Review: Cladun: This is an RPG
Cladun: This is an RPG, also known as Classic Dungeon in Japan, is a blend of Action RPG along the lines of The Legend of Zelda in its early years, with a few unique twists and concept designs that set it apart from titles you have previously played. If you believe all RPGs are the same, you haven’t played Cladun yet. In this title the art style, to the graphics, to the game-play, background music, and even sound effects go out of their way to pay homage to the ancestry of the console role playing game, and to great success.
The battle system feels like a perfect blend of Action and RPG elements as players do battle with a number of classes wielding sword and shield, scepters, and axes. The mysterious world of Arcanus Cella is discovered by two would-be heroes, and eventually a fairly large crew of adventurers, and this is where the game takes place. In Arcanus Cella you will be able to watch the stories of the people you meet unfold, as well as go dungeon exploring! After all, that’s what we are all here for right? I know deep down inside you want to kill something don’t you? Don’t worry, Arcanus Cella has you covered and then some!
The basic control system to Cladun is in itself even a throwback to the retro days. There are no diagonal inputs received from the player, only up, left, right, and down as far as moving the player. The right shoulder pad is held down to run, square is pressed to dash, circle to jump, and triangle to use a special magic ability while the left shoulder selects a different ability. I found this system to provide a lot of opportunities for myself and enemies to sneak up on each other, which really is a great mechanic. However, that being said, I would have preferred to have diagonal input in the game rather than omitted, as sometimes things just seemed a little clunky.
Numbers pop up above the enemies you are attacking in classic RPG style to indicate damage, which can even be shown in decimal format according to your preferences, and there are no menus to navigate during battle. Button mashing meets strategy and tactics to form the ultimate baby of fun monster slaying. Traps and hazards are all over the place including fires, sheets of ice, arrow traps, and health traps and haste traps which even work against you if they hit your opponents instead of you! Some doors are permanently closed off and you’ll have to kill enemies to discover what you must kill, in what order exactly, to proceed.
With a heavy focus on elementals as well as the Magic Circle system, this title becomes a tactical enjoyment the likes of which the RPG genre might not see very often in the handheld form these days. There is a great story here for those who would experience it, involving the creator of this mysterious world herself. But what really impressed me about this title most was the battle system. Let’s take a few minutes to go over that shall we?
In most RPGs you have a skill tree of some sort. We’ve seen everything now from spheres, to text based menu systems, and beyond. What’s great about Cladun is you have a unique system in which to modify your characters on the fly, this is what the Magic Circle is all about.
The way it works is this, various formations of a “party” are formed. Only one main character runs into battle at a time, but other players can group up with you in various configurations that are unlocked as you progress through the story and dungeons. You will have key slots to place characters in that provide immediate boosts in health, attack, defense, or otherwise depending on which Magic Circle you are using. On top of that, each character will share damage with you in battle.
In fact, your health does not even begin to decrease until all members of your Magic Circle are already dead. What’s more intriguing is that attached to these essential support slots per character, you will find attached nodes that can house artifacts that you will purchase and find in dungeons. These nodes can be of the following types: attack, defensive, speed, critical hit modifiers, HP, SP, and ability artifacts.
Depending on how you have your artifacts, Magic Circle, and character attributes set up things can line up rather nicely for you. Say you have a character with a low health point stat, not too much defense or mana, but great attack. You can assemble your members of the Magic Circle to work towards boosting that defense with artifacts like the Stone Wall defense artifact and boost health with items like the Life Apple HP artifact. Some artifacts are going to tax another stat such as mana to get you your boost, so you must be careful configuring your Magic Circle.
If you don’t make it to health traps in time and let these sub-players die you will lose the enhancements they bestow upon you. In the top right corner you will see each of them and must watch their health closely, especially the one with the most beneficial artifacts attached. The game can be seriously punishing to players who don’t take this into consideration as you find yourself weakened, vulnerable, and starving for health all at the same time. Overall, the system provides a seriously detailed, interesting, and unique way of binding stat-based relationships with characters.
