impress with your fine taste in gaming excellence.)

P.S. - I hear college girls love sock puppets!

Pro Wrestling (NES)

Pro Wrestling (U) (PRG1) [!]_001

Its so American.

Periodically my eyes become clouded and I believe that the NES was one of the flawless systems and all it’s games were classics that needed to be played to be fully appreciated, Pro Wrestling proved that wrong. Pro Wrestling is as shallow as a game can get, you play as one of several moderately identical characters whose only true defining characteristic is a special grab. Once you have chosen who you wish to play as you wrestle opponents until you are the champion, upon becoming the champion you become a winner. The path to being a champion is a long one with over 30 matches, all of which are repeat fights against the same characters in some sort of sadistic loop.


The jokes practically write themselves.

The gameplay is simple, you have a punch and a kick, you also have a special move and grapple; the hit recognition for attacks is shoddy as you need to be spot on for any attack to work. This is significantly harder than it sounds as the perspective in which the fights happen makes it hard to perfectly line up your attacks with your opponent. 

 Pro Wrestling (U) (PRG1) [!]_086

A good example of not being lined up.

Though there is some innovation to the game, you can get on the ropes and dive bomb your opponent. If you knock your opponent out of the ring you can get out yourself and knock your opponent around until they lose from being out of the ring for to long. The referee will move around the ring to avoid being hit by you or your opponent as will the  cameraman so it isn’t possible to hit either of them which is neat I guess. Something I noticed over the course of the game is that the stage never really changes especially in multiplayer which is a real drag.

The game has a very limited music list mostly repeating the same songs over and over, the graphics are subpar even for a mid-life NES game. I recall when I ordered this along with a bunch of other NES games to help flesh out my collection, I assumed it would have been somewhat of a decent game being that Nintendo had at the time of its production made quite a few decent sports games. Not surprisingly I was shocked and dismayed at this game, if it weren’t for the fact that it has multiplayer and my friends like to play really bad games I would call this game a waste of a good cartridge. If anything this games only redeeming quality is the multiplayer mode which allows you and a friend to derp around for however long you want until you get bored. The game is generally very inexpensive so buy it at your own risk, if you purchase it expecting a deep fighting game with lots of replay value then you are sorely mistaken. Buy this game only if you and/or your friends derive enjoyment from poking fun at bad games, as that is the only possible positive quality this game has, its ability to be joked about.

Pro Wrestling (U) (PRG1) [!]_036

I’ll never understand why the Creature from the Black Lagoon made a cameo in this game.

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES)


Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest or as it is known in Japan “Final Fantasy USA: Mystic Quest” was Square’s response to the lack of interest western audiences had in Role Playing Games at the time (excluding table-top games naturally). This one of a kind game simplified the RPG formulas to such an extent that Square believed any person (read: American) would become hooked on RPG’s. The game itself is fairly lackluster when it comes to story and it’s most commonly noted fact is that the game had an amazing soundtrack which was a wonderful blend of rock and techno. I personally played this game long after I had played games such as Final Fantasy III and Legend of Zelda Link to the Past for the SNES. So to me this game was far from impressive until I took note of the hilarious dialogue and great soundtrack.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (63)

Oh you!

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is horribly simplistic and lacks many of the conventions of modern RPG of it’s day. There are no random encounters, fetch quests are fairly simplistic and don’t involve much travel, and you can never truly lose the game. Now what do I mean you can’t “truly lose the game”, well if at any point in time you are defeated in battle you are giving the option to retry the battle with all your stats and items reset to what they were at the start of the battle. With such an option it makes it so that no matter how hard the game gets you are always able to move forward. The game also lets you save anywhere at any time, which is handy and in my opinion an option that all RPG’s should have.

Unlike most RPG’s where you buy your equipment and items in Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest you will find all of you equipment in dungeons aside from a select few, weapons however are mostly given to you by whomever it is that has partnered up with you for whatever dungeon it is you are crawling.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (27)

Then Bomberman stole all of them.

