ClaDun x2 ReviewEdward Cheng
We've always been taught that getting more of a good thing is, well, a good thing. But how much exactly becomes too much? Nippon Ichi Software test this theory with its sequel to last year's retro title, ClaDun x2 (short for Classic Dungeon), an old school style game that combines classic 8-bit presentation and gaming with some new ideas.
Like its predecessor, ClaDun x2 is relatively simple story-wise. You, as the player, end up in Arcanus Cella, a miniature world where all people are taken to. Unfortunately, the moment a person steps foot there, they can never return home. Trying to find a way back, you fight through dozens upon dozens of dungeons in hopes of finally finding the exit to Arcanus Cella. The narrative lacks the charm and fourth wall smashing of the first but manages well enough with a few genuinely interesting surprises and plot twists. For all intents and purposes, the story is just there to give a bit of directions and for enjoying its 8-bit graphics and music. The core of ClaDun x2 lies in its gameplay and customization.
Story dungeons are done in the "Moving Door", a mysterious door that is neither an entrance or exit but merely a way to get to and from dungeons. Each dungeon has four levels with a theme. Enemies within are varied and have different strengths based on their color. Enemies are not your only problem, as each level is littered with dozens of traps. A few help, like health and haste (speeds you up), but most are detrimental to you if you step on them. Strategy is key to avoid fighting enemies in compromising spots and using them to your advantage. The AI works quite well in most situations but it isn't perfect. This balances out thanks to the fact that it works to the player's advantage in later levels where difficulty jumps. Difficulty is fair and increases regularly, but the game gives you the tools necessary to get ahead. A few hours in the Ran-geon (Random Dungeon) will usually buff you up enough to complete that one story dungeon you just couldn't pass. More on that later.
ClaDun x2 biggest claim is that anyone can be the "main character", meaning that you can create from scratch your ideal protagonist. Choose your class, your appearance, and modify as you wish. As its title states, ClaDun x2 is double that of its predecessor; you can now choose from 10 different classes, 6 different weapons and even larger option of clothing and shields. Complete customization is in your control with various editors available in the game. Don't like the color of your characters hair or its shape? Head into the editor and make it white, orange, blue, or any color your 8-bit heart desires. Think you could do a better job with background music? Open up the MML editor and change a tune or make your own. Think that level 12 Claymore looks kind of pathetic? Open up the weapon editor and add flames and a crossbones skull for good measure. ClaDun x2 doesn't hold back when it comes to making your own personalized main character and goes to great lengths to give you the tools needed to make sure you are well satisfied with the end result. All options are placed into one easily accessible menu, allowing you to choose without having to physically get your character from one location to another.
The overall mechanics are focused upon the magic circle, a system that allows various other characters (sub characters) to support the main character. Only one character can enter a dungeon at a time, but with magic circles, that character can use other characters to assist.
Sub characters in magic circles serve two purposes: they act as shields for whenever the main character takes damage, incurring the damage upon themselves, and providing mana, which can be used for extra boosts in stats using artifacts. Over 200 magic circles exist, some accessible only through specific classes, others by simply leveling up. Each has their particular strengths and weaknesses, and selecting the appropriate ones which allow you to utilize your sub characters stats to its fullest extent is crucial to survival in dungeons.
Weapons can be chosen form six types: sword, dagger, spear, blunt weapons, staff, and bow. There is a nice diversity of weapons in each class giving a very large selection as to what you want to equip. Clothing and shield are treated much in the same with in regards to variation, with upwards of 30 to choose from each. One of the more unique aspects of these equipments is the title system. They are essentially names attached to the equipment that give a stat boost in certain areas depending on the title. A maximum of four can be given entitled to an equipment, although it is possible to find equipment with titles already attached.
The heart of ClaDun x2's gameplay, although well invested in the story dungeons, lies in the Ran-geons, a random dungeon which boasts 99 rooms. The Ran-geon is a survival game in which the goal is to reach the bottom level, 99, and see what awaits there. Each room is randomized, so every time you enter a Ran-geon, the room is never the same as last time. Enemies range from weak to boss level that could easily cripple you. Good use of randomization keeps the player on his or her feet and discourages simple memorization which becomes an issue in story dungeons and makes the experience much more enjoyable. Even 40 hours later, I've yet to stop entering the Tri-geon and Neo-geon to gain more experience and better gear. Long after the story and the afterstory have been finished, you will more likely than not spend the rest of your hours in the Ran-geon.
ClaDun x2 doesn't bring anything new to the table, and in some areas, it's less than its predecessor. Everything you've seen in the first is still here, but it's done so well, it doesn't matter and proves that double isn't too much. It's a reminder that you don't need fancy graphics and immersive narrative to make good games.
You just need something that's, well, fun.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.