Dark Chronicle PlayStaton 2
by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
Released: Out Now
When it comes to RPG games no other console can touch Sony's PlayStation 2. Not only do you have the Final Fantasy series, Kingdom Hearts etc. but you have many more RPG games that are top quality. One of the best action RPG games to date was Dark Cloud. Dark Chronicle, believe it or not, is the European title for Dark Cloud 2. Developed and published by Sony themselves, Dark Cloud was a very impressive title. As we shall see in this review Dark Chronicle raises the bar even further and is one of the best games I've played on any platform.
Dark Chronicle centres around Max, a 13 year old boy with immense mechanical abilities, from the town of Palm Brinks and a girl named Monica who arrives from the future in an effort (Quantum Leap style) to put right what once went wrong. Throughout the course of the game you'll play as both Max (in and out of the customisable Ridepod that looks a little like the mechanical trousers in the Wallace and Gromit program The Wrong Trousers) and Monica. Time traveling is an essential part of the game and the actions you take in the present will change the world in the future. The game is not just about combat though and you'll have to construct towns (which is known as the Georama system) in the past, to create a desired affect and to enable you to perform certain tasks, in the future, and you will have to create new inventions and weapons if you are to succeed at Dark Chronicle.
Whilst combat is not the be all and end all of the game, it is a central element. The combat itself is very satisfying. You can lock on to enemies and used ranged and melee attacks. Certain enemies can only be defeated by certain weapons so you'll have to be careful and cautious with the items that you find lying around in the treasure chests. At various stages of the game you'll have to go on the usual dungeon crawl. The dungeons, which are randomly created, are broken up into units (or floors as they are called in the game). Each unit has it's own challenges but the bottom line is that you must find the key to the exit door and you must kill all the enemies. When you begin a floor you are given a list of objectives that are optional such as finishing within a certain amount of time or completing the level without healing. If you achieve any of these optional challenges you'll receive a medal. You can go back at any time and retake these challenges if you wish.
The weapons, or items that you use as weapons, can all be modified and customised. As you level up you'll acquire synthesize points which are used to modify your weapon. First of all you have to spectrumize the object that you would like to add to your weapon. Then you synthesize the spectrumized object with the weapon. When you get the chance to level up your weapon it will take on the properties of the objects that you have synthesized with it. If there is more than one possibility of what your weapon can be upgraded to then you'll be given a choice to choose what it turns into. The Ridepod can also be customised in the same way. It's important to note that the more you use a tool or device then the more chance you'll have of upgrading it. Your weapons will also break if you do not maintain them or keep them supplied with ammunition so you'll have to avoid unnecessary damage.
The game is just full of nice touches. If you need to use something and you have it in your inventory the item in question will flash to show you that you have it. Max will find items all over the place that he can use for new inventions. You don't have to collect all of these items though. Simply taking a picture of the items in question is enough to allow you to create the inventions. In the dungeons you'll come across a floating coin (one side angel and one side devil) if you spin the coin and it lands on angel you'll get something good but if it's a devil side you could end up with half of your weapons, strength or half of your health taken from you. There are plenty of mini-games too such as fishing and fish races to keep you amused and give you a rest from building and fighting.
Visually Dark Chronicle is gorgeous. The graphics have a kind of 3D cel-shaded appearence to them, not too dissimilar to a style used in The Wind Waker only with slighty more detail. The characters have, rather comically, slightly oversized feet, hands, and heads but rather than looking silly it gives the game charm and style the like of which you don't often see in a game. Whilst out and about in the different towns everything looks superb. The dungeons are rather repetitive though but this is to be expected as they are randomly generated. The camera within the game is OK but you can control it with the right analogue stick should it stray from a good viewpoint. What impressed me most though was that with all this fantastic detail in the game there was no slowdown at all. You really have to applaud the developers for what they have managed to get out of the PlayStation 2.
Dark Chronicle is almost perfect for deaf gamers. All of the cutscenes and most of the game dialogue are shown in text which is clear and easy on the eyes. The only omissions are the after-battle celebrations and the in-game tutorials that show you how to spectrumize objects and build up your tools etc. The tutorials are very impressive but without subtitles they become a little vague. Still after managing to get a look at the game manual I can say that it will tell you anything you will need to know so there isn't any real damage here.
Dark Chronicle is an absolute gem of a game and personally I would say it's a better game than Kingdom Hearts as the combat system seems more satisfying. The limitless ways you can customize the game, by making your own inventions and weapons, is very impressive and adds to the replay value no end. The game has tons of depth and will satisfy even the most demanding of gamers. Whilst the game starts off fairly easy, it soon develops into a stiff challenge but by then you're hooked and will not want to give up or put it down. This is a must own game for the PlayStation 2.
Overall Game Rating: 9.3/10
Charm, depth and style, Dark Chronicle has it all. The first true classic for the PlayStation 2 in the run up to Christmas.
Tutorials are not subtitled but thanks to the manual this doesn't cause any real problems.