From those wacky folks at Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) who brought us ‘Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman’ comes an equally odd titled, retro portable in ‘Cladun – This is an RPG.’ 8-bit warriors unite; there’s some serious dungeon crawling upon us.
There’s no sense continuing to be in denial; 8-bit gaming is the new Chia Pet chic. This year’s cult-popular ‘Mega Man 10’ formally ushered in old skool to the new school dance card, an effort with commercial precedent in 2009’s ‘3D Dot Game Heroes.’ NIS concurrently chauffeured this phenomena onto PSP’s the world over via its simultaneously clever and playable ‘Badman’ series.
Simply put: Badman is weird. It’s also thankfully in-depth for a portable strategy title, while perfectly nailing 8-bit humor and homage. This brief description suits ‘Cladun - This is an RPG’ well, except this time we’re headed down the tried and true, classic dungeon crawler genre.
The Circumference of Magic
Much like Badman, there’s a sizable learning curve in Cladun, one that requires a good couple of hours before things start to make sense. The game’s core mechanic lies in a complex ‘Magic Circle’ system, where chained artifacts (character skill upgrades) attached to supporting characters serve as offensive and defensive foundations for the main, playable character.
In English, a main character selects a Magic Circle where (depending on the skill level a player is at in development) sub-characters are placed. Connected to these subs are potential upgrades (called ‘artifacts’), additions that – in turn – benefit the main character. Echoing most RPG’s, upgrades occur in hit points, defense, speed, spell points, attack break, etc. Use of particular upgrades requires sufficient mana to enable them.
Selecting a proper Magic Circle is perhaps the most crucial element of Cladun, as there’s always a trade-off between upgrades and hit point sacrifice. For instance, a Circle may sport an exorbitant number of sub-character placements and upgrade slots…but also sizable hit point reductions to maximize them. This is a crucial distinction, as sub-characters take all the damage for the main (until he/she is left on the merits of his/her own hit points).
Also worth noting is that: a) different character classes sport different Magic Circle configurations to choose from; and b) leveling up point distribution differs between sub and main characters. Thus, selecting a suitable main character, Magic Circle, collection of sub characters and finally appropriate artifacts is truly an art form. An ideal configuration will both maximize dungeon crawl success; also distribute points in desired fashion.
If the above is testament enough, the Magic Circle system is both surprisingly robust and convoluted; it literally took several hours before I got the hang of it. Perhaps RPG veterans of yore, however, will feel more at home. Still, the system makes sense (even for the likes of me), and keeps levels fresh by wanting to retry new Magic Circle configurations and character assignments.