The PSP’s decline is a bit of a mixed blessing. It means niche games like the incredibly awesome ClaDun series get more attention than they normally would. It also means there’s no excuse for PSP owners not to give ClaDun x2 a game that lets them dungeon-crawl and create for hours, a chance.
ClaDun x2‘s story is incredibly basic. You create a custom character who ends up in the realm known as Arcanus Cella. He or she doesn’t really have any memories, and just wants to get home. The few other people in Arcanus Cella, a mysterious man named Parchmin and three citizens named Pekora, Lamb and Mouton all say there’s no way to escape Arcanus Cella once you’ve been sent there. Pekora, Lamb and Mouton all aren’t very motivated to leave, since Parchmin can give them whatever they want, and also say that anyone who ends up there was sent there for a reason. Some kind of sin or indiscretion, to be specific. That’s pretty much all you get.
If you’ve played the original ClaDun, then going through the sequel will be second nature to you. It’s a fairly typical action RPG once you’re inside each dungeon. Pressing O launches attacks, while square defends. Pressing X makes the character jump. Holding down R allows you to run, and pressing square while running executes slides. You can also equip three special skills before entering a dungeon or rangeon (random dungeon), and sort them with L and execute them with triangle. Each dungeon and rangeon is designed to be able to be cleared in an incredibly short amount of time if you want to challenge yourself and earn Fame, around 30 seconds for example, but spending more time in each is advised since you can find extra treasures or monsters to hunt.
The ClaDun series is unique, however, because of the Magic Circle. Even though you’re controlling one character in the dungeon, your other characters are there in spirit and also earning experience and levels. You set the Magic Circle before heading in, placing characters around your main character on the grid and placing supplemental artifacts that can boost various stats. Then, when your main character is in the dungeon, the sub-characters are essentially acting as meat-shields and stat boosters. Rotating the characters around is also quite necessary, as sub-characters stats are boosted when leveling up in a way that makes them stronger as main characters, and main characters’ stats are boosted in a way that makes them better supporting characters when they level up in that position.
Navigating Arcanus Cella in ClaDun x2 is identical to ClaDun. You can run around, entering each different building to visit the various shops and features, or just open the main menu to immediately access features like the character creator, shop or dungeons. It’s quite handy, since it makes playing on the go quite simple. If you only have a short amount of time to play, you can quickly visit the most essential spots, go through a few dungeon levels and then save whenever you’d like in Arcanus Cella.
Oddly enough, ClaDun x2 shifts focus story-wise. The original ClaDun focused on the unique storylines of the existing characters that appeared in Arcanus Cella. ClaDun x2 focuses on the original character you create when the game begins. It’s quite a big change, as while you still get little vignettes with the NPC townies after completing dungeons and eventually get some NPC party members, you get very little personal or background information on your own character. Well, beyond what little story you make up in your head.
I actually preferred how ClaDun handled the various storylines, and felt I had more motivation to keep playing due to the story can connections developed with characters like Pudding, Souma, Sunday, Coco and Despina. This rang especially true when it came to leveling up the other custom ClaDun x2 characters beyond the original two I created. I didn’t have the same motivation as I did when I was trying to work with ClaDun‘s characters. This is just stemming from my personal experience though, as I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who will prefer having the story center around their created character.
Actually, most people will probably be preoccupied with customizing pretty much aspect of ClaDun x2. It gives players more opportunities to make the game their own than ClaDun did. It’s really quite staggering. You can customize characters of course, from their faces, hairstyles and fallen appearances. That includes the hair animations. Once you’ve set them the way you want, you can create relationships between them and other custom characters, choose what they’ll say when they’re idle in the Tavern and even create a custom description to fit with the stories you create for them in your head. You also can customize the appearance of armor and weapons, to make your characters look even more unique and individual. There’s even the option to create your own music. I spent around an hour customizing my first two characters, and then spent an additional half hour working out descriptions, dialogue and a relationship diagram.
Also, the multiplayer is gone in ClaDun x2. The original ClaDun allowed you team up with other players using adhoc multiplayer for dungeon crawling adventures. It wasn’t a perfect situation, as there was some lag, but it was a nice option. ClaDun x2 is strictly a solo endeavor. It’s a shame that it’s gone, but not too tragic. I didn’t even realize it until a friend who I had played the original ClaDun with asked if we’d be able to play ClaDun x2 together. I’m guessing people will be too busy customizing their own game, like I was, to even realize they can’t play with someone else. What you can do, is connect to the Tavern Network over ad-hoc to share your custom characters and music.
ClaDun x2 offers a retro gaming experience with an extraordinary amount of creative control handed over to the player. If you want a game where you can do lots of dungeon crawling and pour over every detail of each of your custom characters, then this game is going to give you every opportunity to do that. As good as ClaDun x2 is and as much as you now can do, I enjoyed the original ClaDun more. Look at it this way — if you loved the original so much that you want more, or you want a game where you are encouraged to use your imagination to create characters, items, music and stories, then ClaDun x2 is for you. If you want the creation elements, but a little more story and substance, then go with ClaDun.
Food for Thought
1. When you save, the save file icon is a snapshot of the character you’re controlling in AC, which is neat!
2. The custom edit data from the Japanese ClaDun x2 site (of Fuka, Adol, etc) isn’t compatible with the US version of ClaDun x2, even if you change the folder name to include the US indentifier (NPUH10114). Fans have created a helpful ClaDun x2: This is a Wiki site for sharing custom data.
3. You can eventually create characters from 10 different classes, each with their own special ability. There are dragoons, guardians, mages, merchants, ninjas, rangers, saints, shamans, swordmages and warriors.
4. Once again, there’s a story you can find if you explore Arcanus Cella for each volume in the right order. It’s called "Saga of Arcanus Cella."
5. As you can see from the screenshots, the bits of dialogue in the skits and descriptions that show up are awesome and funny as expected from an NISA game.