Cladun series is a franchise that spun on the beloved PlayStation Portable console starting with Cladun: This is an RPG. A sequel called Cladun X2 was available on both PSP and Steam. Now after a considerable wait we are more than ready for a new installment in the series.
The great thing about Cladun games is you can be creative as much or as little as you want. Cladun Returns allows you to create an array of your perfect dungeon crawling characters to tackle some seriously challenging dungeons that need to be raided and pillaged.
This time as the name suggests the story is set in the Sengoku era of Japanese history. But like in the previous games the central stage goes to gameplay, which may be expected for a dungeon crawler. Still, the story could have been more thought out than just having some random characters walk you through the first couple of hours of the game and to just occasionally pop up. It’s just not engaging enough to care about the world or anything in it really, but thankfully the gameplay more than makes up for it.
The pixel art editor is enjoyable to use and is really a perfect tool to customize your characters or go completely from scratch. What is amazing is that you are even given the ability to customize the look of your weapons. Not to mention there is even the option to change up and customize your character’s animations. Top this all off with a built-in music editor and you have yourself a through and through unique experience.
It’s up to you whether or not you want to make the most use out of the pixel editor or other complex features, but for anyone who likes to create their original characters it is a lot of fun. The characters you create can help you a great deal protecting your main character using the so-called Magic Circle Power. Here you can basically arrange your secondary characters around your main character, which also gives you some bonuses like more health, higher attack power and many others. When you take a hit, other characters you placed around your character will soak up the damage.
As in other dungeon crawlers, the objective is to explore dungeons and hog up all the treasure, while maneuvering past those pesky enemies that keep getting in your way. Thankfully, there is a variety of weapons at your disposal and it is worthwhile to check them all out. A spear has a nice range, while shurikens give you the ability to attack from a safe distance, but it also in turn do a negligible amount of damage. I found the knife to be particularly useful. Although it may not have a lot of power, it can easily make a critical hit from the back of the enemies. This can help you defeat monsters faster and much more efficiently.
Cladun Returns can be a bit unpredictable at times resulting in a hilarious outcome. One time I faced a boss with only a pocket knife. Just when I thought I was screwed, I figured out the boss pretty much couldn’t attack from behind. And there I was standing right behind him scoring critical hits with this knife left and right. Each hit took only about 0.2 damage taking almost invisible amount of damage from the boss’s health bar. After the next 15 minutes, this oh so very exciting battle was finally over with me as a Sengoku hero taking out the famous Orochi monster with just a pocket knife.
While the objective is to get to the exit of each dungeon, there are always additional areas left to explore. Cladun Returns rewards you for jumping back into any previous dungeon, by letting you uncover hidden goodies. Playing the regular dungeons players will soon unlock you special DX dungeons which are much tougher and provide you with better loot and additional characters that tie in with the story. If this is not enough for you there are also randomly generated dungeons you can take on. And on top of that if you are in a completionist mood there are numerous quests to complete in order to gain even more loot. All in all, there is a lot of content in the game and once you pick it up it is hard to put down.
Cladun Returns can be pretty tough at times. The best advice I can give, is to keep an eye out for the sometimes very annoying traps. These are usually plastered everywhere. Thankfully if you play your cards right you can set off a trap to hit even your enemies, making for some very interesting situations.
Other important things to have in mind are the ability to dash and run and also to use your shield every once in a while. These things helped me the most when I was at a brink of frustration.
Like in the previous installments the graphics make the most out of that retro 8-bit pixel-art look and paired with the retro soundtrack makes for a compelling experience, although there is a more modern version of the soundtrack for those that prefer it.
I must admit that I would’ve enjoyed Cladun Returns: This Is Sengoku even more on the go on my Vita than on PlayStation 4 as gameplay style is far better suited for playing in short bursts, like on a plane, a bus or anywhere. That 10 to 15 minutes is just enough time to really enjoy Cladun’s fast paced gameplay.
While Cladun Returns: This Is Sengoku doesn’t bring much new to the table from the previous installments in the series, it still feels fresh in its own way. Finally, more people will be able enjoy its addictive gameplay as it is available on both PlayStation 4 and Vita and also on Steam.