Review by MrEctomy
Cladun:This is an RPG. And how!
"Cladun: This is an RPG" was released in America after NIS picked up the localization. If you enjoyed other NIS games, you will probably enjoy this one. I actually first heard about this game through a local magazine whose game reviewer is notorious for giving low scores on games all around. He gave this a perfect score. Along with one other game, I had never seen such a high score.
So of course I had to check it out for myself. After seeing dozens of other glowing reviews for the game, I decided to buy it. The 20 dollar price tag is very attractive too. And I would say it's definitely worth the money, if you're into dungeon crawlers. Even if you aren't, you might still enjoy it.
The big selling point of Cladun is the "Magic Circle" system. It's a very important aspect of the game, so I recommend you at least read about that if you think the rest of the review is too long or boring.
I should mention that Cladun is all about retro style. The name actually comes from "Classic Dungeon" which I believe was part of the original japanese title. You'll see all kinds of nods to retro RPGs, mainly the visual style. You even have the option to choose "real" or "retro" background music.
First off: the gameplay. This is the most important part of any game, and this is where Cladun shines the brightest. If you love roguelikes or other dungeon crawler type games, you'll love Cladun. Most of the game is spent either going through the story mode, which consists of pre-made dungeon levels, or going through the random dungeon mode. And apparently there are still a couple secret modes I haven't discovered yet. Maybe something post-game. Anyway, the story mode dungeons are all well-done in their own right. There are plenty of traps, environmental hazards, and unique monsters to impede your progress. That's one thing about Cladun that I really enjoyed - just getting around is taxing, even though you can jump and slide. It really feels like you're in a hostile environment. Movement speed and attack speed play an important role in this game, and there are plenty of things to slow you down. There's tar, bushes, fire, and other hazards to cause problems with movement. And the traps, how could I forget? Traps are EVERYWHERE in Cladun. However, not all traps are bad (heal and haste come to mind), and if you're clever you can even use them against enemies, since the traps will shoot something from the direction you're facing when you step on it. If you're being chased by a baddie and see a gas trap up ahead, you can turn around, put up your shield, and walk backwards over the trap to send a gas bomb at them, putting them to sleep. This is only one example of the clever gameplay Cladun allows. Some common examples of traps are pierce traps, gas traps, slow traps, ice & fire traps, earthquake traps, and monster den traps, which spawn a monster. If you're running for your life, traps will often kill you before the monsters will.
On to random dungeon mode. It's not truly random in the sense that the dungeon layout goes through specific "zones". Levels 1-10 seem to be a typical stone-hewn dungeon, but then 10-20 is a fire zone, 20-30 is an ice zone, and after that, I don't know. However, what I do know is that depending on how you choose to advance, you could have an easy time, or a very hard time. Exits out of the random dungeon are scattered about, but things can change so fast that you might not be able to find one when you need it. You see, there are certain types of gates that will determine how the random dungeon will "grow". There are three stats that deal with the random dungeon: enemy level, item drop rate, and rare title rate. Depending on which gate you choose (not all are always available unfortunately), each stat will drop or rise. In the random dungeon, there are angel gates, gamble gates, normal gates, demon gates, and hell gates. I put them in order of desirable-ness...is that a word? However, demon and hell gates can randomly become angel gates.
Another interesting thing I liked about Cladun is that while running, your defense drops in half. While holding up a shield, your movement drops dramatically and your defense rises by a number that is dependent on the shield. So, it's smart to use your shield, and often.
The enemies in Cladun are pretty tough. They may start simple, with lots of weak and/or incompetent enemies, but as you go downward into the random dungeon, or onwards in the story, the enemies tend to get tougher and smarter. Some will only take significant damage from certain attacks, some will be immune to an element, or even be healed by it. One thing I found interesting (and initially very confusing!) is that you can normally attack fire and ice elementals with a mundane weapon, but if, for example, you're set on fire by a fire elemental and try to attack, your attack counts as fire element, and heals the monster. Good to know, right? Speaking of elemental properties, there are three main ones. Fire, ice, and spirit. Some enemies are immune to certain ones, some take double from certain ones, and some monsters only take significant damage from them. Luckily it's usually pretty easy to figure out. Ice elemental monsters tend to be blue, fire ones tend to be orange and black, etc.
I suppose I should mention what happens if you die. In any dungeon, upon death you lose half of the gold and experience you acquired, and ALL the items that you found. This seems harsh, but I found it to be a good system since retaining half of the gold and experience you gained means the "run" was not a complete waste of time, even if you lost all the items you found, which are often the best part of dungeon crawling. I'll go more in-depth about that later.
Please also note: this game has MULTIPLAYER! I've never used it myself, but I'm sure it's implemented well judging by what other reviewers have said about it. There is a blue door in the home base world for hooking up with others and increasing your odds of survival.
