Dark Cloud (ダーククラウド Dāku Kuraudo?) is a role-playing video game for the PlayStation 2 (PS2) video game console. It was developed by Level-5 and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2000 and 2001 in Japan and American/PAL regions respectively. The gameplay of Dark Cloud combines action role-playing with elements of city-building games. A sequel to the game, Dark Cloud 2 (or Dark Chronicle), was released two years later.
The game's story focuses on a group of adventurers who have all been affected by the destruction caused by a being called the Dark Genie and decide to band together to fight against it. The main protagonist is Toan, a young boy who is given a magical stone called the 'Atlamillia' by the Fairy King that has the power to rebuild the destroyed areas.
The game was originally intended to be a launch title for the PS2 but was eventually released later in the year. The game was generally well received by critics with praise towards its blend of gameplay types. The game has shipped 800,000 copies worldwide according to RPGFan.
Dark Cloud is a third person role-playing game in which the player battles through randomly-generated 'dungeons', defeating monsters and collecting items. Inside these dungeons, on certain floors the player may have the option of entering a separate area, which contains stronger monsters and more valuable treasure. At times the player must 'Duel' an enemy. During this unusual type of battle, the player must press a certain sequence of buttons shown along the bottom of the screen to win the duel.
Another part of Dark Cloud's gameplay involves special items called 'Atla', which are used to rebuild the above-ground world. These items, which are present in almost every dungeon level, are large spherical objects and can only be retrieved by the main character. Once removed from the dungeon, they become pieces of the world (trees, houses, villagers, etc.). These pieces must be placed through 'Georama' mode, an element similar to city-building games where the player can arrange the pieces of the world they have found onto the landscape. After villagers have been placed, the player can speak to them to discover what their wishes are for the rebuilding of the village. As the player approaches the ideal state of affairs concerning the village restoration and its villagers' preferences, their progress is recorded as a percentage of completion in the Georama menu. Once the progress reaches 100%, the village is considered complete.
Unlike most RPGs instead of the main characters leveling up, their weapons do. The player characters themselves can only grow stronger with the consumption of particular items. Weapons level up by killing enemies and wear out over time, and it is necessary to repair them so that they do not break. With the exception of the starting weapon, a broken weapon is immediately removed from the player's inventory. To upgrade a weapon, the player can attach stat-increasing items to it (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. To permanently keep the extra statistics the attachements give, the weapon must be leveled up using absorption points, which are gained by defeating enemies. Weapons can be combined once they reach a certain level, granting the player a single weapon with the combined attributes of the two.
Dark Cloud features six different main characters each with their own playstyle; three ranged fighters and three melee fighters each using a different weapon. The melee characters use a variety of blades, hammers and staves, and the ranged characters use magic rings, guns and slingshots. Each character also has a unique ability that helps them move through the dungeons.
Dark Cloud is set within a fantasy world with two moons called Terra. The world is made up of two main continents referred to as the East and West. The eastern continent has a focus on technology and the civilization is advanced whereas the western continent is less so and its people prefer to "live in harmony with nature".
Within the western continent are settlements that were sealed away by the Fairy King during the attack by the Dark Genie and where the game primarily takes place; Norune, Matataki, Brownboo, Queens, Muska Lacka and a separate settlement on one of Terra's moons, Yellow Drops (Brownboo and Yellow Drops being unaffected).
Norune Village is the protagonist’s hometown. It is a small community run by a village chief and is situated near the Divine Beast Cave where Dran, its guardian, the God of Beasts resides. Matataki Village is a woodland home to tribes of hunters near the Wise Owl Forest with the Great Treant, a tree fairy, as its guardian. Brownboo is a nearby village of Moon People hidden within the forest. The Moon People were responsible for originally sealing away the Dark Genie. Queens is a seaside merchant town that is busy with people and crime, and at its bay holds a haunted shipwreck. Muska Lacka is a desert village situated next to a large structure called the Sun and Moon Temple. The people of the village keep tradition with symbolic totem poles. Yellow Drops is another settlement of Moon People located on the larger, yellow moon of Terra.
