There was once a time, just over a decade ago, when RPGs were king. Final Fantasy 7 had just dropped (I think that happened in 1997) on Playstation. For many gamers it was the first and best RPG they had ever played. For those of us who had been trolling the gaming aisles during the great 16 bit wars for years before that, it heralded the dawn of a new day for RPGs. New games to be released. New stories to read. It was a good day to be an RPG junkie.
Today, however, RPGs seem to be a dying breed. Those that do exist are now in the form of action RPGs like Fallout or Oblivion, and even the reliable RPG champion, Square Enix, released Final Fantasy XIII with a liberal helping of button mashing. The RPGs we do get these days are all seemingly produced in Japan, but there’s always something… a little off about them. They’re static. Cookie cutter versions of what RPGs could offer.
I’m not the only one who remembers the good days, however. Developer Zeboyd released a string of games to pay homage (and ultimately make fun of) the glory days of RPGs. Cthulhu saves the world is a classic romp through a fantasy world, a story of redemption, destruction and silliness developed by a bunch of people who dearly love the RPGs of yesteryear.
Good old Cthulhu. Everyone knows about the Lovecraftian horror by now, even if you’re not too sure about the particulars.
Rumored to have come to Earth from somewhere out in deep space, Cthulhu is no less than the god of insanity. His voice is rumored to drive mortal men mad, his dark powers known throughout the land. He supposedly ruled over the world from atop his dark citadel of madness, but somewhere along the way that sunk into the sea, taking the god of insanity with it. No one really knows why that came about. However, all the legends said Cthulhu would one day return to subjugate the world once more. And then destroy it.
This is what the game will tell you when you boot it up for the first time. On this day, Cthulu finally emerged from the ocean to begin with the destruction of the world once again. But humanity wasn’t going to go out that easily. A mysterious wizard appears out of nowhere, seals Cthulhu’s dark god powers away and vanishes, leaving the humanoid-octopus face monstrosity to wash up against a nearby shore.
Cthulhu isn’t too happy about this turn of events. When the narrator lets it slip that the only way for Cthulhu to lift the curse is to become a true hero worthy of legends, he stomps off in the direction of town, hoping to find fame and fortune there.
Along the way he’s joined by a sundry cast of characters. Most of these characters are less than pleased to be seen with Cthulhu until they’re informed “oh wait, he’s a good guy now.” Cthulhu himself keeps his plans about saving the world, so he can destroy it, to himself, and collects ally after ally. Or, to quote him directly “Yes! Cthulhu needs groupies!”
The game has a definite tongue-in-cheek feel about it. Enemies are displayed with humorous tips about them, invoking insanity on a target will cause it to either take more damage of flip out, and party members work well together during the various cut scenes throughout the game. There’s no in depth character progression. When your character gains a level, you’ll get two options for a level up “bonus” that range from stat increases to two varying abilities.
The grind comes back. Battles take a turn for the difficult after the fourth dungeon and it becomes essential to power up your team. It’s a good reminder why today’s games try to steer away from that, though it’s nice to see it in practice one more time.
Battles are hectic things. Attacking and using abilities on monsters will raise your combo meter. The higher it gets the more damage you’ll cause with “combo break” abilities. You have to gauge effectiveness, though. Enemies will also get stronger the longer you fight them.
But this game has been developed by guys who love old school RPGs, and they’ve taken steps to fix some of the things that irritated them. You can save anywhere, you recover all HP at the end of each battle (but not MP), and after you fight so many random encounters in a specific area, they’re turned off unless you physically go into your menu and instigate them yourself. At the end of a large dungeon, you can just teleport back to town. It’s refreshing.
The game is filled with throwbacks to other games and genres along the way, though honestly I don’t know how much appeal the game will have unless you’re a huge RPG nut, one who also remembers the genre’s heyday. At its very best, the game is funny. At the very least, well, those long dungeon trawls were removed in later years for a reason, you know?
Save the world to destroy it. Good ol’ Cthulhu.