In case you didn't know, Cladun is a role-playing game on the PlayStation Portable. It's also a dungeon crawler set in a classic 8-bit universe where a handful of wacky characters somehow get together to work toward a common goal. Cladun: This is an RPG was recently announced by NIS America and is another quirky game that is being added to its repertoire. Much of the game's charm lies in its retro visuals, but there's a lot of personality in all of the characters you'll meet and there's also plenty to do in all the dungeons you'll explore. We spent a few hours with a preview build of the game and came away intrigued, especially with the option to play with up to three others cooperatively and competitively. Because we only had one build, we weren't able to test the multiplayer out, but there is the option to go treasure hunting with your friends using the ad hoc functionality.
The story revolves around a mysterious place known as Arcanus Cella, a forbidden land that is rumored to have an abundance of legendary treasure. This land has caught the interest of a feisty and crass girl named Pudding, who is constantly being shadowed by Souma, a young man whom her parents have sent to keep her out of trouble. Pudding, or Puddie as he affectionately calls her, is hell-bent on finding this treasure, without any regard for her safety. The dialogue between the two characters is hilarious because Souma doesn't seem to have much of a choice but to follow her dutifully and agree to her wishes, while she bosses him around like a slave. The story only sets the stage for your dungeon-crawling pleasure because you can also create your own original character pixel by pixel using the graphics editor. Apparently, there is the option to design the last boss as well.
Once we got some actual weapons, rather than a dinky tree branch--which Pudding so kindly suggested to Souma that he stick somewhere--we were able to start exploring and collecting goodies. The dungeons we explored weren't very big for the most part, but your time is recorded, and the faster you complete a dungeon, the higher chance you'll have of getting special items in the store. Combat is hack-and-slash, where you'll swing your sword with the X button and perform combo attacks by timing three hits in a row. The R button is used to dash, and you can hold the square to slide, or if you normally hold the square, you can block with your shield. Traps and other hazards are laid out in the dungeon, which you can deftly jump over using the circle button. Healing traps are also common, though, so you don't necessarily have to avoid everything. You should watch where you step, however, because grass, water, and other surfaces can slow you down or injure you.
Each dungeon you explore is randomly generated, and there are 99 for your exploring pleasure. You can only control one character at a time, and you can choose your main character. The other members of your party can support you as sub characters, where you can equip them in your "magic circle" and give them artifacts to boost their stats, which in turn helps you. Thus, when you get hit, the damage goes to your sub characters first, with them acting as human shields. When you level, your hit points and mana will go up and your sub character's attack and defense will increase. So to build solid characters, you'll want them to level as a sub first to give them better stats. For now, we know that there are warrior and magic-user-type jobs, which you can change at any time if you create your own character.
Given how many dungeons that you can explore, we've barely scratched the surface in this RPG. The presentation is incredibly charming, however, and the music, which can be toggled between retro-style sounds and more modern tones, is quite fitting and fun too. Look for Cladun: This is an RPG when it is released for the PSP on September 7.