Cladun: This is an RPG review
What would happen if you took the difficulty of Demon's Souls, scaled it down to handheld size, gave it a completely unique leveling system and designed it to look like an 8-bit game? You would get the hardcore dungeon crawler that is, Cladun: This is an RPG.
Cladun's story, or whatever anyone can gather from it, revolves around a world called Arcanus Cella; an entity that appears to anyone who looks for it, and holds any item that the person specifically yearns for. Yeah...it gets weirder, trust me.
Pudding, an adventure seeking girl who is also terminal from “die laughing disease” drags her friend Souma to Arcanus and meet a bunch of characters over time, who all have their own agenda. It doesn't stop there, but for the sake of surprise, I'll leave the rest to your exploration.
The story is actually so self aware, it jokes about typical RPG conventions and character class stereotypes that taking it seriously would be a joke in its own right. The game simply gives these story snippets between dungeon crawling to give each character a motive, but I found myself skipping through them, just to advance to what the game is truly about: dungeon crawling.
Delving into each dungeon floor with one of the characters or with one made from scratch is the heart of the game. Hacking and slashing through each floor won't take you more than a couple of minutes, that is unless you die, which, ironically, is what Cladun specializes in -- making players pay with a high difficulty level. Dying results in a loss of items acquired in that particular floor and ¾ of gold and experience. The difficulty ramps up significantly from floor to floor and makes grinding an absolute necessity before you're ready to advance. Normally grinding is not an easy word to swallow, but since each floor is short, it doesn't become a nuisance.
Dungeons are built from a series of square tiles, some which slow your character down like tall grass and tar, while others have different traps that only appear when getting in close proximity of one. Some traps will damage and poison you, while some can heal or make your character faster. However most of these traps can and will result in cheap deaths, even in the revisited earlier dungeons.
To break the monotony of repeating the same floors when in need to level up, the aptly named Ran-geon (random dungeon) is at the players disposal. The mechanics are similar, where the player must continually progress deeper. The access to each floor is through different gates, some which will lower monster levels and increase rare item drops, while others will do the opposite. It's a risk and reward process, where players who want more XP in exchange for lower quality items, can pass through the tough gates, but can result in death and lose that hard earned XP.
The leveling and upgrading system in Cladun is off-the-wall original. Each character has a magic circle menu, which has empty spots to fill in. Those spots get filled with other characters to give a certain boost to your main character. Each magic circle however also has a weakness. While some boost HP, or magic, they will also lower defense or attack, so planning which one to utilize is essential.
Each sub-characters health also protects the main player from damage until it runs out, which makes staying alive a bit more possible. While sub-characters are equipped in the magic circle, they also gain XP, allowing them to grow in strength and gain more health to protect your character.
The presentation is an amazing throwback to RPG's of the NES era. The enitre game is presented in colorful 8-bit graphics that will play at any old-school gamers nostalgia strings. The soundtrack adds to the nostalgia by letting the player listen to it in retro 8-bit, or can opt to listen to it fully instrumented.
Cladun: This is an RPG will leave players smirking at the absurd storyline while exploring floor after floor of dangerous dungeons. It's a love letter to retro gamers, that knocks you down but keeps you coming back for more punishment, and makes each victory that much more satisfying.