Review – ClaDun X2
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Developer: System Prisma
Platform(s): Sony PlayStation Portable
Genre: Dungeon RPG
Rating: E 10+
Purchase from: PlayStation Store
The Scoop: ClaDun X2 is Nippon Ichi Software’s follow up to last year’s salute to dungeon crawling RPGs from the 16-bit era, ClaDun: This is an RPG. That game was pretty solid and although ClaDun X2 may feel like “ClaDun 1.5″ at times, it does hold its own.
The Set Up: Like the first game, your character is trapped on the island of “Arcanus Cella”. The only way off it is by battling through a series of dungeons which are unlocked in sequential order. The experience is designed for gaming on the go with each dungeon consisting of three or four levels that mostly take between two and five minutes to complete. For the days when you have a longer bus ride into work, you can explore the larger dungeons called “Ran-geons” or “Tri-geons” that will stack 25 or so random levels. They can be difficult but they do yield greater items and equipment.
The other inhabitants you meet on Arcanus Cella are not interested in leaving and they spend most of the game trying to convince you to stay. In one cut scene, two of the female inhabitants lifted their shirts as they were convinced the sight of their sweater meat would have me forget about leaving. Needless to say, Nippon Ichi’s humour is in full force here and if this was Gilligan’s Island I definitely would have.
Instead of enlisting the “boob twins” for help I had to build my own party from scratch. There are some preset options you can use to quickly get one together, but for those you love to customise, this game is your wet dream. Their look, animations, speech, and how they interact with other characters can be customised. I made my main character look like Travis Touchdown from the No More Heroes games. It took me almost two hours, but it was worth it.
Once you have built your party, each one will be the leader of its own “Magic Circle”. Magic Circles are set ways to organize your party in the dungeons. Party members within a Magic Circle assist the leader by taking damage and giving boosts depending on which items are carried. Only the party leader is playable but every member gets experience points once a level is complete. You unlock better Magic Circles with boosts and slots for additional members as your characters rank up.
What’s Hot: ClaDun X2 holds to the mantra of what makes old school gaming great by being easy to pick up and play, but difficult to master. You control your character much like you would in an old Zelda game with an over-the-head perspective and the gameplay does vary depending on what type weapon you are using. Sometimes I would be getting spanked in a dungeon with my main character’s sword abilities, but trying again with a sub character and a bow would have me breeze through to the end. Add another layer of Magic Circles and their different effects on your party, and you have many hours of experimentation to explore.
There is a ton of the good kind of level grinding where you unlock a bunch of items and abilities as you rank up. The characters max out at level 99, and then there is some equipment you can find that will jump them to 999. The amount of weapons, equipment, magic spells and items in this game is staggering. There is plenty to be found in the dungeons, but also a bunch of unique ones at Arcanus Cella’s store that you will be saving up your gold coins for.
The game’s music is completely customizable as well. The soundtrack can be switched back and forth between orchestrated music and the same tunes in 8-bit midi. New midi tracks can be created and played at any level you wish. You can also save screenshots which is a pretty cool feature. Every picture in this review was made by yours truly.
What’s Not: For most fans of the original, ClaDun X2 will feel very comfortable, but to a fault. The developers went out of their way to add a ton of customization to the look and sound of the game, but didn’t bring anything new to its gameplay or feel. Also, the original’s multiplayer co-op mode is dropped which is pretty bizarre considering how popular of a feature it was.
I was excited to see after a little ranking up that a gateway to a “wireless dungeon” opened up. I was hoping it would be Little Big Planet kind of online hub where I could see what others have created and show my Travis Touchdown off. But the connection is for other PSPs within wireless range only. I know it is not fair to knock a game for not adding a bonus feature, but with the level of customization involved in this game it almost like a World War II FPSer coming out today without any multiplayer levels.
Although gameplay wise ClaDun X2 is easy to pick up there are some elements, like the Magic Circles, that are deep and require a lot of an explanation on how they work. There are characters you can visit on Arcanus Cella that do just that but with wordy text and no visual aids. Having a bit of a walkthrough through to show how the Magic Circles work would have been more effective.
Final Verdict: ClaDun X2 is a better single player experience than its predecessor, but its premise and gameplay is very similar. It lacks the enchantments you would expect from a sequel and drops a popular multiplayer mode. They are two big exclusions, especially when the game is asking you to shell out $20 for it.
If you haven’t played a ClaDun game before or sunk a ton of hours into the original without touching the multiplayer, then X2 will be a wise investment. It has all of the same solid gameplay as the original but with a deep amount of customization added in. Just steer clear of the boob twins. They can be hypnotic even in 16 bit.