An 8-bit sequel, dood!
NIS loves being the company that publishes quirky, funny, niche titles in the States. Like any Japanese company worth their salt, their games involve animé/animé-akin characters with bad fashion choices and funny haircuts dealing massive amounts of damage to coloring book monsters wrapped around a bland story that makes enough sense for a player to say "oh, okay that makes sense" but not enough sense to make it easy to explain to anyone else.
I apologize for the long sentence, but it needed to be said. They tend to stick to the formula after all. It works, don't get me wrong, but… not a lot of creativity there.
ClaDun X2 is exactly what you would expect for a sequel: more of the same with small improvements to the formula. The play is still a cross between the top-down Legend of Zelda games with the personality of Disgaea, only this time it has new… characters. Add a new "home base" of sorts with an updated Arcanus Cella, the land the characters are stuck on and unable to ever return home from, and you have an entirely new experience… right?
Not entirely. There have been improvements, though, like the weapon selection. The original limited a player and all of his sub-people friends (just generally called "subs") to a selection of three types of weaponry: swords, clubs and staffs. They all handled differently enough (and in their most obvious ways), but with few differences in the weapons in their given category, it just wasn't very interesting. I guess that was part of the retro appeal; keep things not only looking pixelated and out-of-touch with current tech, but also going as far back as possible. The characters and environments do look sharper this time around, though not by much, and it appears as though every single enemy has been recycled back into rotation. Even the starting and ending texts look the same, pixel by massive pixel.
The best touch in ClaDun X2 is the selection of weaponry and how each weapon will fare in a different environment. There are some stages where using an up-close weapon just leads to headaches and the angry throwing of hardware that I hesitate to drop on a mattress, and others where swinging wildly is a preferable turn of events as opposed to trying to line up a shot with a bow. And not only that, but they're deep enough that certain weapons in their sub-category can make a difference as well; in an area where ice-fire monsters exist (don't ask how that works, I have no clue) a fire-firing staff is king. While it is possible to rely on spells to help your character be more well-rounded, it's much more difficult to create a "jack of all trades" without some serious weakspots.
This game was designed for the customization player, with a clearly-specified emphasis on swapping out main characters to find someone willing to do the job. "Should I use my Wuss Champion on this one or should I let Angry Lady take this one?" (I like giving my characters weird names, most of which I can't say in public without getting kicked in the balls by passers-by).
Thankfully, the integrated tutorial does explain some of the key concepts thoroughly enough and the systems make sense. Beyond just assigning gear for your main character you have to assign "subs", or secondary characters that beef up your character. Essentially, you build a party around a single figure; your buddies end up taking most of the damage to protect you. How friendly, right? Then, after assigning certain subs to certain spots on the "Magic Circle" system —which can and will change multiple times throughout the game as new arrangements are unlocked through leveling up—you can assign traits and allow for using artifacts to assist a character's inherent abilities. Don't worry if you don't get all of it from this paragraph, I still don't entirely understand the best ways to utilize what I do remember.
If this doesn't sound complex enough, ClaDun X2 also allows for editing music and sharing records across a local wireless connection, provided another player has their own download of the game going. But don't get that confused with multiplayer, because this is an isolated experience; the first ClaDun did have something for multiplayer, but it was broken, so maybe this is for the best. I doubt there will ever be a solid multiplayer component, but it would be nice… and I've been wrong before. Am I wrong, System Prism? Please tell me I'm wrong, because even though I don't know anyone who still plays their PSP I'd like the option to find someone else to play with. Y'know, for item-trading or character swapping and such things. I don't have the time nor ability to make myself a Prinny custom character one pixel at a time.
The real problem is that it's not changed. At all. Everything here felt fun the first time around, and it's still fun now, but what was annoying or broken before is still broken now. Battles are fun but basic, though a bit deeper. The Magic Circle is still convoluted and deep, and there isn't any reason to try and play with or around anyone else. Why should I pay more money for the exact same thing? The actual town of Arcanus Cella might be different, but not cash-money different… just "oh, look at that" different. You can do better.