Nearly a year ago, I got to play a pretty cool little RPG by Nippon Ichi Software called ClaDun X2 for the PSP. Originally a PSP/PSN exclusive, ClaDun X2 makes its way to the PC with the same great 8 bit style albeit on a bigger screen. ClaDun X2 is the sequel to 2010ís ClaDun: This is an RPG and brings more dungeons, creatures, classes and customization than ever before. ClaDun X2, which stands for Classic Dungeon, is a dungeon crawler that redefines the phrase. Players create their main character from the titleís 8 different starting classes and 20 different unique looks and then find themselves immediately in a dungeon that you wake up in. Youíre given your first set of gear from a mysterious man and you must fight your way to the exit and into the world of Arcanus Cella.
What you soon find out is that youíre officially stuck in this almost too cheerful environment made up of several small islands with no exit. The inhabitants seem all too comfortable to be here and the apparent leader, Parchmin, seems all too eager to give them every comfort. Though he seems to have a soft spot for those seeking a challenge and you are his new favorite. Whatís even better is that someone has a bizarre sense of humor that is right at home in this classic RPG material.
The only things you can do in Arcanus Cella is knit something or head into seemingly endless battle through a series of nearly exhaustible dungeons. As you fight your way though each increasingly difficult dungeons you will gain experience and items that will help you along the way. However these dungeons should not be ventured alone so itís wise to follow Parchminís required teachings on creating other adventures to aid you.
Unlike most RPGs, you donít actually get to use these characters alongside you, but rather as shields to protect you in battle. Though they donít actively fight they can provide valuable assistance in the form of Magic Circles, which is one of ClaDunís more unique qualities. There are several different types of circles that you will earn as you level up each with their unique stat boosting abilities. For instance, the Scout is a great magic Circle for the beginning players as it gives a 2X Mana increase which helps a lot when activating the many artifacts that use Mana to work. Another cool feature of ClaDun X2 is that you can swap out one of your fellow adventurers and use them as your main character. This helps even out your characters levels for later in the game.
There are a few things that impressed me more than the sheer number of dungeons that ClaDun X2 has to offer. I was blown away from the pure amount of customization that was available. As I mentioned, you get to chose from 20 different starter looks varying from male and female. But thatís only the start, as you can edit those starter figures and create some awesome characters of your very own or recreate some of your favorite icons to navigate Arcanus Cella. The customization doesnít stop there, as you can customize your weapons, clothing and even go as far as to create relationships between your characters. If you want to make two characters brother and sister or student and master you can. While relationships donít affect the story that I saw, it makes for a deeper player interaction to a point.
When controlling your main character (and alts) throughout the world of Arcanus Cella and it many dungeons you can go about it two ways on the PC version. The first is undoubtly the keyboard and mouse option which quite frankly was rather annoying and required several trips to the options screen to change or look at the controls instead of hitting keys till something happened. The best way to play ClaDun X2 however comes from using a gamepad of in my case an Xbox 360 controller.
Like with the PSP version, controlling your character and interacting with the world is so much easier with a controller interface. Even then you have to play with the buttons to figure what buttons do what as the options resort to the Button 1, 2, 3Ödescriptives. You can however customize both the traditional PC and controller setups to what works best for you which is a plus.
Players can experience more dungeon action later on in the game by visiting Hiyoís Ship which besides being ClaDunís giant encyclopedia is where you can tackle Ran-geons or Random Dungeons. These are broken into two categories, Neo-geons and Tri-geons, both which are challenging. Neo-geons are filled with multiple floors that contain different gates that will affect the next floor for better or worse depending on the gate you enter. Tri-geons however are totally different monsters containing 3 ran-geons: normal, chaos and heaven. Much like their names suggest, there is some serious challenge to be found in the chaos dungeons but the collectible titles are there for the picking. If you want some rare titles then you need to make the best of the heaven dungeons while you can.
Graphically, ClaDun X2 is as retro as its name suggests. And thatís in a good way I might add. I love the old school look. Even in 8-bit, the dungeons and environments are pretty detailed. The character models look awesome and itís obvious that a fair bit of time went into creating old school designs. The dungeons are also varied enough to not becoming repetitive like some of the older RPGs that Iíve played. I also like the dot style font that the default option. If you donít dig the old ways then there is the ďRealĒ option is available which those that prefer the modern RPGs.
The PC version does present a few potential graphical challenges though for people who have played the PSP version. There are three choices to choose from when viewing ClaDun X2 on your monitor. You have the default windowed presentation that is on par to the PSP screen dimensions though looks somewhat out of place on large monitors. The second option is an enlarged windowed view which is personally my favorite as it easier to see and doesnít seem to stretch the visuals. The third option is to go full screen which is the easiest to view but in my opinion the most awkward. This may be good for monitors of the 15-19Ē variety but not for 1080 resolutions.
To go with ClaDun X2ís retro looks, there is plenty of midi goodness as well as some more modern tracks to be had including the catchy theme song. I also love the combat sound effects as well as all the enemies and the various traps. For those that are truly ambitious you can create your own music via the MML function which is something Iíve never seen before in anything outside of the music rhythm genre. You can actually share your music with another player via the Network feature if you have another friend with a copy of ClaDun X2. You can also share your character edits via the Tavern Network. There is no multiplayer feature other than data sharing though, so ClaDun X2 is primarily a single player experience.
I donít think Iíll ever get tired of retro gaming, and it will be a sad day indeed if that day ever comes. ClaDun X2 is a fun and challenging example of why I love the old school way of gaming. Nippon Ichi did a great job at creating a classic world with good old fashioned gameplay. I loved the old fashioned and somewhat crude humor and the near limitless dungeon crawling. ClaDun X2 was a real treat and Iím only sad that I havenít played the original. If you love retro gaming or just a good classic RPG, ClaDun X2 is a must have.