This brings me onto the whole “party” concept in this game, in FFMQ you will only ever have one other person in your party aside from the main character and your party member will always start out at a higher level then you. Unlike your character though who gains experience and levels your party members will remain stagnant. This isn’t a bad thing and is done for a very specific reason, your current party member whenever he/she joins will start out at whatever level it is you will be by the time of the boss fight so if anything the party members stand as a testament to how you should level. Your party members will also always have better stats then you, so you should just accept that fact now.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (45)

She’s only wearing a dress and she had higher defense? :/

All of the towns in the game are very simplistic and in only a few of them are there puzzles which get you a magic book or some cure bottles. For the most part towns are used exclusively for plot related events and for sleeping so you can heal.

Magic in this game operates similar to the “charge” system the first game had where you could use different types of spells a certain number of times before you need to use an ether or go to an inn. Spells are all found through books hidden throughout the land (mostly in dungeons). Interestingly enough many spells have dual purposes and can be used on both enemies and the party, a good example is the spell “Life” which can fully heal or revive a party member, or instantly destroy an undead opponent.

The battle system itself is limited to three options “Battle”, “Run”, and “Control”. Battle does what you would assume it opens a sub menu where you can choose to attack regularly or you can use a spell or item, run allows you to attempt to flee, and control switches the main character from “Manual” to “Auto” (player controlled to computer controlled).

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (14)

Damn Centaurs, the fake you out by surrendering then they tell you a riddle to confuse you.

This game has status effects and almost all the enemies in the game can inflict one upon you, so expecting the unexpected is key in battles. Another thing of note is that over the course of a battle as you damage a monster its sprite will change to show you how low its HP is. Generally most monsters have two sprites but more important monsters with high HP can have 3 or more.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (65)Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (64)

He needed to get some filing done anyway.

Another integral aspect of the game is switching weapons which you can do at any point in time by pressing the shoulder buttons. Each weapon in the game had special characteristics and uses such as the axe which can cut down trees and the bomb which can blow up obstacles. They each have their own unique status effects they can inflict upon an enemy not to mention that some weapons are naturally stronger then others. Though one thing of note about weapons and attacks is that in FFMQ any and all attacks which target more then one opponent divides the damage it would have done amongst all the enemies (i.e. Using a bomb which targets all opponents and there are three of them, it does 300/3 to each monster).

The games dialogue is campy and obviously meant to not be taken seriously, the graphics for the game are slightly less impressive then that of FFII for the SNES but the actual monster sprites I’d say are about the same in uniqueness. The soundtrack is the games most endearing quality and is the main reason for the games cult following. Give it a listen:

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest was generally considered a failure by many of its early fanbase, yet strangely enough it received average reviews and over time has garnered a much larger fan base from newer gamers and retro gamers. In my opinion this game is not truly meant for someone uninitiated to the world of Role-Playing games but instead is best for those who have been fans for a while and want something unique to change things up. The game is far from perfect as at times the dungeons crawls, just like in any RPG can get tedious, though despite that the game was innovative in how it handles many things (i.e. letting you jump over stuff). I recommend this game to any who are fans of Role-Playing games, or to those who are looking for something different.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (33)

Maybe if he invests it in mutual funds he’ll be able to afford it in fifteen years.

Harvest Moon (SNES)


Harvest Moon, a game which is shockingly not about harvesting moons but instead is about building up your own successful farm and starting a family. Naturally one would assume that such a concept for a game would fail immediately and slip into the cracks of gaming history as another failure, however Harvest Moon did none of that. Harvest Moon and all the subsequent games in the series which would follow all garner a massive following, this game over the past decade has transformed Natsume a formerly small video game designing and publishing company from making adequate licensed games to producing exclusively Harvest Moon and Harvest Moon spin-off games.


Serious Farming.

in Harvest Moon you play as a young man who inherits a decrepit farm from a recently departed family member, upon arriving you meet the people of the nearby village and the man who collects the goods you ship, then you adopt a dog. There is no true story to this game and it essentially never ends as once you get married and have a kid the game keeps going on.


