"Thus begins the Old One’s quest for backwards redemption -- defeating some evil so he can unleash a greater evil. Sulking along the sandy beach he arrived at, he rescues his first party member, a star-struck water-based healer who incorrectly paints Cthulhu as her rescuing knight, and stomps off to his first village where he undertakes such heroic tasks as Saving A Boy’s Dog From A Cave."
I liked Breath of Death VII. See how the game title is hyperlinked to an existing praise review? That’s what we call proof. The game did pretty much everything a parody RPG should be doing, but did so without falling into any of the traps it lampooned and without dipping its cup into the murky depths of lowbrow. It made sure it was a good game in its own right without leaning on its comedy aspects so, when the laughs did come, they were a very welcome bonus, not an excuse for misfires elsewhere.
Cthulhu Save the World is strikingly similar. It’s built from the same engine, contains a lot of the same ideas and, though the graphics have been upgraded, has the same cosmetic look. It starts off with an argument between the protagonist -- the dreaded Cthulhu -- and the narrator after the dark fiend emerges from the depths of the ocean strangely powerless. Using the evil power of eavesdropping on disembodied voices, Cthulhu learns that to regain his powers of insanity required for his obligatory destruction of Earth, he’ll have to mend his ways and become the greatest hero the world has ever known. No driving the masses mad until you’ve saved them from lurking terror first. Resignedly, he sets about this.
Thus begins the Old One’s quest for backwards redemption -- defeating some evil so he can unleash a greater evil. Sulking along the sandy beach he arrived at, he rescues his first party member, a star-struck water-based healer who incorrectly paints Cthulhu as her rescuing knight, and stomps off to his first village where he undertakes such heroic tasks as Saving A Boy’s Dog From A Cave.
Along the way, you have to stroll through a monster-choked lair that makes use of a dialled-up version of Breath of Death‘s bite-sized battle system. Here, random encounters are refreshingly brief, over in seconds but losing no amount of challenge because of this. Anything you fight slowly gets stronger as the battle crawls onwards, making them harder to put down and easier to fall prey to. Still, though you’ll want to pour strategy over the tougher battles, many of these fights don‘t take long, and a victory grants you a full HP reprieve and a small chunk of your MP back. It makes exploration seamless and, coupled with a save anywhere feature, newly collectable 1-ups that allow you to reattempt failed battles and the ability to do away with random battles all together once you slaughter enough foes in a set dungeon, it completely eliminates any drag the simplistic settings might otherwise suffer.
Other ideas return, like how level-ups grant you the choice between different upgrades. You may be asked if to pick between different sets of stats to sharpen, or have to pick between different variants of a spell, or to choose different passive abilities for your cast. Unlike with the last title, you’re no longer limited to a party of four, but have your ranks bolstered by sentient floating swords, senile stat-buffers and sultry necromancers.
You meet the last of that list inside a town besieged with the undead. Zombies line the street, most of them too busy dancing to pay you any heed. While his battle party prime their weapons to take on the army of brain-munchers, Cthulhu holds them back; zombies, he says, are light-hearted and playful abominations and he’ll not condone their needless slaughter. As such, the ranks of rotters serve as impromptu and impassable walls that the party must circumvent by making use of dilapidated, crumbling houses, wandering through their broken walls when boarded up doors are further dead ends.
You recruit another member in a huge UFO inhabited by cat-like aliens who get really testy should you point out their cat-likeness. Still, their high-tech lair has push buttons in the shape of feline paws and, should you make your way into the living habitats, you‘ll come across balls of yarn and scratch posts in what can only be labelled as a great attention to detail. Here, you’ll encounter buffed cattle, stolen by the aliens and injected with hormones to turn them into a sneaky, ironic army in which to slaughter mankind. Foiling this plot will grant you 20 hero points!
That the game’s funny is a great plus, but, like its predecessor, the main draw is simply that Cthulhu Save the World knows what it’s doing as an outright game. The foundations and mechanics are strong and the adventure it promotes works on its own because of this. It’s happy to lampoon outdated and obsolete RPG tropes still used in abundance, like convoluted dungeon design that has you retracing your steps constantly and the oft-unbreaking nobility and justice of cardboard protagonists, and then avoids doing just that in its own design. The script is well written, funny and knowledgeable, but that doesn’t make a great game on its own. It seems ancient terrors that lay dormant beneath the sea are aware of this, so take part in complete titles rather than jokes where they become the punchline.
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