I found the story to be interesting, funny, and engrossing. It pays a lot of tribute to the storytelling mechanics of the old days. You will watch text based conversations occur while in-game cut-scenes are shown to reveal situations expressed through events and sometimes in a dream. The characterization of the zany cast of misfits who lead themselves into Despina’s world is done well and has you wanting to know more about each of them before long. But again, the game-play will have you wanting to rush into battle often times, and I was glad to see that as a streamlined option made available at all times.
For example, if players want to buy items, they can choose to walk around and interact with the town folk, walk into the shop, talk to the shopkeeper briefly, then shop, or they can just skip through all of that and access the shop immediately through a shortcut in the start menu. All of the game’s features are streamlined in this fashion and the dungeons will not be beat on the first try (with exception to maybe the first few once you get the hang of it), so really you will feel intense passion to run back into battle and the fact NIS saw fit to make it easy is great and shows their mind was on the battle as well.
One small issue I had with this title was, again, some of the implementation of old school controls on a new school title. When I attacked with a sword I felt that the animation for doing so was too slow. My character would put a hand in the air and wait to swing, I really am glad the shield immediately responds though. Doing battle in melee form often becomes a match of block and stab, and timing things just perfect is essential. While I do enjoy this style of play, I felt like things could be a little bit faster. Luckily the player is able to purchase artifacts such as the Devil Wing to help alleviate this delay in attacking.
The many nods to the retro style are ever present and include an optional 8-bit conversion of the entire soundtrack accessed at any time in the options menu, 8-bit style sound effects, text based dialog screens, discoverable hints and tips along the way, a heavy focus on buying and selling items, customization, and more.
You could easily spend time creating and maxing out almost endless varieties of characters, to which you even get to control the look of their faces. Beyond this you will be creating your own sub-partners to take into battle, as well as main characters to lead the title with. There are many endings to the game, and the ending of your current situation can be previewed in a sense at any time making for a super-streamlined way to test the waters before jumping full force. To see the full endings of course, you will have to beat the game!
There is even a co-operative ad-hoc for up to four players which, thanks to Ad Hoc Party on the PlayStation Store, will also allow you to play over the internet with others via the PS3 to PSP connection in addition to the standard Ad Hoc local multi-player connecting up to four PSP systems.
Sometimes I found the music to be a little repetitive when working through stages of the same dungeon, I personally feel this is highly forgivable though because the music is great and it doesn’t happen very often. The puzzled Despina wonders why so many humans pour into her world, but I do not. It is for the great dungeons, and this is also why they stay! Some dungeons are randomly generated, meaning multiple playthroughs will not bore you, nor will they cease to challenge your mastery of this fun and detailed battle / upgrade system.
I found most dungeons to be of a challenging yet conquerable design, enemies seemed to level up between stages extremely fast though. This can perhaps be attributed to the gradual grind the game places on the player which tends to work in spikes and humps. If you need to grind be sure to take note of which levels are best for this. Not every level will have lots of health so keep your eyes open for good places to revisit. Most dungeons are also filled with side paths and optional enemies and treasure to discover. The game is simply brimming with content, providing a great value for the price, with such vast gameplay and even an Encyclopedia and Monster Book built into the start menu you really can’t go wrong dungeoning it up with Cladun.
I whole-heartily enjoyed this title from top to bottom, and feel it is among the quality level of masterpieces from the golden age of 2D console RPGs. If you are a fan of these types of games you will truly want to have it in your collection and likely play for a long time to come. I would have liked to see more correlation between the story and the dungeons, however given the nature of the design and the actual story itself, this was never meant to be. You will find yourself fighting in dungeons that have seemingly nothing to do with what is going on in the story, but both are so entertaining and engaging you just won’t care. I highly recommend this to RPG fans seeking the ultimate balance of Action and role playing as well as gamers who may have never experienced a classic-style console RPG and want a streamlined yet true-to-its-roots title that embodies that style.
- Title: Cladun: This is an RPG
- Platform Reviewed: PSP
- Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
- Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software America
- Release Date: September 22nd, 2010
- MSRP: $19.99
- Review Copy Info: A downloadable copy of this title was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.