There are few things as gratifying as a well done dungeons crawler. You know, the ones that harken back to the beloved challenging formula of yesterday, with those wonderful pixelated graphics and sometimes unforgiving foes, but rewarding treasure for those who could survive. For many older gamers, titles like Zelda were our first introduction to the dungeon crawler and many others have come since then. Today games have become considerably more sophisticated, now occupying the realm of 3D for the better part of 20 years, tabbing these early experiences as retro. But, nostalgia is a strong motivation and the latest entry in the classic Cladun series, Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! grabs a hold of that nostalgic formula and looks to take players back in time, while delivering on some now modern conventions. We’ve selected it as one of our Top 5 RPGs of 2017: June and have put together this preview to help you learn more.
Developed by: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
Published by: NIS America, Inc.
Release date: June 6th NA, June 9th EU
Platforms: PS4, PC, PS Vita
- Pixel-Perfect Customization – Design your character’s appearance and equipment down to the individual pixel with the pixel editor! Once you’re done, share the data to let other players add them to their own game!
- Magic Circle Power – With the Magic Circle system, your allies can empower and protect your character! Assign artifacts and arrange them into formations to maximize your power and abilities.
- Madcap Multiplayer – Team up with your friends in Co-op Mode to take on dungeons, or compete in Versus Mode to collect the most points! Speed-run lovers can also try to secure a spot in the online leaderboards by clearing dungeons as fast as possible!
Story & Setting
The game takes place in the famous Sengoku period of Japanese history during which Japan was mired in a series of internal wars and rebellions. The souls of the lords are trapped in Arcanus Cella and must take care of their unfinished tasks before reincarnating. Your mission will be to clear the dungeons and liberate their souls to enlist them as allies.
Numerous lords from this era in history will be present and not all of them will be found in the main story. There will be many side dungeons for you to explore in order to liberate all 50 of the lords. Famous lords that we’ve seen in recent games like Nioh are all present and include Naomasa Ii, Musashi Miyamoto, Muneshige Tachibana, and Kiyomasa Kato to name a few.
The pixelated landscape is a fictionalized representation of the land during this time and should look familiar to fans of old school gaming such as that found in the Zelda series of games and everything is delightfully designed with a pixel editor that captures the era and the game’s retro vibe.
The core of the gameplay revolves around diving into various dungeons spread across Sengoku era Japan, and finding clues for each of the Lord’s regrets. You’ll dungeon dive and use your weapons and abilities to tackle their various enemies and traps.
You will select from several available jobs (Omyogi, Samurai, Sorcere, Swordsman, Saint, Vile Priest) and will create your own unique character via the game’s pixel editor (as well as your own music!). These jobs have the standard spread of roles/class orientations and you can change jobs but doing so resets your level back to 1, but you do carry over some stats and abilities. As you progress you can take on advanced jobs, Tactician, Shaman and Ninja which let you specialize in some advanced gameplay mechanics like killing bosses.
In Arcanus Cella, you will make your base of operations. At this base you will make use of various facilities to buy equipment and make other preparations for journeying into dungeons. You will buy items, weapons, armor and shields to hardy up and get ready for the tough trials. Here you will also be able to create new characters to play us, and accept new quests that you can complete to earn rare rewards and fame which will unlock some more special features. At your base, you will also find a blacksmith that allows you to add titles to your weapons which increases their power and effects such as boosting their attack or adding HP. You increase your stats by fortifying the castle found at your base, through purchasing wall stones. The more you expand the castle, the more stones you can add to the structure.
Once you’re all ready to tackle the world, you will make your way to the game’s signature dungeons which are famous Japanese sites from the Sengoku Era. The dungeons feature famous feudal lords from history as souls. Some of the locations you’ll be visiting are Osaka Castle, Anegawa, and Mutsu.
Once you enter a dungeon you will have to fight your way in real time through it, making use of your attacks, skills and buffs. Along the way you will take on a multitude of monsters and traps. You will find a boss at the end of every dungeon and these are powerful foes from Japanese folklore, all designed to be deadly but with attack patterns you can surmise if you pay attention. Of course, no dungeon crawl is ever truly complete without proper rewards and there will be plenty of chests and treasure to obtain.
In addition to the main dungeons, Cladun Returns features dungeons called Ran-geons and Tri-geons. In Ran-geons the layout of the floors and enemies change each time you enter. Hence the ran-dom prefix. The foes in these areas are much more difficult than normal but they also result in better items and weapons with better titles. Within Ran-geons you will find Neo-gens that have multiple gates you must enter through. Each time you enter the gate, different effects happen such as stronger enemies, more items dropping and warping to other floors. You’ll have to explore each until you get to the 99th floor, facing a boss every 10 floors. If it sounds like a lot it is, but the focus of these is grinding for those valuable items or levels
In Tri-geons as the name implies you’ll be tackling 3 different types of Ran-geons, normal, chaos, and heaven. In these you will have to reach the 99th floor while moving in and out of these different dungeons. Normal ones have…well, normal enemies and items. Chaos pits you against tough enemies in exchange for items with more titles. If you land a heaven you will be able to obtain items with great titles.
But wait! There’s more dungeons! Extra dungeons will appear as you progress through the main story, and for every main story dungeon you will find an EX dungeon which contain much more powerful monsters. Within these you will find 50 lord souls wandering their halls which you can release by defeating the dungeon. Once you liberate their soul, you can recruit these famous lords from history as comrades. Which is admittedly, pretty cool.
Your tools of death fall under 8 different weapon types: katana, hammers, staves, spears, bows, daggers, shurikens, and sickles and you’ll mix and match these depending on the job you’ve chosen and the type of dungeon you’re tackling. As mentioned through dungeoneering and upgrading you will be able to add titles that improve the characteristics of these weapons.
Cladun Returns features an enhancement system called Magic Circles which you create formations that allow you to use allies called Vassals to protect your player character. When you enter a dungeon, they will act as shields for you and the amount of vassals you can have and where you can place them depends on the Magic Circle formation you use.
The game also features multiplayer that allows for competitive and cooperative play. In versus mode you compete to gather the most treasure. In co-op you team up to tackle tough bosses. There is even a multiplayer only Death-geon (these prefixes though…) that lets you team up to tackle the hardest dungeons the game has to offer in exchange for the best items you can find. In these dungeons, even a max level character can die in one hit. Rounding out the online offering are asynchronous features like leaderboards and sharing your pixel creations.
Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! looks like a wonderful experience. It travels through the beloved era of Japanese history we’ve seen recently explored in Nioh and kicks it old school dungeon crawling style while also bringing along modern multiplayer options. There is a ton of content here, and dungeon grinding enthusiasts should have something to dig into for a long time. There’s a great color and fun approach to the game that makes this a potential hidden gem.