August 18, 2004

Dark Cloud 2

August is shaping up to to be the month with the least number of books read and reviewed since I started putting reviews on-line seven-and-a-half years ago. It's partially because I've been putting a lot of time into Snit, partially because of the Olympics (remember them?), but mostly because I've been otherwise occupied.....playing video games.

Yes, it's true. If I were a member of the Truly Literary Blogosphere Establishment, I'd probably have to turn in my badge and my tie tack; fortunately, my deep and abiding love of genre fiction has saved me from such a humiliating fate.

And the game I've been playing recently is an RPG called Dark Cloud 2, which, frankly, is almost too goofy for words while remaining an enjoyable game. Computer games aren't known for having deep, complex, satisfying plots, but this one is silly beyond the conventions of the medium.

You start the game as Max, a kid who likes to build things. He's the son of the wealthiest man in town, but he prefers to spend his time doing odd-jobs for Cedric the inventor. You live in the little town of Palm Brinks, which has been completely shut off from the outside world for some years now. No one knows why, and no one really seems to care, and somehow life goes on--with a pretty good standard of living, needless to say. Heaven knows where all of the manufactured goods come from.

Anyway, a circus comes to town. A circus comes to town? But Palm Brinks has been completely shut off-- Oh, never mind. A circus comes to town, and the ringleader, an evil-looking clown with an evil-laugh, is after a red stone that Max wears on a chain around his neck. Max is forced to flee into the sewers (you knew there'd be sewers didn't you? You haven't played this kind of game much if you didn't expect sewers) where you have to fight for your life against sewer rats, frogs, evil mincing clowns, evil balloon-headed creatures, and a variety of stranger things. You're armed only with a small pistol and your trusty adjustable wrench, which by the way makes a really good club.

After you leave the sewers, you discover that the reason Palm Brinks has been cut off from the outside world is that the outside world is almost completely destroyed. And then you meet a red-headed girl named Monica, who wields a great big sword and a magic armband, and has a blue stone that matches your red stone. Whoa. Plus, she's from the FUTURE. Wow! Plus, she has a pony-tail that goes down to her knees, and looks really cute in pumpkin shorts. Woo-hoo!

Pumpkin shorts? That's what the game calls them. I don't see anything pumpkin-like about them, myself.

Anyway, Monica tells you that the future isn't what it used to be; somebody's been changing things in the past to destroy the future. She's come back to fix things, and she wants your help. Fixing things, it turns out, involves the restoration of "origin points". You go to the place in the Past (that is, in Max's era) that matches a place in the Future, and then you build houses, persuade people to come live in them, and so forth, so that everything that's needful is there for it to develop into what it's supposed to be in Monica's time. As you do this, you can travel to and from the Future and see how things are working out. And really, you have to do this--the reason you pick the places to restore that you do is because there are people in the future whose help you need who won't exist unless you restore their places.

In the meantime, you spend a lot of time fighting your way through dark forests, deep canyons, sea caves, and who knows what all, slaying fearsome monsters, collecting the raw materials you need to do your building, and levelling-up your weapons. That's right; the game system is a little odd. In most RPGs, your character gains endurance, strength, and so forth as he or she gains experience. In Dark Cloud 2, it's your weapons that gain experience. At the moment, for example, Max is wielding the dreaded Poison Wrench and a machine-pistol called Star Breaker, while Monica has a claymore.

Oh, and occasionally you have to go fishing. And sometimes you have to play golf. No, really. When you're not indulging your photography hobby, which is essential to completing the game.

You fight a variety of weird monsters, including Auntie Medusa, the Weird Old Spider Lady, a variety of walking skeletons and elemental spirits, vicious moles, walking plants, pirates, walking fish, tree creatures, golems, elephants, dragons, the Rainbow Butterly, weird robot things, and dog statues, among other things. You meet a variety of odd people. You go many odd places, and get to listen to lots of awful nonsense about sages.

It's a Japanese game, of course. Monica the cute redhead should have given that away; every Japanese video game I've played has a cute redhead, though usually she has pigtails that stick straight out to the sides instead of a ponytail.

It's a fun game, though, and I've been enjoying it--even if I've been fast-forwarding through some of the dialog because I don't want to try to explain it to the kids, because it's so doggone goofy.

Anyway, I'm about halfway through. I'm trying to fit in some books, though. Wish me luck.

Posted by Will Duquette at August 18, 2004 06:11 PM