Playing ClaDun x2 is a lot like shopping for Cheerios. Yes, you could buy the strange flavors they've come up with (yogurt flavored? Really?), but good old fashioned Cheerios tend to be more than enough. As such, ClaDun x2 straddles a fine line between unoriginal and refreshing.
ClaDun x2, short for Classic Dungeon (x2), was developed by Nippon Ichi Software, the same company that made the Disgaea series. ClaDun varies heavily from Disgaea in a couple ways, before you get too excited that it's more from the same company. First, ClaDun x2 is the opposite of tactical. It's a particularly brute force method of dungeoneering. There were, so far as I could tell, no puzzles (pulling a couple switches hardly counts). The combat itself was somewhat strategic but ultimately it is a dungeon crawling hack-n'-slash, exactly what it was trying to be.
LET'S TALK ABOUT STORYLINE!
The story line is not just bad, it's relatively nonexistent. You are stuck in a land that has a door that releases into dungeons. The people in this land seem either really happy about this or really upset. Either way, there is no way out (or so it seems). After each dungeon, a group of people will gather around you, spout out some nonsense, and then return to the main part of the city. While normally I'd say that not having anything that remotely resembles plot is a bad thing, for ClaDun x2, it's actually pretty nice not to have to think about any story. Instead, you get to go through a door and lay the smackdown on shady looking animals/monsters.
BUT HOW DO I HIT THINGS?
Alright, so let's go over gameplay really quickly. You pick a class for your main champion out of a list of ten (saint, ranger, dragoon, wizard, warrior, swordmage, shaman, ninja, merchant, and guardian). Each class has access to customization trees called "magic circles". Being your average gamer, I quickly skipped the tutorial and randomly flung every buff item I had into the circle. The circles get incredibly complex and ultimately come with tradeoffs (e.g. the standard "False Mind" magic circle will reduce your health by 60% if you stack two sub champions in it).
Sub Champions mean you get to play more than one class in the game. The mechanic's intention seems to be to diversify gameplay (a much needed concept) by allowing you to venture forth as a different class and use added some bonuses from each class to get through the dungeon progressions. The issue was, it was incredibly hard to do this. Some classes just didn't feel suited for working on the early levels so I struggled a lot getting them caught up (sorry, Miss Cleric).
SO THE GAME IS PRETTY SET IN STONE?
Not at all, actually. Everything in the game is editable (in terms of aesthetic). Because everything is 8-bit, you can really grab hold of and change anything using the built in editing programs. This includes your heroes face and expressions, your weapon, the arrows your ranger shoots, and even the music in the game. Fair warning: I edited the music and was cursed to listen to it for the whole next dungeon. I know why game developers hire musicians now.
Overall, ClaDun x2 is (going to say the word again) incredibly refreshing. It's engaging as just a pure I'm-going-to-go-in-there-and-punch-things-with-an-axe dungeon crawler. And the fact that it doesn't have story doesn't diminish from anything. In fact, it accentuates the gameplay and the customization available. The game is addictively deep (although admittedly sometimes counterintuitive) in its RPG elements but the sheer happiness of destroying the monsters makes everything oh-so worth it.