Some of you may remember the days of the 8 and 16-bit. Those were the days. You’d sit on the floor of you room staring at a television screen playing the newest game you just got for your birthday (and the only one you’ll get until maybe Christmas, if you’re good.) Playing games like A Link to the Past and Final Fantasy III turned me into the gamer I am today. For one second, take a moment and think back to those days. They were pretty nice, huh? Well, get ready to have those feelings return when you boot up Cladun: This is an RPG.
The first thing you’ll notice is the title. Yes, Cladun: This is an RPG is the actual name and it summarizes the game up nicely. Not the fact that it is an RPG, but that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. NIS has a knack for making comical, self-aware games that will make you smile, Cladun is no exception. You play as a group of adventurers that have arrived at a mystical place called Arcanus Cella looking for treasure and of course, adventure. The first two characters you’ll meet are Soma, a young reluctant man who’s trying to protect his crush, and second main character, Pudding. Pudding is a young girl whose main focus is peril and treasure. They arrive on Arcanus Cella by accident and now have to find a way back home, but while they’re here, look for some treasure.
The game features a unique 8-bit and 16-bit art style with cartoony characters and bright backgrounds. One of the coolest things about the game is that you can choose to have 8-bit music, or arranged “real” music. Both sound really nice and well composed. Small touches like this really make this game stand out.
The game is a dungeon crawler/hack-n-slash/RPG hybrid where you use one of your party members as the main character in battle. The rest of the 8 party members are used as support characters. This is all done using a system called the Magic Circle. The Magic Circle is a large grid where you will place characters in a certain spot that will offer support, buffs, and abilities to the main character that is in the middle. To begin with, you’ll only have a select few circle styles and party members to work with, but after leveling up and progressing through the story, your characters will learn new circles and add party members to your roster.
The Magic Circle can become very extensive and complex. Depending on the circle, you can equip your support characters with artifacts that can add hit points, attack points, defense points, and many other buffs that will aid your main character. This is all countered by mana. You must have enough mana for a character in order to place a buff on them so leveling and artifact placement is key. Inside the Magic Circle is also where you will equip your main character with weapons, shields, armor, and abilities and magic. This all adds to your party’s overall score in defense, attack, speed, and other stats, obviously the higher the better.
The combat itself is very reminiscent of Zelda. You can attack with your weapon, use magic spells on enemies or yourself, and defend with your shield. There is also a run button as well as a slide move for faster movement as well as a jump button. When you enter a dungeon, you must find the exit to win. Sometimes the exit is blocked off by a door, and the only way to open the door is by defeating a certain enemy. There’s treasure to be found and gold to be collected and plenty of areas to explore. Each dungeon has a trick to beating it; whether it is a mini boss battle or a certain way of opening doors. It really keeps you guessing. The floors are covered with traps. They range from fire traps that will set you ablaze, to heal traps that will restore some of your hit points. You can even use the traps against your enemies if you maneuver correctly.
During the dungeon exploration, your main character is the only one you will control. All of your sub-characters are used basically as shields that will take damage from the direction you’re getting hit. When they are all defeated, then it’s up to the main character and they’re hit points to pull you through to the end. Even if you are defeated in a dungeon, all is not lost. The EXP you gained while there is halved as well as the gold you obtained. So you’re still progressing even if you die. You can choose which dungeon you wish to go to through the menu and you will unlock more by finishing other dungeons. There are a ton of dungeons to explore all with a unique tone and style. The only problem with the combat is the fact that some of the later enemies and dungeons can be ultra difficult. To the point where you have to go level grind for about 20 minutes just to make it through one area.
Eventually, you will get to a point where the dungeons will become too difficult. You need to do some level grinding. Well, NIS knew this so, the game has a random dungeon feature. At this dungeon, you can progress through 99 levels of dungeons without stopping. Of course, you can always use an exit to leave if you wish, but this is a great way to obtain some really good weapons and items as well as a fantastic way to level up your party. I really do like this feature.
Another nice feature is the character creation. You can make your own party member to bring along with you in battle. The customization can be broken down to the single pixels of what your character looks like. It’s a lot like 3D Dot Game Heroes character creator. You can choose their class, and even create the main boss that you will fight later on in the game.
The story is somewhat goofy and comical throughout. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but you can’t really take it seriously. I mean, there’s a character that has a laughing disease that will kill them if they laugh too much…Still it will keep you entertained in between dungeons.
The one nicest things about the game are the menus. When you’re not in a dungeon, you’re in the hub-world of Arcanus Cella. Here, there is a shop, the dungeon entrance, the random dungeon area, and other places that you can walk to do certain things. If you don’t feel like walking, just hit triangle and a menu pops up with everything right there. So you can go shopping for swords just through the menu. It’s a small feature, but it really saves some time in the long run.
The game does feature online multiplayer with up to 4 players through Ad-hoc play. There is a co-op mode where you work together in a dungeon to make it to the exit, and there is a versus mode where you try to get to the exit before everyone else does. It’s actually really fun to play. The only problem is that you may run into a little bit of lag here and there, but it’s nothing too bad that it hinders the game play.
Each character has their own unique ending and you’ll have to beat the final dungeon multiple times with each character in order to see them. All in all, Cladun is a fantastic game that will become quite addicting. The game is perfect for pick-up-and-play gamers. You can easily finish a dungeon in about a minute. In fact, you get perks for beating a dungeon under certain times. I honestly spent as much time in the Magic Circle menu creating the perfect squad as I did in the dungeons themselves. It really is an addicting game. If you’re a fan of action RPG’s such as The Legend of Zelda or even Gauntlet you’ll have a blast playing Cladun.
Review copy provided by publisher.