ClaDun X2 PC Review

After Xseed Games released the Ys series on Steam, I was hoping that some of the other publishers with heavy focus on releasing Japanese titles in English would join in on the fun. Nippon Ichi Software (the guys that brought you the brilliant Disgaea series) has just released its first title on Valve’s digital platform. Called ClaDun X2, this game is a port of the PSP game with the same name that came out last year.

ClaDun X2 has a barebones story that takes a back seat to the gameplay and is kept to a minimum through short cutscenes that appear after completing dungeons. The game has a very simple premise to understand. The hero, which is created by the player, begins stuck in a dungeon and must escape. On exiting, the hero finds out that they have warped to a new world called Arcanus Cella. While this tiny island seems nice, there’s a problem with it – no one who has arrived has ever been able to get back to where they came from, and so this becomes the hero’s task in the game.

The name ClaDun is actually an abbreviation from the Japanese name of the same game, Classic Dungeon. The developers have made sure that the video game is appropriately titled, as ClaDun X2’s graphic style is reminiscent of 16-bit top-down releases like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. To add to the retro visuals, the game has an option to change the soundtrack into an 8-bit midi effect, allowing the player to be fully captivated in reliving the days of old-school gaming.

This is what ClaDun X2 is – an old-school dungeon crawler with an emphasis on dungeon crawling. Players explore, kill monsters, gain experience points, find loot, escape and then do it all again. The structures of the dungeons are compact, filled with barely visible traps (good and bad) that fade in as you get closer to them, lock switches, and a wide variety of enemies. These dungeons are small enough that they can be completed within a couple of minutes (some par times are like 20 seconds), and this implementation makes ClaDun X2 great for people who want to play for a short amount of time. No doubt this was to fit with the portability of the PSP, which, remember, this game was originally released for.

There are dungeons a plenty in the campaign, but if you want to gain some of the best equipment then the random dungeons are a great place to do this. As the name suggests, these are randomly generated in a building that goes down 99 floors. Every floor has an exit to leave from or stairs to go down further. Every time you proceed you are given a lottery chance that affects that next floor’s enemy level, item drop rate and rare drop chance. These can fluctuate positively and negatively depending on what type of stairs you go down. For example, the angel wing will keep monster level increases to a minimum, but offer a big boost to item drop rate. The devil wing, on the other hand, will increase the level of enemies much more at the cost of taking away the drop rate of items. It is the player’s job to find the gates hidden in each floor to allow them to take the best approach to the next level, or they can decide to leave – advisable if hitting a plus-30-level enemy and the hero is not strong enough to deal damage. Dying will kick you out of the random dungeon, reducing your gained experience by half and taking away all loot drops you gained during the time in the dungeon.

Having a top-down view makes battling foes very similar to the 2D Legend of Zelda titles, but due to this, the fighting is simplistic, with one button to attack with the weapon, one for skills (like magic spells), one for blocking and one for running. Weapons include swords, daggers, spears, axes, staffs and bows, with your created hero’s class determining which ones are usable. Even though fighting is simple, it manages to keep the player’s awareness on high alert due to timing and/or having to kill enemies in specific ways.

To help buff up the main hero, you are given the opportunity to create sub-characters, which are produced in the same way as the main hero but are placed inside a special grid called magic circles. An amusing outcome of the magic circles is that any sub-character placed in them is used as a human shield and will take damage for the main character. You never see these sub-characters on display, but they are shown by a diagram in the top-right corner of the display. If all sub-characters are killed then the main player will begin to lose HP. Every grid design has a focus on a specific build; the more characters featured, the more chances you have to increase the buffs through artefacts placed on the limited amount of squares. The magic circle system is complex at first, but once you begin to understand what you’re manipulating then you can get some much-needed help for those challenging random dungeons and the last few secret missions.

Customisation is a massive feature in ClaDun X2 due to all the editing options available. This is not just creating new characters but making brand-new skins and weapons with your own design, and even new music for the soundtrack; although I did not fully understand the latter to put in enough time to make my own. There are some free music samples to download on the net if you are just as confused as me when making tunes.

There is a lack of unique PC options since this title is near enough a direct PSP port. The game does not look good stretched to full screen. In fact, I had problems running the game when doing that, with bizarre flashes appearing constantly. The game works much better at its natural resolution (think PSP screen) in window mode, or doubled up, which you can do from the game’s limited graphic options. I also ran into a couple of game freezes that would only end if I removed the game from the Task Manager. It seems to happen if you play for long periods of time, so it is advised that you save often. I am not sure if it was my PC hardware or the game, but I have not heard people experiencing this problem, so it might be the former.

I can say that the time I spent with ClaDun X2 was lots of fun. The game has an awesome customisation toolset for creative people, but the gameplay itself, while enjoyable, won’t be to everyone’s liking. If you fancy stepping back in time and want an old-school RPG that allows for quick bursts, then ClaDun X2 is a decent time waster.

7 out of 10
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