ClaDun x2 Review

By Colin Tan on September 12, 2011

NIS America is back with Nippon Ichi and System Prism's ClaDun x2, the sequel to 2010's dungeon RPG ClaDun: This Is An RPG, a gem of a PSP title. Fans of the original can expect a treat of nostalgia, in more ways than one, on top of some fascinating new additions and improvements made to the game's core mechanics. The world of Arcanus Cella is certainly full of adventure and it definitely won't be letting anyone go any time soon.

ClaDun x2 returns to Arcanus Cella, a mysterious world that literally kidnaps and traps unsuspecting individuals such as yourself within its confines. There's no way out, not even through that big magical door that spat you out into Arcanus Cella in the first place. The one and only exit leads to many dungeons filled with hostile monsters and plenty of loot.

The premise is likely the lowest point of the entire game. There really isn't one. Players start out by creating their character and at this point only their names, hair-type, hair and skin colour can be customized. Following that, players are thrown into the world of Arcanus Cella where they discover they can never, ever leave the place. It's a bit of a downer, especially if you had a loved one back home, but nevertheless you push past this bit of depressing news and encounter more adventure and comedy than you can fart at.

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Arcanus Cella has changed since the first game. On top of that, there's new management. An eccentric cape-clad individual is now in charge of daily management and he has high hopes for you - for providing him with entertainment, that is. Dialogue and events are rather humorous, despite much of them not making any sense of having anything to do with the story in the first place. But that's what makes ClaDun so charming and it certainly doesn't lack in that regard.

Right from the outset, players are introduced to two things: the battle system and character creation and customization. Combat is really quite self-explanatory. Movement is mapped to either the D-pad or the analog nub and can be changed according to your preferences in the options menu. Players can jump, slide, attack, block and use a skill if there's enough SP whenever in dungeons. There are a multitude of weapons to choose from as well, although you won't get access to them until you past the Trial Island - which, by the way, is a great dungeon to experiment if you aren't familiar with how the game works.Character creation and customization is back and certainly better than ever. Where the first game only allowed customization of the face and hair, ClaDun x2 ups the ante by empowering players to create and customize just about everything, from face to hair, armour and weapons, animations and even the music. There's a lot to tinker around with and you can expect to sink in many hours into customization alone. The tools are simple enough to use and you'll literally draw out whatever it is you fancy pixel by pixel. To make things easier, players can hit the Select button and display a little guide to draw around, making drawing that much more consistent. On top of that, there are several new classes to pick from including the Swordmage, Ranger and Priest. This throws in some new dynamics as new weapon-types such as a bow can be used for long range assault, or healing without having to depend on heal traps.

The game opens up once the initial dungeons have been cleared and access to all the little venues in Arcanus Cella will be gained, including a boat, shop and tavern. These locations can be easily visited through the menu as well, so you won't always have to run around if you're feeling lazy. In addition to the story dungeons "“ which are really just there to show newcomers around, Ran-geons make a return alongside two new dungeon types: Neo-geons and Tri-geons.

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These new dungeons feature 99 levels to explore and much more valuable loot. Neo-geons are similar to Ran-geons in that the goal is to get as deep as possible without dying. Should a player die in a dungeon, all experience points and gold earned will be halved while all loot will be lost, so try not to die. Tri-geons, on the other hand, are three dungeons connected via hallways filled with really, really tough monsters; however, the loot earned here are much more rewarding.

Dungeons are lined with booby traps that are invisible until the player gets close to them. Most of them do damage and can be used against enemies quite easily. There are also traps that provide buffs such as a Haste trap that increases your speed as well as a Heal trap that, well, heals you.

To get deeper into a dungeon, players will need to locate randomly generated Gates. There are a variety of Gates that will either present positive effects such as a higher drop rate and restoring HP/SP or negative effects like multiplayer monster levels, making it tougher to explore. In addition, exits are randomly generated so venturing deeper into any dungeon is always a risk. Each dungeon level is actually quite short and can be blitzed through under a minute, making this game perfect for any gamer on-the-go, there are even time trials where bonuses can be earned should a level be completed within 30 seconds or so. Now in addition to playing through all these dungeons, clearing them with a record time will earn players Fame. It's not a simple cosmetic ego boost either, Fame can be used to unlock elements in the game such as new classes, a secret shop and many more items.To compliment the combat, Magic Circles make a return. This is where skill and character progression takes place. It's a unique system where the main character levels up and learns new skills, but Vitality and Defence points progress at a snail's pace. In order to quickly increase those stats, your 'Main' character has to become a 'Sub' character. Sub-characters are placed on the parameter of the Magic Circle, where they essentially become human shields for the main character who sits in the middle. The main character won't lose HP in battle until all sub-characters have fallen. There are a variety of circles, each with their own pros and cons so experimentation is key. Certain spots in circles will provide an experience multiplier, but at the same time reduce health by 60 percent. Artifacts can be attached to circles as well and these can boost defence, AP and the like.

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Unfortunately, ClaDun x2 no longer supports co-operative multiplayer despite the feature being available in the first game, albeit in a laggy sort of way. Instead, players can only visit and view other players' characters by checking out their taverns.

The graphics aren't all that different either, and there really isn't a need for it to be. The old-school retro-style 8 bit visuals are charming and adorable. It's worth noting that Arcanus Cella looks a lot more detailed, although the dungeons themselves don't share this aspect. The soundtrack is as catchy and fun as the original and there's the option to swap between a retro-styled 8 bit track and the original synthesized score.

Final Thoughts

Fans of the original and old school dungeon RPGs will certainly enjoy ClaDun x2 and all it has to offer. With a ton of all new content to check out as well as full-on customization and randomly generated dungeons to explore, and despite the lack of any meaty story, there is a lot to do with this little PSP gem. The new dungeons provide many hours of exploring while creating and customizing character offers yet another time sink altogether. ClaDun x2 is a game designed for gaming on-the-go and it certainly performs well in this regard. In closing, it's definitely worth recommending for any adventurer with a PSP.

A wealth of new content to enjoy on top of core mechanics.
Easy-to-use suite of customization tools to customize just about everything.
Addicting, fast-paced dungeon crawling action.
No real story.
Lack of co-operative multiplayer.
It can get a little bit repetitive if played for an extended period of time.
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