June 16, 2017
Nippon Ichi Software
Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! is the next instalment of the popular and well loved 8-bit role playing game – Cladun: This is an RPG. Its predecessor before it was known for being difficult, frustrating and down right ludicrous, which is why it’s garnered the respect of its fan base. The sequel that is soon to be released stands side to side with the same challenges and difficulties but with an all new storyline.
Set during the Sengoku period in Japan, we arrive in Arcanus Cella, a town riddled with lost spirits. In this realm, spirits are unable to pass through into the cycle of resurrection due to the regret they are burdened with. This regret is fueled from the atrocities that occurred during feudal war between rival Lords. It’s you’re job as a Lord to liberate the spirits back into the reincarnation cycle. Some can be saved, whilst others will be lost to regret.
If you were ever looking for a challenge and wanted to face absolute adversity, this game is for you. I have no previous experience playing the predecessor of Cladun Returns, and I think that put me on the back-foot a little when first starting out.
Collecting good loot and getting lots of levels alone will not help you complete this game. There are a lot of intricate systems and components which you’re required to master to avoid stagnating your progression. For example, the Magic Circles is a system in the game used to strengthen your Lord and the team that supports him. But it can either help you if you strategise and plan correctly, or put you at a disadvantage if you don’t pay attention to what you’re configuring. At first it feels unnecessarily complicated, but it’s an integral component to this game and you eventually get used to it.
The game starts out pretty slow, with dungeons that aren’t too difficult that allows you to learn the basic mechanics and gameplay features. This fair, gentle and supportive approach doesn’t last long, however. After a few dungeons you face your first boss battle which is where I hit my first wall. The fight mechanics are tough; the boss takes very little damage from you, and your character is by no means ready for this fight. I was already stuck and I’d barely started.
It took me several tries until I realised that I needed to grind the previous dungeons multiple times to collect loot and money for upgrades and to unlock stronger Magic Circles for my characters. At first I disliked this because the changes I applied after grinding for a few hours didn’t really help me beat the first boss. It made playing Cladun Returns hard and I was very demotivated.
My progress was stagnated and I was frustrated, but in a moment of fury I realised my characters were not optimised and I wasn’t building them properly. A level of appreciation washed over me as I concluded that I shouldn’t just be farming for the strongest gear and building my character with them, I needed to align the Magic Circle system alongside my character’s gear and skills. With this realisation I accepted that this game was for the hardcore grinding fans and it was all about numbers and synergy.
The Magic Circle system allows you to customise a team of warriors that don’t fight beside you but are technically present during every dungeon. Their skills and abilities aren’t used in fights, but their stats (depending on how you build them) stack onto your main character, or Lord. It’s not an easy system to explain to be honest, and working it out took me a few hours (with extra time googling for details and explanations).
This game can be very unforgiving because it wants its players to earn their items, levels and progress. If you don’t dodge, you’re pretty much dead. If your Magic Circle isn’t optimised, you wont complete the dungeon. If you don’t reinforce your Fort correctly (another stat building element of this game) you’ll continue to stagnate.
At first, I didn’t mind rerunning the same chapters because I was finding gear to sell and upgrade, but after a short time this stopped being reasonable. I got strong enough to complete 4 chapters of the main storyline but then I hit another brick wall. The class I selected wasn’t optimised for the builds I was running and the dungeons I was running was crippling my team. I needed to start again – and therein lies a major problem for anyone interested in Cladun Returns. You’ll need to create multiple new characters to work out what is viable.
One component of the game which does help reduce the repetitive nature of playing the same chaptered dungeons is unlocking the 99 floor dungeons, called Neo-Geons and Tri- Geons. These give you up to 99 floors to grind and no floor is the same. The only downside is whenever you pass through a new gate, you have to roll the stats for the next floor and this can also be unforgiving depending on your luck.
As the game progresses to the later chapters there’s a noticeable increase in the difficulty of the gameplay, and although Cladun Return: This is Sengoku is everything you’d want an RPG to be, there are some problems which spoil the fun. The enemy hit boxes seem a little off; they’re not placed well and this causes issues when you’re swinging your mighty spear and 2 of your swings hit but the third one doesn’t and then the fourth one does even though you and the enemy haven’t moved positions. This made dying very frustrating, especially if you’d beaten that very same monster many times before. Another issue I ran into when originally starting this game up on my PS4 was that it’s not well scaled for large TVs. The output ratio for a 51″ TV wasn’t right, so I ended up having to plug my PS4 into my 24″ PC monitor to avoid having half my screen truncated due to the output ratio not being compatible with 16:9.
Once you get past some of the initial roadblocks and points of frustration, things become very rewarding. That’s only if you’re willing to put hours of time and effort into getting past major roadblocks and learning curves.
“A lot of games now reward the lazy gamer, which I dislike, so Cladun Returns is a breath of fresh air in that regard.”
When you start getting the hang of the challenges you figure out what weapons work best for your class and what Magic Circle combinations are best (which does require added research at times). Once you reach this point you’re well on your way to playing the game as intended. After passing the initial few hurdles myself, I started finding a rhythm and passion for the effort put into the mechanics, detail, and pure grit that’s required to play Cladun Returns. I think Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! is what most games should be – fun, challenging but intricate in delivery. A lot of games now reward the lazy gamer, which I dislike, so Cladun Returns is a breath of fresh air in that regard.
It kept on giving, and for at me at least, I found myself going back to memories of the good old days where playing games wasn’t about amazing graphics, but rather the time and effort put into attempting to accomplish something that took weeks to achieve. It was nice to have that sense of accomplishment wash over me when I finally beat the first boss after 1 save file and 10 hours of effort later. However, whilst I’m personally a big fan of Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! (regardless of the infuriating moments I had learning to play the game), I think anyone without a sense of challenge will not enjoy how much it punishes you for trying to learn how to play. It can be very casual if that’s your intention, but be ready to get stuck a lot.
- Hours of Fun
- Diverse character types, skills and abilities
- Nostalgic 8-bit environment
- Punishing to new players
- Controls need some tweaking
- Can become repetitive and mundane
Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! hasn’t really changed since its predecessors introduced themselves to the gaming community. It tries to build on features and challenges previously loved in earlier iterations, and does a pretty good job of it. But be ready to grind, get frustrated and have oodles of patience handy before you fall in love with it, as it’s a little unforgiving and takes time to get used to.