NIS America has built its reputation on bringing some of Japan’s more obscure titles of to North America and letting them be enjoyed by a whole new group of players and so far 2017 has been a banner year for the publisher. The latest title to grace our shores is Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! which, similarly to the previous games in the series is an action-RPG where you try to clear multiple dungeons in as quick a time as possible. This time around the game takes place in the Japan’s Sengoku period and has your hero (who is dead) completing tasks for the other inhabitants of purgatory in an attempt to help them finish what they have left undone.
Here you will fight enemies, solve rudimentary puzzles and challenges as you strive to find the exit – rinse and repeat. In between these dungeons you’ll wander around town, upgrading your gear, spending your coin and accepting new quests. This simple rotation of gameplay has both its advantages and setbacks though. On one hand the game is a perfect game to ‘vedge’ out to, and just sink ours to mindless repetitive gameplay. On the other hand its also well… mindless and repetitive.
Like previous games in the series the dungeons in Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! are short… very short, sometimes being able to be run through in less than a minute. This sets up another part of the challenge, completing the game has fast as humanly possible. This lends to the game a unique feel that you won’t find in any other action RPG series. However these short, bite sized dungeons that you’re running through get repetitive real fast, especially since you’ll be playing them over and over again, not only to grind XP but because of the game’s trial and error style of gameplay. You see, before entering a dungeon you have no real idea if you’re actually prepared to take it on, so you need to enter, fail and then go get better gear. The nice thing is that you can train multiple avatars at the same time thanks to the Magic Circle mechanic which lets you create ‘parties’ to your heart’ content, so even if you fail at the dungeon you will likely do better next time.
Cladun Returns is the type of game that, depending on what type of player you are you will either get tons of playtime and value out of it or very little. I say this because you can either choose to simply fly through the game’s dungeons (of which there are over 100) or meticulously plan your approach and take on every one of the game’s micro-dungeons as if it required a whole different strategy. Of course the game’s difficulty also plays into this as the game features a very steep difficulty curve where one level can be a walk in the park followed by a walk through hell. That being said for $39.99, a bargain in today’s gaming market, you get a pretty meaty game with enough depth… if you decide to go find it.
As you can tell by the screenshots and trailer in this article, Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! features a retro style aesthetic that marries 8 and 16-bit visuals into a unique and charming art style. The character designs are particularly charming and cute and look great in HD. That being said the game’s environments, namely the dungeons, all kind of blend together and remind me of a mishmash of Lego blocks. This tapestry of pixels is actually so dense that it can be sometimes be heard to determine what is a traversable floor or an impassible wall making it difficult to navigate a new dungeon effectively. The game’s soundtrack sadly suffers the same fate as the gameplay, being repetitive and mildly annoying, though I will say the village tune will stay stuck in your head for hours after you turn off the game.
If you are in the market for the type of game that offers a hearty challenge, statistical depth but also allows you to turn off your brain for a while then Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! may be right up your alley. That being said if you require a deep narrative and gameplay variety then you should probably stay clear. Now while this game may not be favorite NIS America title of 2017 it is a solid entry for the publisher and we can’t wait for Cladun to return once again.
A copy of Caldun Returns: This is Sengoku! was provided to Link-Cable by the publisher for the purpose of this review.