In 2010, there was a strange PSP game called Cladun: This is an RPG. Short for “Classic Dungeon,” Cladun was a dungeon crawler that looked and played kinda like the original Zelda on Nintendo. Despite being a lo-fi 8-bit style game, Cladun had lots of customization options, including character creation and changing the look of your characters and weapons through a pixel editor, and there were randomized dungeons to play through in case the story dungeons were all played out. It did well enough for Nippon Ichi Software to port the game to Steam and now in 2017, there is a sequel (spinoff?) out now on the PlayStation Vita, PS4 and Steam.
Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! continues with the super customizable dungeon crawling but instead of a sword-and-sorcery aesthetic, the backdrop for this game is ancient Japan! Specifically the Sengoku (Warring States) period. If you've been playing a lot of Koei games, you'll know the score. The plot isn't very involving; it's more of a vehicle to get you playing through the end rather than the main attraction like most other RPGs. You play as a warrior (well, warriors) who helps lost souls rest in peace by hitting up dungeons in Sengoku-era Japan and seeking them out or killing boss monsters. These souls will assist you after helping them out and some of them are based on Japanese historical figures.
Although Cladun Returns is technically a dungeon crawler with character creation and randomized dungeons, the presentation is closer to an overhead retro RPG, like Dragon Quest or Zelda. You can run, jump, parry and kill things in real time like Zelda, but collecting gold and experience and treasure is more in line with Mystery Dungeon. Each dungeon is filled with treasures, traps and monsters, and it's up to you to raid these dungeons and find the exit. Most of the time, you'll have to kill certain monsters to unlock gates that seal away the exit. And sometimes you'll encounter an exit but you can't go further into the game's story without defeating the boss in that dungeon. To win, you'll have to grind like hell and take advantage of the customization option Cladun Returns has to offer.
Teamwork is the key to victory in Cladun Returns. As you play through the story, you'll unlock the magic circle and shops that will help strengthen your character. As you level up, you'll gain strength and unlock more spells, abilities and formations for your magic circle. The magic circle is one big skill tree for your player character, referred to as “Lords.” Each support character, whether they're obtained through the game or created by the player, is referred to as a “Vassal.” Vassals serve Lords with their power, so they're unseen, and the artifacts you collect can be attached to your Vassals to beef up your Lord. The stronger you get, the more Vassals you can command to serve you. Although you can buy weapons and armor and artifacts in shops, collecting loot in dungeons will result in rarer items with minute buffs (or debuffs), so experimentation is encouraged.
Anything about your characters can be edited: name, appearance, color, gender, job, speech pattern, and even relationships between your other characters. Background music, weapons, and armor can also be edited. All of this personalization is not necessary but it's always fun, especially if you plan to play co-op mode with friends.
One of the wildest aspects of the game is exploring the "ran-geons" or randomly generated dungeons. It is an exercise in endurance: there are 99 floors and each floor's layout is generated randomly, and the key is to go all the way to the 99th floor or die trying. There are multiple exits and each exit can change up the playthrough. If you die or give up, you leave with nothing. Some floors do allow the mercy of letting you out while you're ahead and keep your loot. Another variant is the “tri-geon” in which THREE ran-geons of 99 rooms each can be explored until you reach the bottom, and each ran-geon has its own quirks.
There's a lot to do in Cladun Returns, but a lot of the action isn't diverse enough to change the gameplay drastically. Think Dynasty Warriors in which there's a lot of different characters with a lot of different moves but the objective is the same: defeat foes, reach the end. And if you can't succeed, change up your strategy or play through earlier dungeons and strengthen your magic circle until you're ready to advance through the story. While it was neat to try all these combinations with different characters and builds, the lack of story and repetitive gameplay zaps some of the entertainment value. Just another day, another soul to rescue.
Fans of the original Cladun will enjoy more of the same in Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! Although that can be positive or negative, depending on how much you loved the original Cladun. And if you've never tried Cladun but are curious, there's a free demo on the PSN!
Hint: Don't be afraid to switch up your lords and weapons when the occasion calls for it. Different weapons offer different effects and some effects can clear obstacles in the dungeon. And don't be afraid to run away from tough enemies if you can find an escape. Failing your mission
by Ray n.
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