It's much, much better than the first. I actually wrote a review for it a while back but can't seem to find it on the site. If you liked Dark Cloud 1, you will love Dark Cloud 2.
He nailed it, I can go on to some greater details though...
So, first things first, you need to know that it is not a continuation of the first game. This was kinda disappointing to me, but believe me, once you get into it, you won't mind. This is a whole different story, in a whole different area, and the two games are somewhat controversial. You'll know what I mean once you play it, I don't want to tell because of possible spiolers from both games (If you havent finished the 1st game yet).
The actual name of the game is "Dark Chronicle" it was released in North america as "Dark Cloud 2" because there was already an existing title under the same name here.
You've pretty much got the DC1 gameplay, with more features and a few tweaks to the game. You don't gather allies like you do in the first game, rather, you gather robot parts for the main character's creation "Ridepod". You can assemble this and use it (Who is named Steve- Which is aslo the name of one of Xiao's slingshots from the first game) in battle as long as you have gas for it. *Note that taking while riding in Steve taking damage decreases how much gas you have*
You can also use another character (The second playable character of the two in the game) to transform into monsters, once you get through the second dungeon.
Instead of collecting Atla like you did in the last game, this time you're collecting Geostones. They're basically the same thing, but instead of containing a house or a tree, or whatever, they simply contain the plans for a house, tree, river, etc. You have to find materials to build what the plans contain.
The goal of the game is to restore the future, which the Dark Spirit has destroyed. The 2nd main character (Monica) comes back in tome to team up with Max, the character you start off as, to create a past that changes the future- Confusing, but very interesting!
Max and Monica basically build things in the past that will grow into better things in the future. You can travel to the future to check out what your creations are turning into as well.
You still have your basic hack n slash real time dungeon crawler like the first game, some of the items/monsters share a name and have the same models, so you get a nostalgic feel while playing it.
I absolutely LOVE the soundtrack for the game, this is, without doubt, my favorite game soundtrack of all time, I even bought the 2 disc OST a few years ago. ^_^
If you don't have this game, what are you waiting for? You can snatch it for a few bucks, even though this game is probably still worth well over it's launch price. I have 2 copies, in case something ever happened to one of them. But seriously man, GET THIS GAME NOW! You're doing yourself a disservice by not owning it.
That's my 2 cents anyway. *looks up* Dang... I wrote a mini review. O_o