Cladun: This is an RPG Review

Cladun: This is an RPG (Available only on PSP)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-4
Genre: RPG
Publisher: NIS
Developer: NIS
Release Date: September 21st, 2010

Parent Talk: Cladun: This is an RPG is a JRPG for the PSP, accessible via the PSN Store.  Cladun resembles an older, 8-bit Nintendo game, with simple sprite-based graphics.  Players explore dungeons, fight monsters, and find treasure.  There is no blood or gore, and the violence is tame.  The dialogue is intentionally funny, but several lines are rather crude.  There is no explicit language or profanity, but parents may not care for the dirty jokes (honestly though, it’s not surprising considering most cartoons).

Cladun: This is an RPG (what kind of game could it possibly be?…) is from Nippon Ichi Software, famous for the popular Disgaea series.  Targeting the niche retro-enthusiast market, Cladun utilizes an old-school presentation.  Its formula is somewhat reminiscent of a 2D Zelda game, being an aerial, top-down view dungeon-crawler (i.e. 3D Dot Game Heroes for PS3).  That’s where similarities end though, as Cladun is definitely unique on its own.

The Great:
Sprite editor.  Players not only design new avatars throughout the game, but also customize class, abilities, sprite color and animation.  The visuals are basic so your choices aren’t exceptionally detailed, but it’s a cool touch nonetheless and invites creativity.  Different equipment appears uniquely on characters too, which is neat.

The Good:

+ Music.  Cladun interestingly features a simplistic 8-bit soundtrack, and a full-fledged collection of arrangements that can be switched.  In both scenarios, the music is pleasant, though largely forgettable.  I ultimately prefer the “real” soundtrack.

+ Simple dungeon-crawling.  You enter dungeons and find treasures as you might in any old-school dungeon-crawler, attack foes with swords and axes, use special abilities, and run and jump to breeze through tiny dungeons.  Most take around a minute to complete, so you don’t have to play for extended periods.  Other mechanics give the game more depth, but the controls are easy to understand (others are more complex, but more on that later).

+ Magic circles.  Magic circles are a significant aspect of Cladun.  Essentially, you can allocate a main character and position your sub-characters around him/her.  They act as human shields, adding stat boosts to increase your attributes.  Different formations are possible, and exact unique stipulations, ranging from experience boosts to HP gain.  Items can also be attached to the magic circle for more benefits.  The in-game explanation is convoluted, but after playing for a while and tinkering around, it’s not so difficult.

+Multiplayer.  Wireless ad-hoc supports up to four players simultaneously.  There are also separate options for co-op and versus.  In versus, you can attack other players, while co-op has no friendly fire.  Versus is a race to reach the goal of a dungeon first, whereas you want to do so together in co-op, (you can even revive downed teammates).  This increases the game’s appeal, because dungeon crawling is always better with one or more friends.

The Bad:

– Thin story.  Cladun has occasional dialogue, but nothing substantial.  Really, plot can barely be found here, which doesn’t help the incentive factor.  This is a pretty crippling flaw.  After many dungeon completions, I craved a reason to keep going, but never received one.  Conquering dungeons and acquiring items is fun at first, but it grows old…thus Cladun’s simple nature is more of a detriment.  The game quickly becomes boring.

The Ugly:

Unbalanced.  Some legs of the game are pitifully easy, as most of the dungeons won’t make you bat an eye.  You only need minutes to finish them, and very little effort is necessary.  The traps are easy to avoid and many end up helping you anyway (heal traps and haste traps in particular).  Enemies are hardly a threat.  Those that pose one are typically overcome by hit-and-run tactics, and even if you’re killed, there isn’t much sense of loss.  Their brief nature make retrying less than imposing, and you still gain experience/level up.  Sure you lose treasure, but it never feels like much of a penalty.

The Lowdown:

Cladun: This is an RPG is an interesting niche title, but it’s difficult to recommend a purchase outright.  There are far better PSP RPGs, even considering the retro route (Half-Minute Hero comes to mind).  While fans of old-school dungeon crawling may be drawn, the unbalanced play and lack of motivation hurts the experience.  The dialogue is funny; the multiplayer is nice; the characters are neat, and the retro presentation is charming…but I’m not sure if it warrants a purchase considering the flaws.  All things considered, I’d say this is a “Decent Download.”  It’s not a terrible game by any means, but there titles more worth your time.

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