What would happen if Half-Minute Hero and 3D Dot Game Heroes got together and had a smart-assed baby? You might get something a bit like NIS America's Cladun: This is an RPG. Continuing on with the 8-bit retro revival genre that was kick-started by Mega Man 9 two years ago, Cladun looks to bring some classically styled gameplay mixed with NIS humor to PSP fans everywhere.
The first thing you need to know about Cladun is that it doesn't take itself seriously. At all. Shortly after starting, one of the characters referred to the other as a "skanky psycho." It set the tone of the game well. Anyone playing through this one is sure to get more than a few laughs.
Cladun may have a style all its own, but the core gameplay is inspired by the original The Legend of Zelda. With an overhead view and a weapon that pops out at the press of a button, all of the combat in Cladun is simple and direct. It's also something that can be picked up by casual players in no time. Just like Half-Minute Hero, this is a game where the basics need no introduction. However, Cladun promises to bring us much more than just the basics.
Partying up with others is standard fare in RPGs, and Cladun uses a party system, though it places an original twist on the idea. Rather than having an active set of characters that you control, your party (up to nine characters) ends up acting as a buff for your main character. All of the party members are placed on a "magic circle" that surrounds the main character. At their most basic level, the party members are simple damage sinks. When the main character is attacked, party members act as cannon fodder and absorb hits with their HP. On a higher level, placing the party members on the circle is an innovative way to customize your character. For example, placing a warrior onto your circle will usually increase your stats.
After placing a party member on the circle, you can also modify their attributes by adding artifacts. Each artifact has to be linked to a character, but adding to the complexity is the fact that some locations in the circle can have negative buffs, so you have to choose wisely. For example, in the demo, one of the locations resulted in a -60% to the HP of the character placed there. In all, the game is said to contain more than 100 different magic circle patterns and more than 100 different artifacts, so there are plenty of possible combinations.
When creating a character, you can choose from a number of different jobs. Some of the jobs highlighted during the demo were dragoon, merchant and warrior. The selected job helps determine your default stats. If you don't like a given job type, you can always change it down the line.
You can also customize your character with the included sprite editor. The possibilities are endless, and you are limited only by the amount of time (and artistic skill) that you want to apply to the effort. In addition to the look, the editor also allows you to customize the animation of your character. Cladun offers the ability to upload and share your custom sprites with other players, so those who aren't artistically inclined can still benefit from this aspect by downloading the creations of others. You even have the ability to customize the look of the final boss.
Multiplayer modes support both co-op and versus, with up to four players. In-game music defaults to a modern background theme, but Cladun also has an option to switch to an entirely 8-bit-style soundtrack.
With its retro-style gameplay, in-depth customization features and infinitely variable random dungeons, Cladun: This is an RPG appears perfectly situated to appeal to the classic gamer in all of us. Perhaps our only regret is that the game is currently slated to be a PSP exclusive. This seems to be just the sort of thing that would be perfect for both the PS3 via PSN and XBLA on the Xbox 360.
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