Cladun X2 – Review

developed by NIS (Nippon Ichi Software) & NIS America

Best known for their anime-inspired Strategy and Role-Playing games, Nippon Ichi Software have just released a new dungeon crawling hack n’slash on PC called, Cladun X2.

Cladun X2 is one of those titles that appears to be a simple romp into the nostalgic familiarity of the RPG’s of old. It’s also a shining example of why you can’t judge a game by it’s cover.  This is a throwback to the RPG’s of the 16-bit and 32-bit era.  It contains some of the broadest customization options ever encountered in an RPG, even by today’s standards.  Most of the editing and customizing is purely cosmetic, but it is no less fun and entertaining to play around with.

There’s a simplicity to the hacking and slashing through the many varied and randomly generated dungeons, but the gameplay is also accompanied by an underlying system of magic circles, sub-characters, artifacts, magic, and equipment, which add a deep and complex set of features, making Cladun X2 a truly meaty game despite its outward appearance.

If you have fond memories of the RPG’s and JRPG’s of yesteryear, and you enjoy action oriented dungeon crawlers that encourage exploration, combat, level grinding, and experimenting with customization, then you’ll love Cladun X2.

Story
Arcanus Cella is a mysterious miniature land cut off from the rest of the world.  Without any memory of how or why, you have been whisked away to this secret land.  Upon your arrival you discover that you are not alone.  Shortly after meeting the island inhabitants, you are informed that there is no way out of this land, and that you’re only real hope is to confront the endless deadly dungeons that await you.

It’s a rather shallow and basic story setup, but interestingly enough, the story only provides a backdrop for this hack n’ slash Action/RPG.  Arcanus Cella does have it’s own distinct charm and atmosphere with a handful of quirky characters, but the real ‘meat and potatoes’ of Cladun X2 does boil down to it’s system of character creation, customization, combat, and a myriad of other status affecting elements that enhance the hero of your creation.

Gameplay
As mentioned earlier, what might seem like your simple happy-go-lucky Anime-style RPG, quickly becomes an epic undertaking in decision making and optional choices.  The overall gameplay is no more daunting than your average RPG or Strategy-RPG, but the volume of customization and variety of obtainable loot, can add a layer of complexity not typically found in a dungeon crawling RPG of this kind.

The game starts with the creation of the main character, giving them a name, choosing their class, and deciding on initial appearances.  Several classes are available to choose from.  Though their initial stats aren’t overly distinctive at first, the skills and abilities of each class type will eventually expand and have an affect on character play styles, especially later on in the game.

An introductory to the islands inhabitants is followed by a fairly brief tutorial and trial dungeon.  Once this first dungeon is complete, some of the more advanced aspects in gameplay are introduced to the player.  These early lessons can be learned from and applied throughout the entire game, but to truly appreciate Cladun X2’s full set of features, you’ll need to spend quite a bit of time talking with NPC characters and reading up on the more elaborate mechanics of gameplay.

One of the more advanced features is utilizing the Magic Circle and the creation of sub-characters that will be put into your Magic Circle.  It’s an aspect of the game that is kind of hard to explain to another gamer who hasn’t seen it’s function in action.  The best way to describe it would be to say that the sub-characters that you create, whether they be magic, melee, or other type of character, can all be utilized much like a piece of equipment where placing them into your Magic Circle is kind of like equipping a new piece of armor or an accessory.  Each sub-character forms a party member of sorts that doesn’t actively participate in battle, but does have a direct affect on your main characters statistics depending on where and how they are placed within the configuration of the Magic Circle.

Each new sub-character that you create can also be used to explore dungeons, just like the main character, and can even be leveled up and enhanced with weapons and armor of their own.  As your characters progress to higher levels they will gain new Magic Circles and formations that can have a wide variety of affects on your main characters stats and how they effective they are with certain abilities.

This all sounds pretty complicated, and that’s because it is.  The tutorials and info provided by NPC’s might baffle newcomers at first, and may even discourage a few gamers from digging into the deeper aspects of gameplay.  However, if you can stick it out and pick up on the finer points in it’s mechanics, then you’ll find that Cladun X2 is a game that is as rewarding as it’s gameplay is deep.

Exploration and combat is very simple in that you don’t have to do much but walk, run, attack, and defend.  Your items, equipment, and even spells or skills, do determine the way you will attack though.  You have your choice of melee weapons, such as swords, spears, clubs, and shields.  There are also weapons that are useful for performing ranged attacks such as bows and crossbows.  Magic Staffs are also great for ranged attacks but the strength of the attack is based on the weapons stats instead of your characters stats.

Each dungeon is randomly generated and there are dozens of them to explore and are even worth revisiting for additional experience and loot.  Dungeons are also filled with numerous traps, most of which are harmful to the player, but some actually heal the player and others that are useful for baiting and ambushing enemies.  The monsters of Arcanus Cella are varied and range in difficulty.  Some enemies do their best to avoid you, while others will stop at nothing to destroy you.  Certain monsters will also inflict status ailments that restrict will restrict the player in some way.  The best part about the monsters though, is the loot that they frequently drop.

Money and items that are looted from monsters can be spent, equipped, or sold for extra currency at the shop.  Equipment comes in all shapes and sizes, but the best items are found by defeating the toughest or the rarest of monsters.  They’ll drop powerful weapons, strong armor, and rare artifacts that can buff-up your characters statistics or abilities.  Searching for elusive enemies and finding the best loot means that grinding is inevitable, but because of it’s simple gameplay, Cladun X2 is also deceptively addictive and fun.

Graphics
This is another area where players might easily dismiss CX2 because it looks like your classic SNES cartridge based game.  The graphics aren’t bad, even though the character sprites might be a bit dated.  The customization options and the ability to edit character sprites, and even items, weapons, and armor, turns Cladun X2 into a creative sandbox.  Giving players this option is like having icing on a cake.  Most importantly, the editor is simple to use and enables even the novice artist to come up with some stylish enhancements to the sprite based graphics.

Sound
The audio is pretty good for the most part.  The soundtrack isn’t quite your typical Fantasy Role-Playing Game style music.  The tunes are upbeat most of the time, but there are moments where some of the jazzier mixes just seem out of place.  The theme song does stand out, but aside from that the music doesn’t particularly make me want to run out and buy the original sound track.

Conclusion
There aren’t very many dungeon crawlers like Cladun X2 out these days.  At first it seems like a game that would have belonged on your Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, or even the original Playstation.  However, taking the time to dig even deeper into Cladun X2’s unique employment of RPG elements and mechanics, will yield rewarding gameplay to the persistent gamer.  There are some complex elements that you won’t find in some of the classic RPG’s, but the design of CX2 never prevents newbie players from picking the game up and getting into the action.  The learning curve isn’t exactly steep, but their are a number of tutorials and much reading to do if you want to fully appreciate the abundant feature list on offer.

Role-Playing fans who enjoyed and remember the exploration, level grinding, and humorous antics of the JRPG’s from the mid-90’s, will love Cladun X2 for it’s surprisingly deep gameplay and addictive customization options, even though the story is somewhat wishy washy.

Cladun X2 was originally released on Sony’s handheld PSP system, but you can purchase it for your PC through Steam where you’ll also find a playable demo.  Also, be sure to head over to the official Cladun X2 website for more info and a browser based playable demo.

[ 7 / 10 ]


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