Is your sense of adventure gushing? NIS America's downloadable PSP game Cladun: This is an RPG! could be the sweet release you're looking for.
A young girl named Pudding and her childhood friend Souma fall head first into the world of Arcanus Cella. Arcanus Cella is not your normal magical land, and this is not your typical action role-playing game. Don't let its colourful 8-bit presentation fool you; there's a terrifically deep game lurking beneath Cladun's simplistic surface.
People who enjoy spending 5-10 minutes preparing to conquer a two-minute long dungeon. Fans of NIS America's strategy titles that want to swing a sword in real-time without sacrificing complexity.
Why Should I Care?
Because playing Disgaea in the bathroom on your PSP makes your legs fall asleep. Cladun: This is an RPG! gives players the complexity and humour they expect from a Nippon Ichi game, while keeping the dungeons small enough to tear through in mere minutes, if that.
I get the feeling this is an RPG. Whatever gave you that idea? Yes, Cladun is an action RPG. All of the elements are in place. You've got colourful characters that gain levels and experience, powerful weapons and equipment to collect, dungeons to explore and pointy hair. On the outside, it looks every bit like an 8-bit action role-playing game.
What if I look inside? Well then you enter the Magic Circle! When any of the characters you meet or design is set as the main character, you fill their magic circle with other party members, adding to the main character's power. The Magic Circle is like a game board you populate with party members and power-enhancing artefacts. Every character gains experience, but only sub characters gain vital stats like attack power. To be a strong main character, one has to do time as sub characters.
It all sounds so complicated. Well it is complicated, but that's how Nippon Ichi fans like it. On the flip side, dungeons are straightforward affairs. Most of the story dungeons take between 30 seconds and two minutes to complete. You hop in, kill the monsters, collect the treasures, and hop back out again, with extra points awarded for faster runs. It's the one of the most portable friendly action RPGs I've ever played.
So it's short? God no. The main quest alone took me around 15 hours to complete, with my characters averaging level 40 out of 99. Once you reach that level cap you can change a character's job, carrying over some stats from the previous job for even more power, which you'll need to tackle the 99-floor random dungeon.
Cladun: This Is An RPG! In Action
This is Cladun: This is an RPG's English trailer.
This is where I first learned about the game's built-in screenshot function. Handy!
Just an example of the game's strange sense of humour.
Inside one of the earlier dungeons.
One of the earliest new characters you meet not only parties with you, but also runs a convenient item shop.
The Magic Circle. Don't try to make sense of it from this screenshot, it'll just make your brain hurt.
If you crave a stat-heavy role-playing experience in easy to manage, bite-sized chunks, with a healthy dose of sometimes racy humour on the side.
Don't Buy It
If you aren't prepared to grind your arse off to build the perfect party.
The Bottom Line
Cladun: This is an RPG! might look like - and to some extent play like - an old-school action role-playing game, but you won't get far in it if you stick to hacking and slashing. By integrating the wonderfully intricate Magic Circle mechanic into the game, Nippon Ichi has crafted a game that's a lovely cross between action RPG and the strategy role-playing games the developer is known for. It's a beautiful marriage of the basic and complex that's a true joy to play.
Cladun: This is an RPG! was developed by Nippon Ichi and published by NIS America on the PlayStation Network for the PSP on September 21. Retails for $US19.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through campaign until the last normal dungeon boss went down. Screwed about in the random dungeons. Still have much to do.