He sure got the raw end of the deal. :/

One of the more interesting aspects of the game is courting system, the courting system is the mathematical system used to determine how much whichever woman you are attempting to woo like or dislike you. Each potential lady in the game has there own set of likes and dislikes and a certain value of increase or decrease to the level in which they like you dependent upon your actions and gifts you give to her.




Don't think Harvest Moon is all about the ladies though as the main brunt of the game is operating a successful farm. Unbelievably running a successful farm takes a great deal of time, patience, and stick-to-itiveness. With the games internal world time where every second of real world time is equivalent to a minute, that generally equates to time passing rather quickly so you have to choose your priorities, ladies, or running your farm and getting money (the answer is running your farm). On your farm you are given the option of ranching livestock or farming crops as a way of earning a living on your farm (you can also do both if you so please).


Like a boss!

Both farming and ranching have their own unique tool sets, many of these tools you start out with and over time more advanced tools become a available that you can purchase. Just like with the ability to purchase better tools you can also purchase additions to your house after collecting a certain amount of wood and money.

If you want to grow any plants you’ll need to purchase them, though that doesn’t under any circumstance mean that you can just purchase any seeds you want, certain seeds are only ever available during certain seasons; the only seed which you can get during any season is grass seed, so any and all other seeds are exclusive to specific seasons. You can also purchase less important items such as food or drinks neither of which you get to keep as they are both instantly consumed by the character.

Harvest Moon has a decent amount of things to do in the game as there are several hidden areas that can only be accessed after a certain point in time, the main element of the gain (i.e. Farming/ranching) are the main draws of the game, and both of which are done remarkably well as plants need to be consistently taken care of in order for them to produce any product, the same can be said for any of the animals you rear as they require both affection, feeding, and milking/egg collecting(?). I personally found that over the course of the entire series you aren’t provided with much in the way of startup money or materials so most of your first couple of weeks will be spent collecting various odds and ends that are laying around the place (i.e. grass, rocks, fish, wood, mushrooms, berries) and shipping them as your main source of income. Some alternatives to farming and ranching can be mining or fishing as they both present themselves as options once you get the right tools.


Manly Things.

Character interactions aren’t very diverse as many characters who are not potential wives provide little useful dialogue, The most you will get out of the NPC’s will be special events and festivals which happen on specific dates over the course of a year, even then they won’t say much aside from comments on the particular event.

Harvest Moon isn’t the kind of game where graphics really matter, but the game has very nice sprites and the player sprite in particular has a plethora of animations which are all amusing at worst. Harvest Moon has very unobtrusive background music that will fade in and out depending on the time of day at whatever season it currently. In my opinion that is how background music should very well be, unobtrusive and doing nothing more then setting the tone for whatever it is that goes on.

Harvest Moon is essentially a reality sim wherein you play as a Farmer/Rancher and seek to be the best at what it is you do. It’s a very solid game with a great deal of replay value for its intended audience, however Harvest Moon has little to no appeal to those who are not interested in game where the only content is growing plants and raising some cows. I’d also like to point out that the game is far from perfect, once you are married and have your child the game falls into a limbo where you’ve essentially “beaten” the game (though I’ve noticed this is a problem in pretty much all the games though). I’d recommend this game to anyone who is already a fan of the series, or to any person(s) who are fans of more casual games as this game has great pick up and play value. Harvest Moon the first game of the series is by far the purest incarnation and I’d say the only other game to perfectly emulate the formula would be the Gameboy Color games, so if you are interested in a game about farming or ranching I’d suggest giving this game a looksee, or its Gameboy versions as they are fairly similar.


“It was at that moment upon reaching the summit that I realized, I forgot to water the onions this morning.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Sales at Lukie Games!

