Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
ClaDun x2
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Classic/Retro/ RPG/ Editor

Graphics & Sound:
There are several points for comparison when viewing ClaDun x2 for the first time. If you didn't play its predecessor (also called ClaDun, but with the subtitle "This is an RPG!"), you can't really compare, but that's obviously the most direct relative. It's visually inspired by classic 8-bit games and retro dungeon-crawlers, plus modern technology provides you with the opportunity to edit everything about your character. When we say "everything" we do mean everything, by the way... Don't like your character's facial expression? Feel free to change it. Want a different color on that Staff of Entombment (not a real item... we think), or feel like renaming it for your favorite dog/girlfriend/teacher? The editor gives you tons of opportunities to make the game feel more personalized, and there are numerous ways to modify menus, down to colors and even font smoothing. As you customize your character, all the changes you make are reflected during gameplay. The truest comparison from a gameplay perspective is against roguelike RPGs that have popped up again recently. In this sense, ClaDun x2 looks amazing! The music is jaunty J-Pop of the first order, again somewhat retro and reminiscent of any classic J-RPG you played, imported most likely, within the past decade. It's all original music, real compositions that can stick with you after you've turned off your PSP and moved on to other stuff. The beep-boop aesthetic shows up everywhere, even as you navigate menus or interact with the game at a pretty basic level.

ClaDun x2 is almost like a core RPG masquerading as a casual title. Maybe it's just because of how mature gaming has become, but grinding against monsters in dungeons feels more than just retro. For seasoned gamers, ClaDun x2 is like Bejeweled or some similar time-waster. And there's nothing wrong with it, in case you missed our meaning. The RPG genre could be accused of taking itself too seriously, after all. Games in the Final Fantasy series (aside from the Crystal Chronicles or "Tactics" series) all seem to be aiming for more realism, more gameplay interwoven with movie magic, and those of us weaned on joints like The Bard's Tale are feeling a bit left out. What happened to good, old-fashioned obsession with dungeon crawling? If you're feeling this way, ClaDun x2 will do your heart good.

At the outset, you're given some explanation for how you happened on the strange world that no one escapes, and where the only defining features are monster-infested dungeons. You will make plenty of friends along the way and explore the strange island, but the real meat of ClaDun x2 is in the dungeons standing between you and... what? It doesn't really matter, because either you're signed up for this endless battle, or you're not. It's a fairly deep game, in fact, that offers chances for you to build a large party of explorers across seven classes. Spells, melee, and rather strange abilities (haven't you always wanted to play as a Merchant?) round out the case of characters, but it ultimately falls on you to carry the torch to victory. Dungeons are small, with simple conditions for victory. It may not tell a deep story, but ClaDun x2 lets its old-school RPG essence hang out.

The early dungeons in the game are teaching vehicles. You learn how to use all the basic controls, which are more action-oriented than one might expect, and also come to understand some of game's features. Monsters and magic are introduced, as well as the pitfalls inherent in exploring dungeons. Outside of the live tutorial, it's possible to dig through lots of documentation and find people on the island who'll happily explain how things work. It ends up being a lot of reading, but that's par for the course in most RPGs, anyway. We found the difficulty ramped up quickly, considering how weak your characters are initially. Low reserves for magic also mean your mages won't be tearing things up until they gain a level or five. This type of "hard" progression fits with the retro feel of ClaDun x2, but it may turn off newer explorers unfamiliar with the punishment RPGs were capable of handing out back in the day. Luckily, ClaDun x2 treats defeat in a dungeon as a natural part of the game, teleporting you immediately back to the island with light penalties. It's like you don't really die in the game, but you won't build your characters much until you can survive to reach the end of a level. This approach makes ClaDun x2 accessible for players at all levels, at least those willing to commit the time required.

Game Mechanics:
This isn't a turn-based game, which may surprise you. It's all about hustling through dungeons and engaging in real-time battles with monsters. There's no break from the action, which we found ourselves warming up to eventually. The general idea is that you move around using the analog stick, and absorb damage depending on which of your heroes is facing a particular monster. ClaDun x2 has a concept, like most RPGs, of placing your characters in a battle grid. The difference is that ClaDun x2 is super strict about how those characters will then block attacks, gain experience, and benefit from other aspects of the "magic circle" you're using. These circles lend a lot of depth to the game, and are definitely a complex feature that may turn off players looking for a "wham-bam, thank you ma'am" kind of gaming experience. You spend as much time in this game navigating menus and setting up your players' options, and it's not always as easy to navigate through these menus as it should be.

We love the idea of reliving those grand days when owning a PlayStation meant having access to tons of quality role-playing titles. ClaDun x2 is a total throw-back, but it has enough sassy, modern content and technology to put it squarely in line with newer titles. Character interactions are funny, monsters are intimidating, player options are virtually limitless, and the scope of the game with its many dungeons, is impressive. Sure, it's ultimately a niche title, but it does its thing successfully with very few drawbacks or issues. If you were a RPG junkie at any time, ClaDun x2 provides a great pick-up-and-play opportunity that fits perfectly on the PSP.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.