Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.
Maybe it’s just a case of right place, right time for Robert Boyd and his parody throwback RPGs. Right place as in the Xbox Live Indie Games channel which rarely sees titles with this amount of development time and polish put into it. Right time as in the age where publishers are flooding the market with cheaper and cheaper imitations of whatever they think is popular, caring only to push technological limits while never considering what many of us want first and foremost in a game: Be fun and be creative.
Cthulhu Saves the World is fun. It’s very fun, and creative? Who else could think this stuff up? And in a world where fun and creativity aren’t appreciated nearly as much as they should, Zeboyd has found a place in my heart. The game not only brings back the classic JRPG, it breathes new life into the genre as well.
In the title you play as H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic monstrosity Cthulhu, who naturally has risen to destroy the world. However while attempting to do so, a mysterious stranger appears at the eleventh hour and seals your powers away, and the only way to get them back is to become a true hero. Good conflict as the main character is inherently evil and simply must do good in an attempt to regain his horrible powers so that he may destroy the very earth and the people he’s saving from other monsters. Hilarity abounds as the curse also inhibits Cthulhu from striking fear into anyone, so his epic lines of terror are met with NPC niceties. It’s more than one all-powerful abomination can take I tell yah!
The game expands on what made Zeboyd’s first title (Breath of Death VII) great — a sense of nostalgia, fast paced battles with a good combo system and the almighty deathblows, different attribute options at level-up, easy saving, a random encounter limit and plenty of chests to find off the beaten path; and like BoD, you can start a fight anytime you want by choosing the option from the menu — certainly appropriate with the arrogant protagonist you control. You can also spend plenty of extra time exploring all the standard towns and dungeons across the world map as well. Secrets abound if you’re willing to check the nooks and crannies and fight the additional random battles required to do so.
As far as battles go the action can be dictated by any pace of your choosing. The fights are turn based, and efficiency is still the key when you get into a tussle as monsters grow stronger as each turn goes by. Get going to fast and forget strategy however, and you’ll find yourself in a whole heap of trouble. This holds especially true for the boss battles which if you approach them the right way from the start aren’t too difficult, but if you just go in swinging, prepare to go down swinging. A healthy balance of special and standard attacks makes for the smoothest of victories, but rely too much on moves that require magic and you’ll find yourself up shit’s creek when you run into a midboss with a depleted MP supply.
At times I noticed the game felt a bit easy, but I found out that wasn’t actually the case. The cunning of the system is that it lulls you to sleep with confidence, then drops a big boy on you when you’re least expecting it. By the time you realize what’s going on you’re emptying your inventory of potions, desperately trying to keep the party afloat.
The music ranges from good to fantastic with several memorable tracks (the tutorial, world map and battle songs stick out in my mind) that will have you feeling like you’re playing something off a SNES cartridge or PS1 disc. A true RPG OST to be sure.
Cthulhu also somehow tops BoD in the humor department. An evil tyrant forced to be a rookie hero? Classic, and as omnipotent as he is, Cthulhu breaks the fourth wall any chance he can to call out the narrator for his “foolishness.” Seriously, the tutorial had me in stitches, thank god the game has an easy control scheme otherwise I wouldn’t know what the hell to do as I was too busy laughing at the banter between the narrator and Cthulhu to even care what the controls were.
It doesn’t stop there though, every dialog break with the characters comes animated with pictures and there’s also a chat feature in the menu that often provides funny backstory as characters can small talk with one another throughout the adventure. The results of which are some very classic moments and tons of laughs. For all the good of the gameplay the writing just seems to always fit perfectly and really is the unsung hero of the title. It’s what makes Robert Boyd’s games “parody RPGs” and not something more generic. While the game looks and feels like something you’ve played before the bottom line is that it isn’t. It’s as original as they come.
It seems it was well worth the wait for Zeboyd’s sophomore effort. The $2 upgrade shows immediately. Cthulhu adds on to all the good of BoD plus adds more polish such as actual backdrops for battles that reflect the area instead of the black background from BoD. The story does what only good parody can do, take what we already know and have seen before and make us see it from a different light. It does this on several levels, but specifically with a story that strays both from the typical RPG plotlines and from what Cthulhu is known for.
The game delivers on every front it intended to and goes above and beyond that in several areas. $3 is nothing for what you get in return, and if you have any sort of affinity for old school style RPGs done right, Cthulhu’s simply a can’t miss.