The biggest sale of the year at Lukie Games - tons of classic games, systems, and accessories at their lowest prices ever! Choose from such classics at Tetris for the Original Nintendo for just $1.99, Super Mario All-Stars for just $13.99 (Super Nintendo version), a new PS2 Controller for just $4.99, and dozens more. These deals are good for today only so don't wait, get your games now!

Street Fighter III: Fight for the Future/New Generation/Second Impact/Third Strike (Arcade, Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, PSN)


So cool it needs two subtitles!

Street Fighter III is the third entry into the main series and is apparently the ultimate fighting game for the future (It’s their third strike at it to). Along with a new roster of characters along with a few returning faces the game boasts a newer refined combat system from the days of Street Fighter II and its many incarnations. Street Fighter III has a sparse story element to it, though in all honesty who cares about story in a fighting game? The story itself if fairly standard, a cult has formed around some godly dude who plans on destroying the world and it’s up to whomever you chose at the character select screen to defeat him after fighting through seven (ten in Third Strike, but whatever) other fighters. Of the entire series of Street Fighter games Third Strike is by far my personal favorite. The game is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, all the animations are done beautifully and the controls are incredibly tight and well done, however did you know that there were three versions of this game? 


Yessir Street Fighter III had more then one version of itself (how pretentious) just like it’s predecessor, the only home versions of Street Fighter III however were a Dreamcast port and a port to the PS2 in the 15th Anniversary Collection which contained the third version of Street Fighter III and every version of Street Fighter II along with an edited version of the Street Fighter II movie. Now I cannot safely say what the significant differences are between the Street Fighter III games is as I’ve only ever played the Arcade version of Second Impact (the second version) and the console version of Third Strike (the third one). Of the two versions I noticed little to no difference aside from Roster additions (as Street Fighter tends to do). The added roster padding is most notable in Third Strike as it gained a total of five characters as opposed to the three Second Impact gained.sf3-6

Hey where’s Dee Jay and T.Hawk? D:

Roster-wise I won’t get in to deep as I am reviewing the entirety of the series, so I shall present to you a chart showing you the rosters for each game and I will point out the positives a negatives of them:


(click to enlarge)

Firstly you you note little asterisks next to certain names, those signify that they are exclusive to certain ports of the game; Gill in New Generation (the original Street Fighter III) is only available on the Dreamcast port of the game, and “Shin” Akuma and Gill in Third Strike (the third version) are only available on the PS2 and Xbox Anniversary Editions. Another thing you may notice is that between the first version and second version the characters Yun & Yang go from being one character to two, this is because in the first version they each had the exact same move set and it wasn’t until the second version that they each received a unique move set which essentially made they different characters. So Roster-wise the third version is the obvious superior as it boasts a total of 21 characters, an amount unheard of at the time as not even Street Fighter Alpha had that many characters.

Now the actual fighting system for Street Fighter III went over little change over the course of it’s revamped versions but it did however reinvent the entire fighting system from the days of Alpha and Street Fighter II Tournament Edition. In Street Fighter III air blocking had been done away with and instead was replaced with Parrying, a move which allows you to negate an attack by pressing forward just before the move connects. Another things brought about by Street Fighter III was the Super Arts, they were the ultimate moves of each unique character and each one had three with which you could choose from upon selecting your character, essentially they were super combos only with more variety. You can grab in Street Fighter III which at the time was fairly inventive and no game in the series prior had it before, though the grabs are generally simple throws. I personally found regular combos easier to pull off in Street Fighter III as opposed to the previous games which in my opinion is a major plus.

Street Fighter III has mini-games, well only two of them, A Parrying mini-game where you try to parry basketballs, and crush the car which had been revived from those good old days of smashing dudes things in Street Fighter II. These mini-games however are exclusive to Second Impact and Third Strike. These Mini-games appear in between fights in Single-Player mode and upon encountering and failing or completing them you can play them at your leisure later.


I hope Akuma has finished paying that thing off.

