PSP Review – Cladun: This is an RPG!

Cladun, as the title suggests, is an RPG. More specifically it is a dungeon crawling retro-inspired action RPG from NIS America. An awesome one. Cladun is all about the dungeon crawling. Think of it as a fusion of a Zelda-like RPG with a Rogue-like dungeon crawler. Mix in some portable-friendly, bite-sized gameplay, add a few pinches of customization and cover it with a deliciously retro sauce and you have a winner of a game.

Originally known as “Classic Dungeon“, Cladun harkens back to the 8-bit era of gaming; no pixel counting, no frame rate optimization, no DLC. We’re talking about the days of sitting transfixed in front of your tiny television in your bedroom, exploring those beautifully blocky worlds for hours on end.

Cladun is not an epic tale of adventure and romance. In fact, if you really want to you can just skip ahead to the credits and end the game. If you are looking to be entertained by an epic story about a spiky haired protagonist, then you might be disappointed. What Cladun does provide is a very funny story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, just enough to keep you entertained between dungeon runs. You won’t be spending 90% of your time watching cutscenes before you can get to playing, you will spend most of your time exploring and looting dungeons. You know, the fun part.

The graphics mimic the familiar 8-bit retro style, but still manage to look both modern and retro all at once. Another interesting feature is the soundtrack, or should I say soundtracks. You can choose either a classic 8-bit soundtrack full of delightful blips and bloops, or you can juxtapose the retro graphics with a more modern soundtrack with distinguishable instrumentation. Either soundtrack fits very well with the game’s retro feel.

The game starts out with two characters, Soma and Pudding, arguing; Pudding wants to run off in search of adventure, while Soma had promised Pudding’s parents to keep Pudding out of trouble. Pudding runs off in search of treasure, and Soma follows her to try to protect her. They both fall through a mysterious hole and land in Arcanus Cella, a magical land full of treasure, dungeons, talking cats… and treasure. As the game progresses, they meet up with more and more quirky characters that can join your party and help you get the the dungeons as they grow more and more difficult.

Combat in Cladun is pretty simple. You can attack, use magic, or defend with your shield. Layered on top of that is the Magic Circle system. As you progress through the game and grow your party, you will be able to utilize other party members in your Magic Circle, giving you buffs and abilities for your main character and absorbing damage taken during combat. Rather than having a set number of characters fighting at once, your party combines all of its abilities using the Magic Circle into an overall score for defense, attack, speed, etc. It takes a little while to get your head wrapped around it, but it’s a very interesting approach to a party system.

Cladun also features a character editor, similar to the one found in 3D Dot Game Heroes, that allows you to modify your characters or create your own from scratch. You can even customize the game’s final boss.

Cladun packs enough gameplay that would be well worth the price of a full retail PSP title. At half of the price, it is a no-brainer. Cladun: This is an RPG you should buy!

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Retro feel, modern appeal.

+ Deep, customizable “Magic Circle” party system.

+ Minimal but amusing story.

9 out of 10