Cthulhu Saves the World is an old school RPG where you find your party members and fight random battles with a turn based system. Part of the charm to this game is that it mimics the original Dragon Quest games in color, menus, maps and even the feel of the towns. If You've played Breath of Death VII, you've played this.
After each battle, each party member gets restored to full health, including dead characters. Even if you escape, you get full health. This makes the game streamlined and easy even on normal (medium) difficulty. To compensate for this, the game balances out by powering up the monsters after each round. Their attack strength keep going up by 10%. It puts pressure to finish the fight fast. There is also no run, but instead its relegated to a magic skill given to one character. One of the biggest enjoyments that I get out of the game is the ability to chose one of two bonuses every time a character reaches a new level. Do you chose this spell or that spell? Do you want +20 Max HP and +20 strength or +10 Strength + 10 Willpower +10 Magic +10 Vitality? Even at level 40, the game still had choices for me.
The challenge is in your MP / mana. You will get some back after each battle, but outside of an Inn or a save point (you can save on the fly too). You won't be able to refill your magic. On the surface, fighting and button mashing makes quick work of enemies. Deeper into any dungeon makes fighting difficult without using magic or techniques (both cost MP / mana). While battles are random, the dungeons have specific numbers of battles before the random battles get down to 0. So if you fight 20 random battles, you won't have any other random battles to fight. This works well, because you can go deep into a dungeon, have no mana left and need to walk back out of the dungeon. Having 0 remaining random battles ensures your survival. Since there is no sort of easy teleportation. A few dungeons force you to beat the boss and walk back. Luckily there is a sprint button to speed things along..
Spells get upgraded by your choices when you level up. A lightning spell can go from X damage to Y damage when you select it maybe ten levels after you've earned the original lightning spell. There is a full heal spell that will not only give a character full health, but revive them as well. Making it easy if a character dies that you're trying to heal, well they're just resurrected! There aren't any items, but there are potions. You can't buy these, you need to find them in caves. They resurrect and give full health to any character. These are necessary if your lone healer dies. There is a health regenerating zombie though and a vampire sort of attack with another character.
You can find 1-Ups that let you retry a fight that wiped out your party. I was a fan of this and I remember it from Final Fantasy Legend 2. You still get a choice whether you use it or just accept a game over and load a save file. There were plenty of times that I chose a save file over replaying a fight. You can save on the fly and there are save points that will do it for you. Usually before boss battles.
You start out with the legendary Cthulhu, a squid monster with the power of darkness. He has a bold, comically evil personality that is one of the joys of the game. To balance him out, you'll come across six others that will join you. A happy healer named Umi that has a crush on Cthulhu. A talking sword named Stabe that offers some sage advice and wisdom. A necromancer / hot chick named October with a whip and damaging spells. I won't spoil the rest, but you get a sense of how quirky the game's personalities are. They each have input no matter how silly. The only catch to having a party of 7 is that only four can fight at once and you always need Cthulhu in your party since this is his game. If you ever get stuck deep in a dungeon with no mana, you can switch out your characters on the fly. The inactive characters still gain experience with the active ones.
The humor really fit better with this game than Breath of Death which relied on video game references. Cthulhu Saves the World felt like it had its own jokes that fit with the personalities of the characters. Some were good, others weren't, but they still fit what the game is. I'm never a big fan of story even in role playing games, but I felt like what I did read was enjoyable.
There is a combo system which I find it useful. Every attack builds a combo. There are special combo boosts and breakers that when used will multiply the damage by the combo, but reset the combo to 0. It would be more useful if these specials weren't already the highest damagers in general. You can keep using them to kill the enemies quickly without having to build a combo. Even the bosses felt like pushovers and I can tell I was underpowered for the bosses when each of my characters would level up twice with some bosses. Its just a testament to how easy the game is on normal difficulty. After playing through Breath of Death on hard, I didn't want to make that mistake again.
For equipment, Cthulhu Saves the World is bare bones. You have a weapon and armor. No headgear, no accessory. Towns don't have more than a couple weapons and armor for your seven characters. Each character has one type of weapon and armor. None of these types get shared, so if you get a sword, you know only Cthulhu can equip it. If you get a Tome, only October can equip it as armor. There are a few treasures here and there in dungeons. Treasures do feel more rewarding to find in this game, because a lot of treasures in Breath of Death were jokes. There is no interaction with anything outside of talking to townspeople. Nothing hidden in book shelves and dressers, just jokes about what's really in them.
The world itself feels big enough. There are around 15+ dungeons and 4+ towns. You won't get to travel the oceans or visit far off lands, but the dungeons are the real maps. Each dungeon feels big enough. There are mostly underground areas, a forest and the ruins of giant towns. You can tackle them pretty openly. I found myself wandering deep into an overpowered dungeon and I couldn't get out. I had to one by one grind through the limited fights hoping each fight would be easy enough for me to overcome. I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to be there at my level. Of course grinding through that made everything else a cake walk.
The graphics are bright and beautiful and feel like they would fit in with the Super Nintendo era. Cthulhu goes the extra mile with what I can only describe as comic cut scenes going into certain sections. You still have traditional dialog beneath, but there are beautiful 16 bit style pictures over pictures that add to the jokes. The music itself also adds a lot to my enjoyment of the game.
For those that complete the game, there are bonus modes. One new mode lets you replay the story on level 40 and another mode that lets you replay the game with different characters, dialog and bosses. It makes me want to replay the game in a new way. There is even a developer commentary (written) that you can chose to have on. It gives a lot of insight and rational. I found myself reading them more than I paid attention to the dialog.
If you don't want to get too involved with a 40 - 80 hour RPG, Cthulhu Saves the World could be for you. With saving anywhere and refilling your HP after every battle, that makes for an easy game. Some people like easy! $3 is a great price for the content in my opinion. It also comes with Breath of Death VII in a combo pack for the same price. I feel like I got my money's worth with just this game alone.