CLADUN X2 Review

CLADUN X2 (Only available on PSN)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/Dungeon-crawler
Publisher:  NIS
Developer: System Prisma
Release Date: August 30th, 2011

Parent Talk: CLADUN X2 is a retro dungeon-crawler RPG. It plays like classic games, with some modern twists. Younger gamers may not appreciative the retro look and design. The focus on repetition and customization may be a turn off to those who like pick-up-and-play. There is some suggestive humor.

Plays Like: CLADUN X2 is an update for CLADUN. The gameplay is reminiscent of retro dungeon-crawler games from the 80s, though the emphasis on customization resembles new-age titles like Terraria. The game is presented via an aerial view, similar to classic Legend of Zelda, and combat plays similarly.

Review Basis: Played 7 hours. Finished main and random dungeons. Spent time with character editors. Unlocked bonus classes and other content.

Nippon Ichi Software has carved out a dedicated niche market with its steady stream of RPGs. CLADUN X2 is the newest addition to their line-up and promises to hold gamers over until Disgaea 4 hits the market. CX2 features double the content of its predecessor, but also inherits its problems.

The Great:

You can rush or take your time. CX2 plays much like its older brother. You can rush the game in a couple hours or spend dozens more trying to experience everything the game offers. The customization can occupy, and your playtime only lengthens when you factor in the random dungeons (called “ran-geons”), item farming, level grinding, and speed runs. Your mileage varies depending on how dedicated you want to be to a game without a plot. The dungeon- crawling is akin to Zelda, mixed with character development and level-grinding reminiscent of MMO gameplay, but shortened dramatically. It’s a dizzying concept to explain, but the mechanics are simpler than one might assume.

The Good:

+ Customization. Players can fully edit character and weapon sprites, animation cycles, character-relationship charts, character-weapon information, and more. You can even personalize the music with an MML (music macro language) editor. Most customization, especially character quotes/statuses and relationship charts, is trivial and nonessential to the gameplay. Still, the crowd who loves personalizing their games (i.e. Terraria fans) will love this. CX2 even offers customization “after the fact,” freely allowing players to change character classes, appearance/color, and more at any time.

+ Simple, easy-to-understand dungeon crawling. In the hub world or menu, you can easily choose a level to play. Most dungeons require less than a minute to complete and encourage multiple playthroughs. Taking your time may yield better bonuses and the chance to snag more chests, but running through as quickly as possible can yield “fame” points, which net unique rewards.

+ Pick-up-and-play. With the ability to save whenever, CX2 is easy to pick up or put down at any given time. The random dungeons can be longer, depending on how many floors you wish to tackle. They’re relatively small and tend to have simple layouts, but can change dramatically. By entering different gates, the enemy levels, item drop rates, and other variables change. It’s a cool mechanic.

+ Excellent music. Like CLADUN, CX2 has an eclectic soundtrack. The tunes extend far beyond what’s expected in a fantasy RPG, with plenty of jazzy songs. However, selecting the retro option from the sound menu switches the tracks chiptune-style tunes, sounding though they were ripped right out of an 8-bit adventure from the 80s.

+ Character growth. Though CX2 is a solo endeavor, it’s mandatory to create additional characters. This is because the Magic Circle System only benefits character growth if there are support characters in place. By attaching artifacts and support characters to magic circles, the main character gains enhanced abilities and the added protection of a couple meat shields. More magic circles are unlocked as characters level up, and support characters still gain EXP even if they aren’t the “main” character in the party. The main character can be switched easily, especially because character settings (like the magic circle options) are retained.

+ Colorful sprites. Those who enjoy new-age retro games like Half-Minute Hero will probably be drawn to the large, colorful, and surprisingly well-animated sprites. Backgrounds are simplistic, but the environments are more varied than CLADUN. The character sprites show a surprising amount of detail and are quite charming. The sprite editor is great too.

+ More content. CX2 boasts more classes, weapons, magic circles, spells, enemies, etc, than its predecessor. Additional classes (Ninja, Dragoon, and Shaman) can be unlocked later in the game through a special shop, along with other features.

The Bad:

– Non-existent plot. The developers tried to fashion CX2 in an unapologetically retro format, but even old-school NES dungeon-crawlers motivated you to keep playing. There are brief scenes after completing dungeons, but they’re trivial. The game’s biggest twist comes early. While legitimately interesting, there isn’t much attention paid. It would’ve been nice to have something more substantial so the player would feel rewarded after spending so much time. There is a main goal to accomplish (escape the world of Arcanus Cella by defeating an evil monster), but the quest is more like an indeterminate “middle” rather than a journey from A to B. Take that analogy how you will.

– No multiplayer. CLADUN featured multiplayer, though it wasn’t well-integrated. The framerate suffered, amongst other pitfalls. However, instead of refining the experience and making it more accessible, the developers simply removed it. Players can swap customization data, but that’s it. Why remove the ability to play cooperatively though?

– Short. If you enjoy franchises like Disgaea, which require dedication and level-grinding, this formula should be appealing. However, if you prefer to invest in a game where the priority is to advance a narrative or explore a world, CX2 won’t satisfy. Don’t jump into this expecting the length or depth of Zelda.

The Lowdown:

CLADUN X2 is a fun and quirky game. It can definitely resonate with the old-school RPG niche, but its lack of narrative, heavy customization focus, and general off-beat nature may prevent it from achieving mainstream notoriety. This is definitely worth a look for dedicated NIS fans, though it’s not Disgaea. If you’re a casual RPG player, approach it with caution. However, if you like retro graphics, ridiculous customization, old-school dungeon-crawling and solid gameplay…CLADUN X2 may be up your alley.