Cthulhu Saves the World ReviewJoe Shaffer
Up from the depths and out of his slumber rose Cthulhu, an ancient, world-destroying extraterrestrial with a penchant for spreading insanity. As an RPG hero in the game Cthulhu Saves the World, the tentacled creature couldn't very well destroy the world as an objective. So the developers at Zeboyd decided to curb his evil powers by sending a mage to seal them. However, Cthulhu would not stand for this. Using his remaining villainous abilities, particularly those that broke the fourth wall, Cthulhu spied on the game's narrator and discovered that the only way to restore his powers was to commit acts of goodness. It was with this revelation that the new hero/villain embarked on an evil quest to do good; to save the world so he could watch it burn.
Although I delighted in the game's sense of humor, it wasn't a center stage element for me. Neither was the snarky cast of characters, featuring an infatuated groupie mage, an alien cat, and a sentient sword to name a few. These were fantastic bonuses, but they didn't make or break the game. What impressed me most about Cthulhu Saves the World was its battle system.
It's odd that in a genre now so overdone that I would pick an element that seems resistant to expansion or evolution these days. Sure, other games have sported "original" battle systems, mostly infused with gimmicky concepts or painfully elaborate and unnecessary rules (Magna Carta, I'm looking in your direction). Cthulhu Saves cut this nonsense, instead giving me a more streamlined version of the combat system I remembered from earlier RPGs; a system built of basic menus with commands used to obliterate cool-looking enemy sprites. Yet, despite its typical design, this one contained a fresh feature that allowed me to speed through battles in a matter of seconds. This is because the game's attack animations were so fast and fluid that I didn't sit through a dramatic production while in combat. Thanks to that, I was sometimes able to mash the 'A' button to select attack repeated and watch enemies perish in no time, and without putting much thought into the encounter. There were times, though, that the game tossed me a few screwballs that forced me to strategize. Mostly, these roadblocks were in the form of enemies that had certain resistances or enemy parties with powerful tanks that needed to be dealt with immediately. I enjoyed that, as it kept me on my toes but still didn't consume much of my time thanks to the swift animations.
When I grew tired of standard attacks, I reveled in awesome techniques and spells. While that might sound trite, the game boasted a combo system that added spice to skills. Landing hits allowed me to build up a combo meter, with certain techniques sometimes hitting several times per use. Using special attacks called "combo finishers," I spent my amassed combo points to execute devastating attacks, with higher point values resulting in more inflicted pain. This system was instrumental in defeating most bosses quickly, which absolutely needed to happen before they became ridiculously overpowered.
You might wonder what could cause a boss to eventually grow so powerful. This is due to a system originally used in Breath of Death VII: The Beginning that caused foes' stats to increase with each passing turn. In other words, I had to defeat my opponents quickly or else face decimation. Believe me, there were times that it didn't look like I could fell my adversaries quickly enough. Such times were tense, almost stressful, but oh so satisfying when I pulled out all the stops and won the conflict.
What aided me in streamlined slaughter was a smart leveling system. With each level a character gained, I received a choice between two permanent boosts. This meant carefully considering what kind of build I wanted a character to take on. Some choices, for instance, accentuated physical prowess by augmenting a character's strength or defense, while others emphasized magic-related stats like intelligence. I wasn't limited to predetermined, preconstructed characters that may or may not be of value. With smart choices, every character could be of strategic importance.
If I had any gripe about this speedy adventure, it was the dungeon designs. Don't get me wrong, I liked how fleshed out and elaborate they were, but their convoluted layouts sometimes made them needlessly difficult or overwhelming to navigate. At times I would get lost and forget which paths I'd previously taken, causing me to take too long to plod my way through some dungeons. Thankfully, each area has a finite number of random encounters. Without said encounters, though, dungeons boiled down to long, undisturbed trudges through winding hallways.
I'm okay with one small flaw, though, especially when this game did everything in its power to charm me with witty jokes and numerous references to various H.P. Lovecraft stories. At one point, for example, I rushed into the town of Innsmouth where I battled fish-people and squared off against their lord, Dagon. Other Lovecraftian nasties like Shoggoth also made appearances, not to mention familiar plot devices and archetypes. All the while, Cthulhu makes a slew of snarky comments:
"I can save anytime? What is this, a first-person shooter?"
"Hark! My Cthulhu sense are tingling! There's a hot chick in the vicinity!"
Eventually, though, the ride must end. I walked away from Cthulhu Saves the World fully satisfied, despite its relatively brief length. It was wonderful for a change to step into an RPG world that wasn't populated by teenage fashion victims who were either petulant or overly spastic. It was also nice to see familiar themes and elements reused in such a way as to create a fresh and worthwhile experience. If you have $1 or 80 MSP itching to be spent, then hop on Steam or Xbox Live Indie and download this game.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.