Hand’s On Impressions with Nippon Ichi’s Cladun: This is an RPG!

Cladun: This is an RPG! – Hand’s On Impressions

Nippon Ichi America brings us another intense RPG with Cladun: This is an RPG!. Although this game is coming to the Sony Playstation Portable on September 21st, Nippon Ichi was kind enough to give me an advance copy on August 31st. Now that I’ve logged a dozen hours onto this game, I thought I’d share my impressions with you, before the review goes up late next week.

The first thing you’ll notice about Cladun is that the graphics are a bit…out of date. It’s purposely designed to look like an 8-bit game from yesteryear. Now I enjoy this, as I’m a 33 year old gamer, but I also know only about 15% of the gaming population these days is my age or older, so younger gamers might be turned off by these pixilated visuals akin to an old Dragon Warrior or Phantasy Star game. Don’t let the visuals fool you though, as Caldun has an amazingly deep engine that offers an enormous amount of customization.

The game takes place in a small world known as Arcanus Cella. Arcanus Cella seems to be a demiplane connected to other worlds and alternate universes. It seems to draw people in based on their need to desperately find something. The core concept reminded me a lot of the old second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons setting Ravenloft, except that was sinister where Arcanus Cella is more about random strangers coming together to form an adventuring party and fulfill their dreams. You don’t really get a lot in the terms of story however. The game starts off giving you Pudding and Souma (Yes, those are their names), and then occasionally you’ll get a brief story bit as to who new characters are and why they join your team. So far I have seven characters on my team, along with a homemade character for a total of eight. There are a few non player characters so far, like Crosstine the cat, who seems to be the power setting everything in motion in Arcanus Cella, and Despina the agoraphobic sorceress who helps you throughout the game, if only so you leave her alone. I have a feeling Despina will join your team eventually though.

The core of Cladun is the action RPG gameplay. You only play as one character at a time, which is designated as your main character. You can switch your main character between any characters you have outside of a dungeon. Your other characters then can be placed in what is known as the “magic circle.” Each character has unique magic circles that they can choose from, based on which of the five character classes they are and what level they are at. Nippon Ichi has said there are over 100 magic circles to choose from in the Cladun, which means you’ll have a lot of opportunities so see which one works best for you. Your standby characters are then placed in the magic circle (you can have up to eight in a circle at a time) you have chosen. Depending on where they are placed they can equip artifacts which then power up your main character. Certain places in the magic circle might also give that sub character extra attack, defense, mana, experience or hit points when they level up, while other areas might have those characters take a 20-60% hit point cut. With this in mind, it’s important to make sure you choose the best magic circle you have and place characters in the spots that will maximize their potential, as well as your main character’s. It’s also of interest to note that your main character will not lose hit points when damaged. Instead, that damage goes to people in your magic circle. As long as there is at least one character in the circle, your main character won’t be hurt. However, when a sub character is knocked out, your main character loses the power up bonuses attached to them. Once the circle is done, your main character is on his or her own until they finish the dungeon or get knocked out themselves.

Once you have finished a dungeon, everyone in the magic circle, both main and sub, get experience. However, what the character was doing decides their stat gains. If the main character levels up, the stat gains are those that would help it as a sub character and all the sub characters gain stat gains that help them as a main character. As such, you’ll definitely be switching characters back and forth a lot to try and get the best overall stats you can. You might also choose to use a character strictly as a sub character so they can have strong stats when you finally use them as the main character. It’s all up to you.

Besides this rather complicated battle system, Cladun also lets you make your own characters, right down to deciding what their ultimate boss will be. I actually made a nice 8-Bit Optimus Prime (G1 of course) for the game and he’s one of my best defensive characters (and has a nice array of healing spells to boot). You can also edit the appearance of the other characters in the game through Bob, the flamingly fabulous hairdresser (who also moonlights on your team as a wizard). You also have the ability to gain “fame points” by going through a previously cleared dungeon within a certain time frame. Fame Points help unlock bonus items in the store for you to purchase. You can also enter a randomly generated dungeon, which the game calls “rangeons.” Rangeons offer a lot of special items and challenges that can only be found within them. They also have multiple exits, ranging from ones that let you out normally to ones that can drastically change the next level of the rangeon, be they good or ill.

Finally there is a mode I haven’t been able to check out yet, and that’s the online multiplayer mode. I haven’t found anyone else with an advance copy to play with. However, you can enter rangeons with up to four friends in a co-operative fashion under multiplayer. If you have an advance (or import) version of Cladun, and you’re up for a multiplayer game, by all means, let me know!

So far I can say I’m having fun with Cladun, but it’s definitely a niche action RPG that’s not for everyone. It’s a pretty small download, but the game is incredibly deep and boasts an amazing amount of replay value. If you’ve been looking for a new RPG, for your PSP, definitely consider purchasing Cladun: This is an RPG when it hits the Playstation Network on 9/21. It’s as innovative as the graphics are retro and it’s nice to see Nippon Ichi bringing us another weird and entertaining RPG to the PSP.

Remember to check back on 9/20 for my full in-depth review of Cladun: This is an RPG! here at Diehard GameFAN. If you want to learn more about Cladun, you should definitely check out the official website for the game.