The interface in Cladun is very easy to navigate, and quite a throwback to old school RPGs. One very convenient thing about the game is that while you're in the home base area, you can choose to actually go speak to certain NPCs in order to shop, create a character, or visit the random dungeon, or you can just access these places through the pause menu. It's nice to have a choice. However, the fact that many things in the home base area are interactive is a little extra incentive to explore.
As far as controls, Cladun does well. You will rarely have trouble or feel awkward with the controls. X attacks, circle jumps, holding square puts up a shield, and triangle performs magic or special attacks. You can hold R to run and press L to switch skills/spells.
The inventory system in Cladun is very easy to use. Items are seperated by type in tabs, and once you have a list you can choose the display mode by hitting square. There are lots of stats for weapons: their attack value, critical value, break value, speed, and they can even be special, adding a certain bonus that typically wouldn't be found - for example, a "Wall Axe" will grant you a defense bonus if you use it, or a "Lvlup" sword will grant you an experience bonus if you use it. There are many other types to discover, too.
The equipment system in Cladun is somewhat detailed. Your main choices for weapons are Swords, Axes, and Staves. To these weapon types are attached certain stats: Attack score, critical score, break score, and weapon speed. Swords have pretty good attack, high critical scores, low break scores, and relatively fast attack speeds, compared to Axes and Staves. Axes have a lower minimum attack, but higher maximum attack. They also have a much higher break score, very low critical score, and somewhat slow attack speed. However, you can charge them up for a powerful attack, and they tend to do more damage than swords in general. Staves are slow to attack, but have elemental qualities. They can also power up fire, ice, or spirit skills depending on the type of staff.
However, once you're in the dungeon you won't be able to access your inventory and change equipment. Nor will you be able to even look at what you've found since you've been in the dungeon, which bothered me a little bit.
Now, I should talk about the MAGIC CIRCLE! This is the big selling point of Cladun, and it's easy to see why. RPG nerds will love this, and it's a good thing because it makes up a major part of the game. In Cladun, you can only control one character at a time. However, this character is enhanced and modified by the magic circle. What is it exactly? Well, it's hard to describe. Basically, your character sits in the middle of a magic circle, and you can attach anywhere from 1-8 other sub-characters to that main character to modify their stats and abilities. There are many different magic circles for each of the 5 classes (Dragoon, Warrior, Merchant, Guardian, Wizard).
These sub-characters can attach certain artifacts to their spot on the magic circle, which can modify all sorts of things: HP, SP, ability levels, ability SP costs, walking speed, running speed, attack speed, attack, defense, critical chance, break chance, and probably a couple others I forgot. How many artifacts they can equip is dependent on the type of magic circle, as well as their "mana" score. Artifacts use up mana, the better the artifact, the more mana it requires. However, you can find rare artifacts in the dungeon that can offer a better tradeoff than store-bought artifacts if you're lucky. Some spots in the magic circle will offer attack bonuses, defense bonuses, experience bonuses...there are all sorts of ways to go with the magic circle. You'll probably spend quite a bit of time just experimenting.
The story in Cladun is nothing to write home about, but it works. From what I can gather, a sorceress named Despina has created a magical world, and now people are starting to show up. For some reason, they like to go dungeon crawling. There's a mask that keeps flying around causing trouble. It's a little weird, but whatever. In the course of the game, you meet quite a few quirky characters, like Coco the unlucky merchant, Battlebo the shield master, Sunday the sword master, Bob the funky wizard, and a few others who all have their own unique look and personality. You can also create your own character complete with deciding what their final boss will look like! You can even change their whole appearance. Many screenshots of the game depict someone making a prinny. Hah!
It's worth mentioning that the game definitely has a sense of humor at parts, though it's not as developed as I would have hoped. Still, it's a bit goofy and it's definitely not too serious.
Anyway, the story is alright but it's really all about the dungeon crawling, and how many of those even have a story at all?
GRAPHICS & SOUND: 7/10
Cladun has a very retro aura about it. The whole look of the game is 8-bit, retro, although still done quite well. It's all very sharp and polished. Even though the characters and enemies are pixelated, the environments are well done, and the magical effects are very showy. Lots of sparkles and flashes, etc. The animations are well done too. The sword slashes are cool looking, as well as the axe strikes. The magic is also fun to watch, with ice crystals bursting out of the ground, and explosions curling up and lashing out from the earth.
As I mentioned before, you can actually change the background music on the fly between retro (8-bit) and real music. It's good to be able to switch if you ever get tired of it.
In short, the graphics and sound are easy on the eyes and ears.
Cladun: This is an RPG. What a great game. 20 bucks is all it costs, and if you love dungeon crawling as much as I do, you'll definitely get your money's worth.
Product Release: Cladun: This is an RPG (US, 09/20/10)
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