Cthulhu Saves the World and provides a fun RPG experience

Review of Cthulhu Saves the World on XBLIG: Buy
Zeboyd Games’ spiritual successor to Breath of Death VII is funny and improves upon an excellent RPG.

If you’ve played Zeboyd Games’ Breath of Death VII, much of Cthulhu Saves the World will look familiar, as it’s built on the same engine and retains many of the same game mechanics.  What impressed me most about this game is how much they’ve built on the original formula. Breath of Death was an excellent game, and I have no doubt that they could have successfully released a game that simply offered a new storyline on top of the same style and gameplay.

The story and dialogue are surprisingly well-written. Like many humorous appearances of the mythos in geek culture, Cthulhu Saves the World could have coasted by on some phoned-in, obvious Lovecraftian references. However, Cthulhu takes a Final Fantasy-style world, weaves in several more obscure references to elements of the Cthulhu mythos (Nyarlathotep makes an appearance, and towns are named Innsmouth, Dunwitch, Kingsport, and Miskatonia), and yet still has its own mythos.

On top of this, the dialogue is witty.  Cthulhu is stricken with a curse that drains him of his power, and to break it, must become a true hero. He’s as sarcastic and cynical at this situation as one might expect an unholy creature from beyond the stars to be. He’s also prone to break the fourth wall.  Dialog between the narrator, Cthulhu, and the other six characters punctuates every twist and turn in the story.

The most obvious difference between Cthulhu and Breath is the quality of the graphics. If Breath was trying to emulate the 8-bit Dragon Warrior for the NES, then Cthulhu is trying to emulate the 16-bit graphics of Final Fantasy II on the SNES.  The color palette is noticeably expanded.  Gone are the black battle screens, which are now replaced with scenic backgrounds based on the location.  Character portraits accompany almost all of the dialogue, and there is even the occasional cutscene which illustrates the story in a series of comic book panels.

The basics of gameplay and combat haven’t really changed from BreathCthulhu attempts to add some depth to combat by rewarding players for using status effects.  For example, the most prominent status effect, Insanity, weakens some monsters while making others stronger, and can affect certain other abilities and attacks. (For example, there’s a sword in the game that does +50% damage to Insane creatures.)  A new item type, the “1-UP,” can be collected alongside potions and allow you to restart a battle when you’re defeated—which I found made the already efficient random encounter system even less painful.

Out-of-combat gameplay has also seen a host of improvements.  There are now seven playable characters which can be swapped in and out of the four-person party.  A “Teleport” option sends the party back to any town, and can be used at any time.  Weapons and armor can now be sold back to merchants (although the game still doesn’t have a full-fledged inventory system).  Weapon and armor shops now offer a “compare” feature, making it easier to decide whether to buy that new piece of equipment.

For extra replay value, Cthulhu adds Highlander and Overkill to Breath’s Score Attack mode which are unlocked when the game is completed.  Highlander mode restricts the party to only one character at a time, but increases experience bonuses.  Overkill mode starts the game with fully maxed-out characters.

Not surprisingly, I give this game a Buy.  With excellent gameplay and writing, it’s a truly entertaining classic RPG experience.  And at 240 points, it seems to be considerably longer than the 80-point Breath of Death.

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