Ultimately Street Fighter III (Subtitle Whatever) is a great fighter, it had tight controls and depending on the version you pick up it will have an expansive roster or a small roster, all three versions are great and in my opinion the only thing truly separating them is the amount of dudes and dudettes in their character rosters. All three have fairly lackluster bonus modes (i.e. time attack, survival, mini-games) but the actual fighting is great with it’s tight controls, it’s multiplayer and single-player modes where the game shines like a star and in my opinion those are the only things that should ever count in a fighting game. This game is worth getting a hold of regardless of whatever console you get if for!


I agree with Akuma, mostly because he could destroy me with fireballs he shoots from his hands.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dark Cloud (PS2) Review

Dark Cloud is an RPG for the PlayStation 2 and was originally intended to be a launch title for the system however it was instead released a year later. I personally have some pretty fond memories of this game as it was the first PlayStation 2 game I ever purchased. I remember traversing through the many dungeons in the game and building up my weapons to take on the boss’s at the end of each dungeon, I also recall the time I spent trying to get every town set up perfectly so that the people in it would all be happy and reward me for my efforts. In my opinion this was the best of the early RPG’s for the console (not that it had many to contend with), though throughout this review we shall see if it truly is as great a gem as I believed when I first bought the game.

Being that this is an RPG story is a strong element of the game I find it best that we explore this aspect first; Dark Cloud is about a young boy named Toan (or butt, or whatever it is you choose to name him) as he is tasked with the reconstruction of the world by the Fairy King after the Dark Genie destroys a good deal of the world (by world I mean like three towns, and a giant robot). Over the course of the game Toan explores the mystery surrounding the origins of the Dark Genie and a way to ultimately destroy him, over the course of the adventure he travels to many places, a desert, a jungle village, the moon and over the course of the adventure he befriends like-minded people who also suffered from the attack of the Dark Genie.

Dark Cloud (234)
A damn fine Genie of Darkness he is.

This game is heavy on two major elements, story, and dungeon exploration, and both of these elements will be the main meat of the game. Dungeons average about 20 floors but the last dungeon and the secret dungeon are the only real exception. There are additional elements to the game, which are not mandatory but add quite a bit of depth (and some grinding) to the game. These elements are the fishing points system, and the weapon building system, both of which require time and patience but are greatly rewarding in their own respects.
Dungeons in this game are fairly standard, one entrance one exit and a hella lot of monsters to battle. However there is more to every floor then meets the eye, each floor is broken up into two parts the second of which is optional as each floor (excluding boss floors) has a “back floor” which is a floor you can only access through usage of a key on a special door which takes you to the back floor. The back floors generally have stronger monsters, but to naturally offset this the treasure chests on back floors tend to have some pretty great surprises be they rare weapons or gems which you can sell or use. Back floors however are not the only thing you need a key floor, to advance to the next floor and in certain instances to get to a certain part of the main floor you need to find a key, the key to the next floor is always held by an enemy, though the key for the other parts of the floor can only be found in treasure chests back floor keys can occasionally be found in chests as well and at one point in the game be bought. The main point of the dungeon crawl though is to collect the Atla which are large orbs containing things like people, houses, and various odd and ends. You seek to collect all these so that you can rebuild whichever town you are currently in at the time, though I’ll talk about that later.

Dark Cloud (180)
It really makes you wonder how a peaceful village manages to remain peaceful with a dungeon of horrible murderous monsters living right on the edge of it.

Another important part of dungeons is quick time events, typically each dungeon in the game has at least one quick time event where you need to press buttons as they appear on screen, these can be frustrating at first but once you develop a sense of rhythm for them they become immensely easier.

Dark Cloud (59)
Not Pictured: My rage at making a mistake for the third time and dying.

Now story in this game comes at whatever pacing you so choose, as a majority of the story happens as a result of either:
  1. Completing a Dungeon
  2. or Completing a persons house/shack/stand/totem pole
Upon completing either of those a story event will generally follow. The actual overarching plot to the game is fairly fanciful and is ultimately solid enough, however the writing for the game has moments where it becomes incredibly subpar though on the whole it doesn’t detract from the overall game. The writing has it’s moments where it is honestly funny…

Dark Cloud (12)
I get the feeling that they aren’t exactly teenagers with attitude.