Dark Cloud features many characters, some of which are playable. Each playable character utilizes different weapons and fighting styles along with different abilities that aid in the exploration of dungeon areas. The main protagonist, a young boy named Toan, fights with daggers, knives and swords. Toan is from Norune Village and is silent throughout the game. After the events of the prologue, he is charged with the restoration of the world by the Fairy King. The Fairy King gives Toan the Atlamillia, a magical stone he can use to gather and restore the scattered pieces of the world. The main antagonist is the Dark Genie, an evil genie released by Colonel Flag, a second class military commander seeking to use its power to take control of the world.
Seda, the king of the East four hundred years prior to the game. He was in a war to protect his kingdom and was on the verge of losing until a hooded man approached him, offering him a deal: Mix witch blood into his veins to achieve devastating magical powers. He agreed and later when his fiancee, Sophia, died by an assassin meant for himself, his anger and bitterness gave birth to the Dark Genie. When he heard of the Atlamillia forming four hundred years after his time, he used the Forbidden Spell to go to the future to acquire it as a way to stop the Dark Genie.
During the course of the game, Toan meets new characters who can only be chosen to explore and battle in dungeons. The player has to accomplish certain in-game events for new characters to join. The available characters include: Xiao, a slingshot-wielding 'catgirl'; Goro, an aggressive hunter from Matataki Village who uses large hammers; Ruby, a beautiful magic-ring-using genie from Queens; Ungaga, a morose Muska Lacka warrior with a preference for staves; and Osmond, leader of the Moon People equipped with a variety of guns and blasters. Osmond appears as a cameo character in the PlayStation 3 role-playing video game, White Knight Chronicles.
Dark Cloud is a fairy tale, read from an ancient book found in old, nameless ruins. Once scholars had translated the story, its significance and verity became debatable.
The story begins in a large chamber called the Dark Shrine where a ceremony of dances is being performed to awaken the Dark Genie, a legendary creature of great power. Colonel Flag, the person behind the awakening, watches on while the ceremony's organizer, a priest of the shrine, explains the legend of the Dark Genie. A large urn containing the genie's spirit begins to billow black smoke and the Dark Genie materializes. The Dark Genie accepts Colonel Flag as its master for releasing it but devours the priest out of its savage hunger. Ordered by Flag, the Dark Genie then begins a rampage to destroy the western continent's populations, but the Fairy King, seeing this, quickly casts a protective spell around the affected locations. This spell causes the buildings, objects and people to be sealed away in magical orbs, avoiding the Dark Genie's attack, but because of it, the orbs are scattered throughout the lands.
Toan, a resident of the affected Norune Village, is given a blue stone called the Atlamillia by the Fairy King and learns he must search for the people and objects in the form of floating orbs called Atla. Toan goes to the Divine Beast Cave and collects all the Atla containing Norune Village and its people. During his exploration of the cave, Toan meets a mysterious white-haired man called Seda, who challenges him to a sword duel. Toan loses after trying to protect a cat that accidentally got caught in their battle. Afterwards, Seda throws Toan a changing potion as a gift. The potion is later used on the cat, which causes it to change into a half-human/half-cat named Xiao; a new ally who joins Toan on his quest. At the cave's bottom, Toan meets Dran, the god of all beasts and guardian of Norune. The normally peaceful Dran is under control of the Dark Genie and attacks. Defeating Dran releases him from the genie's control and he suggests Toan find the Moon People, directing the party towards Great Treant in Matataki Village.
