Classic Dungeons on (Fairly) Modern Hardware

Think Cladun looks old-school? Wait until you play it. We did and decided to write a few words about it.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: July 16, 2010
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Say what you will about some of the games NIS America has published in the past couple years, but there can be no doubt that the home base of Nippon Ichi Software has been cranking out some of Japan's most creative takes on genres that have otherwise gotten rather stale. They've been on something of a dungeon crawling kick as of late, though, with the Acquire-developed What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord?! (nee Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman) and the recently-released sequel. While Cladun: This is an RPG captures the same 8-bit style, the actual interaction is far more... well, action-oriented.

Better known by the slightly less mashed-up title of Classic Dungeon in Japan, Cladun is the perfect example of how the US publishing wing of the Japanese developer is re-focusing on a smaller number of titles that do more with each release. Despite the title, this isn't just an RPG, it's a smattering of different elements from related genres that have fused to become a weird combination of retro looks and an ultra-modern rethinking of the games that used the share the particularly blocky art style the game effuses so well.

Let's go over some of the basics, shall we? You certainly do crawl through dungeons, but they're far twitchier, rife with walls of flame to jump over and enemies that race at the player or fire off volleys of projectiles while navigating various traps. You'll journey with other players, but their placement in your party determines their stats and abilities and they take damage from the real-time interaction with the world before you do. The game sports a proper, lush soundtrack but can easily swap to awesome chiptune-style goodness at the flick of a menu option. Oh, and you can "finish" the game by walking away from your duty as early as about 10 minutes into the game, complete with a full credits roll.

But that's getting a bit too broad. When we sat down to take the hacky, slashy PSP crawl for a ride, we were immediately introduced to the main character -- one that takes a default form and name, along with his friends, but can be customized with a ridiculously deep sprite editor (everything from various directions to animations can be user-built and shared). We won't spoil some of the dialogue, but with a title that carries the This is an RPG sub, it's pretty obvious how fourth wall-breaking things are going to be. There are plenty of tongue-in-cheek references to the tropes from the genre, and it was actually a little surprising how often we caught ourselves stifling a jovial outburst.
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