Cladun: This is an RPG
PlayStation Portable
Reviewed: 9/21/2010

NIS America’s Cladun: This is an RPG, is an action RPG in hyper speed. Released exclusively on the Playstation Network as a downloadable PSP game, Cladun tries to become a model handheld action RPG by matching an in-depth group formation mechanic and quick-paced dungeon plumbing.

Like always, NIS knows their fans and plays to their interest, in a good way.   The story is quirky and light instead of world shattering.  Players will begin their games with a couple looking for great treasures in the mysterious and hidden world known as “Arcanus Cella.” While attempting to explore a dungeon ,the two lead characters Pudding and Souma find their way into Arcanus Cella completely by accident.  In this magical place, seemingly run by a sour hermit of a sorceress named Despina, Pudding begins finding the adventure she’s longed for, and Souma feels bound to protect her.  Thus begins your journey in Cladun, where along the way many partners and other heroes will stumble into the world.  But mysteries abound; where are all these people coming from when this is a hidden world, who is this mysterious cat stirring up trouble, and what’s the deal with this lucky/unlucky mask that won’t seem to go away?

Gameplay on its face seems fairly straightforward action RPG faire.  Players walk around a series of small dungeons, each with multiple floors and with a different theme.  Of course, they’re full of baddies whom a player will slice with a sword/axe/magic staff until they die, then carry on walking through the maze to the exit.  Along with the hacking, one will have access to up to three skills or spells, and one will be supported by partner heroes.

Screen Shot
The magic circle, where all your dreams still never come true.

This support from sub-characters is where the meat of the game comes from.  During the spelunking forays into the various dungeons, the player’s heroes go it alone, but additional heroes can be used to protect the player and bolster abilities.  This happens on what is called the magic circle.  The magic circle is a cross between a party placement and a highly evolved materia system like Final Fantasy VII.  Each character, either a main character or one that the player creates, will have one of several classes, each of these classes has a unique set of magic circle formations on which you can place help on. Each class has a different propensity for skill, stat growth, and spell usage.

To visualize the magic circle, think of a cross, the character the player is using resides in the middle and on any side and above and below their can be one or two places for sub-heroes to attach.  Now each formation is different, players may only be able to place one or all eight.  When placed, subs will take the damage dealt on the character the player is using, but only from the direction the sub is placed.  Additionally each place in the magic circle may have special modifiers, such as HP -20% or mana x 2, and most are attached to artifact slots.  Artifacts are items that can attach to the magic circle to bolster the character while dungeon diving, they are specific to a certain stat or skill slot and each one requires a certain amount of mana to place and use.  So management of these artifacts becomes critical to survival within the dungeons.  This leads to an incredible amount of flexibility and possible combination.

The graphics in Cladun won’t be knocking any socks off, but they don’t need to.  Nippon Ichi focused on more of a retro, 8-bit feel to the game.  I enjoy the stylized graphics and it reminded me of my days playing Zelda or Dragon Warrior back on my NES.  Even the music comes in standard and 8-bit retro mode, so the player can choose how to experience the game.  The style and atmosphere of Cladun is fostered to bleed 8-bit gaming, and with this it succeeds.

What Nippon Ichi and NIS America manage to do in Cladun is pretty impressive.  They’ve effectively made an action RPG accessible for a handheld in small bite size chunks so people can can pick it up and put it down quickly.  This may have already been done before, sure, but in the past those quick down and dirty games like Half-Minute Hero, while fun, never had real depth you could sink your teeth into.  With Cladun’s party and artifact mechanics, one can spend hours strategizing and tweaking your builds.  Add to that a randomized dungeon creator with increasingly difficult floors that seem to go on forever, and you have yourself a game well designed for the handhelds it serves.

-Michael Wayland

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Great
Story Good
Graphics Average
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Excellent
The Verdict: Great