Short Version: It’s slightly above average. Strangely enough, there are moments where it’s either too short or too long. Too easy or too difficult. Too simple or too complicated. There’s never any middle ground to anything in this game, which makes it difficult to both talk about and recommend. I had fun, but it felt a bit repetitive after a while.
Long Version: Cladun Return: This is Sengoku! is a dungeon crawling action RPG that takes place during Sengoku-era Japan. You play as a customizable character that’s dead, and the only way for you to reincarnate is for you to help other dead spirits with their problems so they are reborn as well. Usually the way to do this is is by going into dungeons and killing monsters. Pretty simple concept, but there’s actually a lot going on beneath the surface, maybe a little too much.
After The Afterlife
The beginning of the game can get pretty overwhelming with it immediately starting to explain everything the moment you start without getting a chance to breath. There are a lot of buildings to go to for upgrades or shops, most of which you’ll forget what they do or forget that you even need them. Even when visiting, there are a ton of icons and pieces of information to manage that can make things confusing very easily. Fortunately, none of this is required and you are free to fight in whatever way you want.
The dungeon crawling is actually pretty simple. You gear up your custom character, give it one of many weapons and beat a handful of levels in a chapter, with usually a boss at the end. Most of these are incredibly short, with many of them being beatable in less than a minute. After fighting, you can level up, upgrade your stuff, rinse and repeat. It’s simple, a bit repetitive, but also addicting when on a winning streak. Eventually, you’re going to have to interact with the Magic Circle, which is pretty important for survival, but a bit of a chore to deal with.
Micromanaging: This is Sengoku!
The Magic Circle wasn’t a thing that I was a fan of, for I found it way too convoluted for what I was actually using it for. For a game that’s all about just walking up to enemies and whacking them until they fall over, It’s pretty confusing to work with and was difficult to remember everything about it. This is especially true when considering all the different combinations you can make with all the characters you can create.
In my experience, I just dealt with only a few circles for my starting character and never expanded to others, since it was very time-consuming to level them all up to where I currently was. I had no problems in just having four or five strong dudes and ignoring everyone else. One thing that I couldn’t really ignore though was the visuals.
There’s a really strange contrast with the pixel art in the environment and the one for the characters. Anything from the hub area, the interiors and dungeons look very pretty. There’s a lot of really good shading and attention to detail in a way that puts the character sprites to shame. I hate to sound rude, but anything that isn’t the environment looks out of place and sloppy. From your customizable character to even the NPCs and enemies, the quality ranges from looking passable to flat-out ugly.
It’s like two different people were hired to make the environments and characters sprites, and one of them was working with Microsoft Paint. It’s very jarring seeing such a good looking and detailed environment contain characters that lack all of those things, which takes me out of the experience entirely. It’s all the detail, but also no none of it all at once, like Paper Mario exploring the Fallout universe.
This is Sengoku?
The game certainly lends itself to bite-sized play sessions, especially when playing on the go with the PS Vita version, but sometimes I feel that it’s all a little too short. Especially when considering the Magic Circle, upgrades and all the little intricacies within your equipment, it seems like it’s not worth it to worry about it all when you spend less than a minute smacking enemies and running to the exit of every level. Most of the behind-the-scenes stuff is more fitted to preparing for the bullet-spongy boss fights, which can usually be beat in very cheap ways anyway.
Overall, this game is decent, but not great or outstanding in any way other than the soundtrack. The pixel art is a jarring and the gameplay is way too simple for something way too complicated under the hood. Some levels are way too short while some take forever. The story is entirely forgettable, along with its completely flat sense of humor. The whole game is just a constant series of “way too much” or “way too little” with no balance or middle ground to hold it all together. The dungeon crawling itself can be fun for a bit, but I wouldn’t recommend you spend hours on it, for it gets repetitive very quickly.