Actually I take that back, this game has moments where it’s downright hilarious, I have on my hard drive a LOT of absolutely hilarious screenshots showing how amazingly funny and/or awful this games writing can be at times. Why one of my favorite moments happens while you are in Queen's and you are attempting to get a Psychic to tell you the future.
Now for the weapon building mechanic, now throughout the game you do not gain levels in the traditional sense where killing an enemy grants you experience points, instead every time you slay an enemy your weapon gains “Abs”…

Dark Cloud (20)
These “abs” are the experience your weapons accrue, once a weapons abs are maxed out you can upgrade it. One of the more interesting parts of this is that you can equip to your weapon “attachments” which will increase certain stats or effectiveness upon a certain type of enemy. Once a weapon has been upgraded the necessary amount of times and has had its stats increased to a certain point you are presented with the option of building up a weapon into a much stronger weapon essentially allowing you to continuously evolve a certain weapon over and over again without ever really needing to change to another (though you will want to as the best weapon in the game can only be acquired by training up a specific sword). Another nifty aspect of the weapon building mechanic is that once a weapon has been upgraded to level 5 you are presented with the option of “Status Breaking” it, this would allow you to turn it into an attachment which would retain around 60% of the weapons original stats that you are able to slap onto any particular weapon. Also certain weapons have abilities which give you bonuses or can be hindrances, they are transferrable through Status Breaking so combining the best abilities into a weapon is a good way to get ahead in this game.
Dark Cloud (42)
I wonder if it’s made of real bone?

Admittedly I’m no fan of fishing and this is probably one of the least explored mechanics of the game for me, so bear with me. In Dark Cloud you will periodically come across bodies of water and after you gain your fishing rod you are able to fish in these bodies of water using whatever bait you find or purchase. Whenever you catch a fish you gain points for it which you can exchange for prizes, certain fish are worth more points then others and specific bait can attract high point fish (poison apples, trust me). Fishing is essentially the money farming aspect of the game as once you figure out the best bait and location to fish you will be able to hook high pointers that you can exchange for prizes you can immediately sell. Oh, there is also a fish that tells you how to disarm any chest once you’ve caught it.

Dark Cloud (18)
Man I hate fish, even in video game form.

Now for the most important facet of the game, the balls, the Atla are essentially Dark Clouds version of Legos and they are the building blocks required to rebuild the destroyed locale. They are found in the dungeons and it’s up to you to put them back together once you reach the surface again.

Dark Cloud (96)Dark Cloud (141)
This must be how god feels.

Upon completion of any particular structure you are tasked with placing it in a spot the resident of it wants, which can be quite hard or quite easy depending on the person. You are also treated to events once you complete a place, some of which are hilarious, some traumatizing, all of them end in you receiving an item.

Dark Cloud (130)
Toan can never unsee this.

Rebuilding towns is the main part of the game which is essentially dragging and dropping until everyone is happy. Lets review shall we?

Dungeon –> Atla –> Build structure –> Place Structure –> Drag and drop until all people are happy –> Event –> Profit.

Now there isn’t much to say about graphics being that this is an early PS2 game so I won’t dwell on them, however I will admit that the characters in the game are incredibly expressive which in my book is a plus. The games music is subpar and does a good job of being background music but is by no means stand-outish enough to really get stuck in your head.

Dark Cloud (30)
I honestly feel sorry for him at certain points.

Dark Cloud in this reviewers humble opinion is an absolutely worthwhile RPG, it has lots of content, a great story, and it has tight controls (they are perfect and I feel no need to delve deeper into the topic). There are some quick time events which can be frustrating but over all the game is great and worth purchasing.

Fun fact: This game is by Level-5, you know those guys who made Professor Layton.
Professor Layton
Luke this review reminds me of a puzzle!