Cladun‘s name is something of a misnomer. Cladun is a dungeon crawler that happens to have loosely related story bits between dungeons. Imagine Final Fantasy and Nethack got together and had a kid. Cladun is the newest in a series of new old games. The style is very similar to Half-Minute Hero and 3D Dot Game Heroes. There is a story, but the story is in no way, shape, or form the main draw of Cladun. I am thoroughly convinced that it only even exists because nobody would publish the game without a main story.
Mechanically, Cladun is pretty straightforward. You can walk, run, attack, and slide. Everything takes place in real time, and each dungeon is won by finding the exit. Take out the monsters or avoid them if that is more to your liking. Either is a valid way to complete a dungeon. As you play through the campaign many characters will become available to you. Any one of these characters can be used as the main character. All of the other characters are still useful (more useful than the main in some cases) as support characters. Each support character acts as a shield for your main character and some imbue special abilities that the main character can use. The system Cladun uses to manage the main character, his support characters, and all the bonuses and extra shield HP that they represent is called the Magic Circle. You will be changing mains quite a bit if you are interested in being as efficient as possible in combat because some dungeons are full of enemies that are resistant to all but one type of attack and only one of your characters has access to that type of attack. And that is okay – it serves to make combat more interesting, and it adds a layer of planning and strategy over what could have been a very shallow crawl through a purposefully antiquated-looking dungeon.
The Magic Circle with its slots that imbue different bonuses on different support characters works symbiotically with the random dungeon (Rangeon to use the in-game parlance) system. Each random dungeon has 100 floors, and you have input into the randomness. There are four exits from each floor in a Rangeon, and selecting each door affects things like monster difficulty, item drop rate, rare item drop rate, and so on. Choose an easy gate and the next floor could contain no monsters (or very easy monsters). Choose the wrong gate, however, and every monster is level 999. And when you are ready to call it a day and take your spoils back to camp a normal exit gate is never too far away (unless you went into a hell gate in which case you are dead).
If you grew up playing Rogue, Nethack and NES/SNES-era JRPGs, then Cladun will be a great addition to your PSP library. Just be prepared to neglect everything else you own because much like the Item World in Disgaea, Cladun‘s Rangeon has the perfect balance of risk and reward to grab you and not let go.
Pros: Deep and rewarding party customization, random dungeon makes for great replay value
Cons: Magic Circle can take a while to learn, the story is presented as the main mode when it is clear that more development was spent on the Rangeon system