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ClaDun X2

ClaDun X2 Artwork Review ImageHaving never played the original title, I went into ClaDun X2 with no expectations. The title is an abbreviation for the original Japanese title, Classic Dungeon X2. As the name implies, ClaDun is inspired by the classic dungeon crawlers that could be found on the NES, which is additionally made apparent by the game’s 8-bit visual style.

As a dungeon crawler, players are expected to battle their way through dungeons for all kinds kinds of loot — be it gold or a brand new piece of equipment. Is ClaDun X2 equally as valuable, or is it another useless item to be discovered and disregarded?

Publisher: NIS America
Developer: System Prisma
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game (Dungeon Crawler)
Platform: PlayStation Portable, Windows PC (Steam, Reviewed)
Release Date:  30th August, 2011 (US);
21st September, 2011 (EU);
14th August, 2012 (Steam)
Rating: T (ESRB)

ClaDun X2 reproduces the simplicity of the visual style from the 8-bit era. The title’s graphical style has a charm to it, coupled with the quirky sense of humour that the previous title was known for. Much unlike the original ClaDun game, ClaDun X2 focuses much less on the story; although the plot does still exist to a certain extent. Instead, the title drops characterization to centre itself on user-generated characters. With a deep focus on user-generated content in general, X2 is rich in customisation.

ClaDun X2 Editing Weapon

Editing a weapon into a giant chicken in ClaDun X2.

Players are able to design their character, edit how equipment looks, control the character’s growth, modify equipment attributes, and more. Nearly everything, bar enemy monsters, can be modified. Even the music in the dungeons can be replaced with user-generated tracks; although there is little need to as the title’s soundtrack serves an excellent job, with many of the tunes being quite catchy and capture the atmosphere of each type of dungeon very nicely.

Being a dungeon crawler, X2 is rich in content, featuring nineteen dungeon environments and two random dungeon generators. Whilst all of the dungeons are different, they each feature a common goal: to reach the end. Each floor is filled with traps to evade and monsters to slay. The combat is simple, echoing the visuals of the title, but coupled with a large variety of enemy types it also lends itself to an array of tactics. Each monster has their own strategy. The dungeons also feature a variety of randomly generated loot.

ClaDun X2 Relationship Diagram Custom Characters

Players may even customize the relationships of the characters, leading to some pretty silly fun.

For the most part, ClaDun X2 is king of the mini-goals, with players returning to dungeons to find items containing the specific title that they want. A title can be considered the trait of an item, granting bonuses to player attributes. Titles can be taken from equipment that the player have little other use for. To assign a new title to equipment, the player must first collect a specific number of that title, the required quantity based upon whether it’s the first, second, third or fourth title for that item. This gradual improvement when combined with the intuitive combat happens to be a great recipe for addictive gaming. But equipment isn’t the only thing that players may tweak.

The player isn’t limited to one character. In fact, the player is free to create as many characters as they wish. It is this feature which leads to the magic circle. Players can enhance the central character by placing other characters on the grid. Artifacts may then be associated with each “sub” character, boosting the main character’s attributes at the expense the sub’s mana. If the player takes damage when crawling a dungeon, the sub characters will receive the damage instead, serving as an extra shield to protect against damage. Every class has its own unique array of magic circles, each with a different strategy in mind.

Magic Circle ClaDun X2

A magic circle early in the game.

The character’s status, whether main character or sub character, also affects their growth whenever they level up upon receiving enough experience. The main character’s attributes for being a sub character will increase, meanwhile each sub character will grow to be more effective as a main character. This results in the player having to change things up frequently, to get the most out of their characters.

Sub characters will level up alongside with the main character, despite not being on the field during a venture through a dungeon. To mix things up, the main character’s statistics for being a sub character, namely their health and mana, will increase upon level up. Consequently, sub characters will improve their combat statistics.

Whilst the main gameplay is addictive, X2 may also suffer from being repetitive — an issue that is mostly inherent in the dungeon crawler sub-genre.  Players will be expected to grind through a vast majority of the game, repeating dungeons to level up and make later dungeons or floors more accessible. This may put off many players, as it can get quite tedious for certain gamers. Consequently, X2 is better played in short bursts, as it can be easy to get tired of repeating the same task.

Cladun X2 Combat Screenshot

Fighting in one of the main dungeons. Notice the health of the sub characters in the top-right hand corner.

The customization features do offer a nice break from the action, but outside of the magic circles and hunting for titles — which requires dungeon crawling — this feature is mostly cosmetic and does not add much more to the experience. They simply serve as a nice distraction. Should the story have played a bigger role, there may have been more to draw the player into longer sessions beyond the miniature goals that they may set themselves.

Whilst repetitive, the title still does have exceptional replay value. X2 features a number of extra goals, such as time trials or fighting the boss of the previous game. A more casual player may finish with the game after beating the main dungeons, but players looking to get more out of the game will find enough to keep them returning.

ClaDun X2 makes for simple, yet addicting fun, with lots of underlying mechanics for players to tweak their characters, equipment, and nearly anything to their liking. Whilst not for everyone, and while gameplay may get repetitive at times, X2 is an entertaining title worth picking up for anyone looking for an adventure, or looking to get themselves some mighty spoils.

Videogame reviewer and student videogame developer, located in Scotland. Founder of the Gaming Advance blog.

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3 / 5 stars