CLADUN X2 PC review

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Developer(s): Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher(s): NIS America
Platform(s): PC (Steam), PSP
Release Date: August 14, 2012

In the modern world of gaming, the dungeon crawler audience is a lonely bunch.  We seek out indie titles developed in someone’s basement in order to satisfy our peculiar cravings and there are fewer choices in the genre each year.  But every once in a while, someone hears our cries and gives us a little to nibble on.  The recent Legasista was a delicious treat that muscled its way through industry giants with great poise and personality.  And personality just might be key to keeping the genre from extinction.  You know, the kind of personality that comes with spiky-haired heroes, cheesy one-liners, and a quirky Anime charm.  This brings us to the latest dungeon crawler gem, ClaDun X2.

The Good
- Retro-licious
- Everything is editable
- Fun gameplay
- It’s a massive game
- Fantastic soundtrack

The Bad
- Graphics look better on a small screen
- Movement feels stiff
- Can get repetitive
- The game works better on a handheld

ClaDun X2, or Classic Dungeon X2, is the kind of game you can play for a few minutes here and there or loose a night’s sleep.  It’s a throwback to 16-bit classics in both gameplay and its retro visuals, but the amount of customization rivals any modern title in the genre today.  You begin by picking a class, creating your character and find yourself stranded in the world of Arcanus Cella.  The world is an adventurer’s dream; an exotic island filled with treasure packed dungeons and magic, but the only problem is that once you’re there, you cannot leave.  The inhabitants of this world all seem content with being stuck there and their overenthusiastic leader Parchmin welcomes you with open arms and teaches you ways to survive.  Oh and did I mention you have amnesia? 


ClaDun X2 is a PC port of a 2011 PSP title and the lack of portability gives the game an entirely different vibe.  On the PSP, the miniature, stylized esthetic seems appropriate, but the zoomed in view on the PC monitor takes a while to set in.  It feels as if you’re playing the game under a microscope.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it makes combat a bit easier, but veteran players used to holding the world of Arcanus Cella in their hands will take a while to convert.

If you’ve played the original ClaDun: This is a RPG!, then you know exactly what to expect. The sequel is equivalent to buying a new car model in that you’re getting a similar product but with improved features and extra polish.  In ClaDun’s case, this is a great thing.  You’re getting more of everything, more customization, more dungeons, more challenges, pretty much exactly what you’d want from a game like this.  Newcomers to the franchise will be the most appreciative.  ClaDun X2 has a plethora of customization options, similar to the classic RPG Maker, but offers enough structure and direction to get you straight into the action.


Everything in the game is customizable.  You can switch between 8-bit and real orchestral music, the font can be displayed in both regular and retro characters, and the character creator allows you to draw pretty much anything you can imagine.  Similarly to Legasista, dungeons are randomly generated and offer endless replayability.  Some levels take minutes to complete, while others are significantly longer and more complex.  Each level has a secondary objective, a set time, that earns you fame if you make it through the exit quickly enough.  Once you get to the crazy three-tiered Tri-geon dungeons featuring 99 levels, you better have the best gear and stats to survive.  Dungeons aren’t just swarming with enemies; they’re filled with environmental traps.  These become visible as you approach them and can be used to lure foes to their doom.  Certain traps reveal healing plates so you’re encouraged to scout each area of the dungeon.

Playing ClaDun X2 on the keyboard feels clumsy at first and it’s because the game was designed with a different button layout in mind.  You’re using J to jump, K to attack and L to dash/sprint.  Moving around is done with your typical W, A, S, D buttons, but having your hands so close together while gaming doesn’t feel very natural.  Where’s the gamepad support?  Once you find comfort in the controls, the gameplay shines in all of its old school glory.  This is an action-RPG that prides itself in tradition.  Days of 16-bit hack n’ slash eminence are prevalent in every aspect of the gameplay and it’s refreshing to embrace nostalgia every once in a while.


One of the key features in the ClaDun franchise is the addition of supporting sub characters.  Just like you would upgrade weapons and armor for stronger stats, you can add characters with diverse skills and classes to aid you in battle.  However, they don’t join you in battle, you’re basically using their abilities for additional safety.  The crew is assembled in Magic Circles that offer slots with varying attributes.  Found artifacts can be added to individual crewmembers for extra stat growth, but using the wrong item can have detrimental effects - such as depletion of HP and Mana.  The game encourages experimentation and constant swapping of main and supporting characters for even leveling and finding the best warrior combinations.


ClaDun X2 is geared towards a very specific audience, namely old school dungeon crawler fans, and with that in mind, it succeeds.  My main gripe is that the port takes away from the miniature authenticity that worked so well on the PSP.  If you’ve played the previous offerings, there’s little reason to play it on the big screen.  Then of course, if you don’t own a PSP, this is a must buy for fans of the genre.  The controls aren’t as smooth as the portable version and the visuals work best in the intended small format.  But nitpicking aside, ClaDun X2 is precisely what you want it to be and I can’t fault it for that.  It’s a gem of gaming nostalgia that offers practically unlimited replayability, extensive customization options, and a Japanese charm that fans will welcome with joy. 

Review by Tin Salamunic 

Final Score “A Retro-tastic Gem” 8.5
Graphics
The retro visuals are adorable, but they worked significantly better on the PSP. However, the ability to draw and customize everything is spectacular.
6.5
Gameplay
If you’ve played the portable version, it might take a while to get used to. Once you get the hang of it, it’s impossible to let go.
8.5
Value
You can play this game until you get old. An unlimited amount of customization options and randomly generated dungeons keep the gameplay fresh and diverse.
8.5
Sound
Customizable sound? Yes please! From the catchy instrumentals to the nostalgic 8-bit blips of goodness, the audio is unforgettable.
8.5

10 comments :

  1. This is great, I hope they add gamepad support!

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  2. I wish you could actually play in full screen. Awesome game though. Can't wait to get it on Steam.

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  3. Cladun! Yeeey. Love this game.

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  4. The drawing part reminds me of MS Paint. :P

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  5. Just finished Legasista.Definitely wanna try this one now.

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  6. So, you can basically create pixel-versions of mega man, mario, and bowser and have them all be part of the magic circle?! hellsyeah.

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  7. Nice to see some coverage on games like these. Will you be reviewing Mugen Souls?

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  8. We're big fans of JRPGs and we're always excited when titles like these come overseas. We're definitely planning on covering Mugen Souls! :)

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  9. I wonder if this will be released on the PSN?!

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  10. Even though no controller support is mentioned, if you plug in the wired Xbox 360 gamepad, it's work, but shoulder buttons aren't functioning and you can't change layout.

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