Cladun may be returning alright but this is my first meeting with the series considering I never played the original PSP game back in 2010. Playing This is Sengoku! on PS4, I’m finding myself having a lot of fun with its brief, but many, levels which make it great for both short and long bursts.
This is certainly a game that’s a perfect fit for Vita too but alas, I have to sit in my room in my Cladun cosplay as I journey through the world of Arcanus Cella. Your character, who you create, wakes up to find out that they’re dead — not the best thing to wake up to, I’d imagine. Other souls come and go but some are missing their bodies and memories, and they aren’t able to properly pass on. It turns out that there’s a bit of an issue sending a soul onwards, and it’s up to you to traverse the dungeons as you unravel the mysteries of Arcanus Cella and solve the souls’ quests.
Each chapter has no less than five stages with many being able to be cleared within a minute, but they shouldn’t take you more than a small handful of minutes at most anyway — there’s room to explore, but if you’re only heading for the goal then you’ll be clearing them super quickly. The stages are not procedurally generated like many other similar games to this are, and you’re encouraged to revisit stages to reach a faster clear time — watch out for the various dangerous traps, of course.
You can do simple attacks, guard, run, jump and slide, and battles are simple — you should aim to attack an enemy from the side of behind to inflict more damage, as there aren’t a whole lot of gameplay options available to you otherwise. You can easily be floored by an enemy when attacked head on but you’ll want to battle to earn money because some items are so damn expensive! Equipment to increase your base stats won’t run you dry, but buying things to increase your health will cost you a pretty penny that’ll wound you every time.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the Magic Circle mechanic where you can create team members with their own stats and abilities. You can play as these characters or add them to your party as extra health, and you can equip items to them so that they’re more resilient — your main character will only take damage once these characters have fallen in battle. This adds a nice layer of strategy to the game and it becomes vital in later stages and against bosses, especially as you alone will never be overflowing with HP. It’s great to be able to switch between classes and utilise different weapons and abilities too.
Cladun Returns is inspired by retro games which is clear in its pixelated visuals and four directional gameplay. The sprite work is crisp and fluid – something which can be easily appreciated – and it looks wonderful in motion. You know what doesn’t look nearly as wonderful? The massive spiders you have to fight, but that’s mostly because of my disdain for the eight-legged menace. You’ll travel to real-world locations based on the feudal Japan period, and in general it’s a rather pretty game. There’s a small pool of customisation options to play with but I enjoyed creating characters and changing their hair colour and the like.
A cool feature is that you can turn off the black lines that go around all characters, switch from modern to retro music and use smooth text or more retro text. Whilst these don’t change the game in any meaningful way, it’s nice to have the option to customise the game in its entirety to some degree — I personally opted for modern music and text. There’s no voice-acting other than a few sound bites, and you’ll mostly have the music and sound effects to keep you company.
Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! is something I found myself enjoying a lot, despite getting my arse handed to me more than a few times. The stages may be short but there’s plenty to do, and there’s quite a lot of depth to a game that’s so simple on the surface. Undeniably a very niche title, Cladun’s return will likely be an overlooked one but it’s a fun game that may surprise you with how addicting it is. I may have played it on PS4 but I feel that this game is a perfect fit for Vita, and it’s worth a go at the very least.