As they enter Matataki, Toan is challenged by a boy called Goro. After being defeated, Goro runs back up to his tree house, dropping the magical earrings which allows one to understand the creatures of the forest, including the Great Treant. Goro eventually joins Toan's party. After speaking with Treant, the group fights through enemies of the nearby Wise Owl Forest to reach its final area. There they face the giant possessed primate called Master Utan, the once guardian of the forest and free him from the Genie's control. Toan and the others afterward venture deeper into the forest, making their way to Brownboo, an unaffected village where the Moon People reside. There they are captured by the Moon People for being trespassing strangers. After learning of the Dark Genie, they are released and together devise a plan on how to defeat the Dark Genie permanently. The Moon People plan to call the Moon Ship using the Moon Orb. To find the orb, Toan and party must travel to the seaside village of Queens where they learn of a shipwreck that may be harboring it. While searching the shipwreck, they find and restore the city of Queens. In the process, Toan finds a lamp that kept a genie, Ruby, who joins the group. In the final area of the shipwreck Toan and party meet with La Saia, a ghost of a woman whose fiancée abandoned her at the altar. After defeating La Saia, her fiancée, Rando, comes into the sanctuary and apologizes to La Saia. He then hands Toan the Moon Orb, and the couple departs together.
Still unable to summon the Moon Ship even with the orb, the Moon People send Toan and the others to the desert village of Muska Lacka. They find the Sun and Moon Temple and begin to collect the Atla there to restore the village. During this, Toan befriends a desert warrior called Ungaga, who later becomes a party member. After reaching the final floor of the temple, they face The King’s Curse. Once defeated, a passage opens up that leads to the Moon Ship. With the help of the Moon People, the ship is finally able to be activated. They travel to the moon city of Yellow Drops, where Toan meets Osmond, a Moon Person, who asks for help in collecting pieces of a giant battle robot called the Sun Giant. The Moon People, who have long since lost their magical abilities, believe they can destroy the Dark Genie for good by using this robot. After meeting Osmond, he too joins the group. Toan and party collect the scattered pieces of the robot by searching the Moon Sea. Toan collects the final piece by fighting a giant Minotaur in a coliseum-like battle there. Once the Sun Giant is completed, Toan and party, along with a crew of Moon People, pilot the Sun Giant towards the Dark Heaven Castle, where the Dark Genie now resides.
The group arrives at the castle and confronts the Dark Genie. After defeating the genie they learn it was actually a rat that had absorbed some of the true Dark Genie's powers while sealed away in its urn. The true Dark Genie had possessed Colonel Flag, and it destroys the Sun Giant. The power is too great for Flag's body to stand and Flag dies. Toan continues to pursue the Dark Genie and enters the castle where Seda explains the past and how it was his fault the Dark Genie was created;it was he who travelled to the future to ask Toan to watch his memories so that he could prevent the Genie from being created in the past. Seda opens up a portal to the 'Gallery of Time' to allow Toan and the others to find the Atla. Suddenly, the Genie reappears, wishing to reunite with Seda's body, but Seda kills himself to bar the Genie from his power. They travel through the years of the Gallery of Time to collect and view the memories. Toan is unable to prevent the Dark Genie's creation but then faces and defeats its true form. Toan uses the last of the Atlamilla's powers to revive Seda's fiancée, Sophia.Afterwards, Toan and party vanish from the past and are returned to their own time and villages to live out their lives in peace.
Dark Cloud was the first game of the Japanese developer Level-5, lead by designer Akihiro Hino. Development of the game began when the company was founded in October 1998. When the PlayStation 2 was announced on March 2, 1999, Sony president and CEO Ken Kutaragi used a demo of Dark Cloud to showcase the capabilities of the platform. However, many elements of the demo were not used in the release version of the game.
In 1999, Sony had an early playable version of Dark Cloud at the Tokyo Game Show. This version focused on a character who needed to return a floating piece of land back to where it originally came from but its location had been replaced with an evil kingdom. The world building parts were demonstrated in this version. At the Tokyo Game Show in 2000, a more complete demo was available, similar to the final version.
The English release of Dark Cloud had more features added into gameplay, including the ability to upgrade weapons, extra duels and an extra dungeon after completing the game, the Demon Shaft; this location does not appear in the Japanese version.
The Dark Cloud Official Soundtrack was released to the Japanese market in late 2001. The soundtrack, composed by Tomohito Nishiura, consists of forty-six tracks.