Many gamers that find themselves lost in the current generation of advanced videogame technology might yearn for the “good old days” of gaming, and some contemporary titles have attempted to recapture that spirit, for instance, the ninth and tenth installments of Capcom’s Mega Man series with their 8-bit-style visuals. Another game taking players back to that particular era is the System Prisma-developed, Nippon Ichi-published Classic Dungeon, translated into English as Cladun: This is an RPG!, which is in most instances a solid old-school experience with contemporary features.
Cladun’s structure is fairly methodical, consisting of a hub town where the player can shop for new equipment and items and access either randomized dungeons or the story dungeons necessary to advance the plotline. Players can also choose one of many characters to be the main character that actually traverses dungeons and fights enemies in real-time combat, with each ally also having many Magic Circles centered by the chosen character, the player able to place other characters onto adjacent circles with branches to squares into which players put stat-increasing items that consume a certain amount of Mana, each character having an amount that increases occasionally during leveling.
Characters other than the chosen hero uniquely serve as human shields for the controlled character in random or story dungeons, with everyone having a certain amount of hit points that spell death whenever enemies deplete them, and once all allies are gone, the active character himself or herself can take damage and ultimately die. Fortunately, death doesn’t severely punish the player, with the main character and whichever allies the player put into his Magic Circle obtaining experience for occasional levels-up and new Magic Circles.
The game mechanics work surprisingly well, with plenty variety and the need at time of characters of specific classes to get through the story dungeons, particularly bosses strong against physical attacks but weak against magic. Each character can equip three SP-consuming skills that have a cooldown period during which the player can’t use magic, and which the player can customize and empower with special items in most any Magic Circle. Granted, the difficulty can be at times hard depending upon the player’s Magic Circle setup and chosen character, and there is no pause button aside from the PSP’s sleep mode, but ultimately, the battle system definitely helps the game far more than hurts.
Cladun has a linear structure that serves the game well, with the player able to access shops and dungeons through a shortcut menu, although the aforementioned lack of a pause button somewhat dampers interaction, which is the end nonetheless well above average.
The plot is probably the weakest part of the game and by no means an excellent reward for completing some of the harder dungeons, with a paper-thin main plot and largely-underdeveloped heroes; the translation, however, is largely flawless.
The music, which the player can put into modern or retro mode, is one of the high points of the game, with plenty of catchy tunes in either setting. However, primitive sound effects also abound even on the modern setting, but otherwise, a nice-sounding game.
Cladun for the most part decently represents an RPG from the 8-bit era, although character sprites and environments are nice and colorful in spite of many palette-swapped enemies.
Finally, Cladun is of modest length, with a straightforward playthrough taking somewhere between twenty and thirty hours, although post-game content and extras can boost playing time well beyond that range.
All in all, Cladun: This is an RPG! is for the most part an enjoyable old-school-style RPG one could consider a “blast from the past,” although it contains fairly contemporary, but nonetheless great, mechanisms alongside enjoyable music and graphics, with the latter a nice throwback to 8-bit RPGs and the former having the potential to be as well, what with the modern and retro settings. Granted, those without an Internet connection for their PlayStation Portable will miss out on the game due to its digital-only release. Given that it would spawn a sequel, one could accurately term Cladun a success.
+Solid game mechanics with plenty variety.
+Nice music with retro remixes available.
+Decent old-school graphics.
+Plenty replay value.
-Only available digitally.
-Can be difficult.
-Story is fairly forgettable.
The Bottom Line:
Solid old-school-style action RPG.
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Playing Time: 20-30+ Hours