machinerebel's Cthulhu Saves the World (PC) review

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A funny, classic JRPG romp with a twisted taste

From the developers who brought you Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, Zeboyd Games presents Cthulhu Saves the World, another retro JRPG in the style of SNES classics like Final Fantasy 4. Featuring a cast of characters like Umi the Cthulhu groupie, Paws the feline Ultharian, and Sharpe the sentient sword, you must journey through towns named after Lovecraft locales and various dungeons on a quest to make Cthulhu a hero. Having lost all of his powers, only becoming a true hero will allow Cthulhu to raise the ancient city of R’lyeh from its resting place and take over the world. Along the way, you and your party of up to four characters will fight numerous baddies in bouts of random battle, as well as boss creatures ranging from a giant starfish to a demon dragon.

Combat is similar to Dragon Quest in that it’s in first person and you and the enemies take turns hitting each other with various swords and tridents and casting powerful spells like Dark Blast and Flood. Some skills make the enemy insane which makes them take more damage, but some enemies are more dangerous when insane. As you level up, you are given two choices, some of which increase your stats and others which grant you spells or skills. It’s a minor step toward character customization, but it doesn’t amount to widely different characters between playthroughs. The game is considerably longer than BODVII, though the formula sets in quick – visit a town, find out what’s wrong, find the dungeon, beat the boss, repeat.

The writing is funny and the chemistry between party members is admirable, so the parody works. I had some trouble in the early game because of the way the MP system works: You heal after every fight, but you only regain a small amount of MP, and how much is based on how fast you kill your enemies. So, if you’re trying to conserve MP by using straight up attacks, it will take too long to finish a fight and you won’t get an ideal amount of MP back. It’s an imperfect system that lead to several occasions of me being in a dungeon, all my characters low on MP, trying to hustle to a save point so I could regain my MP. Though each area has a limited number of random battles, I only finished all of the random battles in an area once in the entire game. Some of the fights are just brutal too, with large groups of enemies that are time consuming to mop up. Once I got out of the early levels, it became easier and more manageable, but once I hit the end game, things got tough again. Fortunately, there is a save point before boss fights, which takes off some of the pressure.

Once you do defeat the big bad and experience the ending of Cthulhu Saves the World, you unlock new game modes, including one that starts you off at level 40, and developer commentary. I love commentary tracks in games and from what I could tell of the beginning of the game, it’s a good one. If you like JRPGs from the SNES days, this is a solid game in that style, but it’s not perfect. It’s an upgrade from Breath of Death VII, and you can see what Zeboyd Games learned when they went on to do the Penny Arcade games.

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