July 23, 2011

Indie Games You Need To Buy: Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves The World

Those of you who are Steam users have prob­a­bly seen a lit­tle indie two-pack for $3 on the front page, made up of two retro-styled RPGs from Zeboyd Games. I’m a huge fan of 8‑bit and 16-bit games, espe­cial­ly RPGs, but I will admit that they’ve become a dime a dozen in the indie com­mu­ni­ty late­ly. How­ev­er, these two caught my eye, so I forked over the cash to try them out. My mind was prompt­ly blown so hard that my hair caught fire and my eye­balls explod­ed. These games have done noth­ing but tru­ly amaze me almost every sin­gle sec­ond that I’ve played them. In an effort to keep some sem­blance of order to this mas­sive praise-ball, I’ll take the games in order.

Breath of Death VII is an inter­est­ing twist on NES-era RPGs such as Drag­on Quest, Final Fan­ta­sy, and Earth­bound. I’m not sure what’s with the VII in the title, as this appears to be the only game in the series, but it gives me room to demand that Zeboyd release I‑VI, because I want them. It fol­lows a very sim­ple and tra­di­tion­al for­mu­la, but fix­es many of the prob­lems that have plagued such games for years. The one minor fix that makes me weep with joy is the ran­dom encounter sys­tem. Almost all of us will agree that the clas­sic RPGs would not have been the same with­out ran­dom encoun­ters, but they def­i­nite­ly got annoy­ing when you were try­ing to find your way around a large and com­plex dun­geon. Zeboyd Games came up with a sim­ple, yet tru­ly inge­nious solu­tion: Lim­it­ed encoun­ters. Every dun­geon and indi­vid­ual area has a set num­ber (vary­ing from around ten to fifty, depend­ing on the size of the area) of ran­dom encoun­ters that will occur, and even the over­world will even­tu­al­ly run out of ran­dom mon­sters. How­ev­er, if you’re one of those peo­ple who enjoys grind­ing for a while, and then rush­ing through the sto­ry, you don’t have to wor­ry about run­ning out of ene­mies to fight; you can sim­ply select “Fight” from the menu for an instant ran­dom encounter. No patrolling for wild Poké­mon need­ed.

Com­bat is fast paced and per­fect­ly chal­leng­ing. Lots of vari­ables go into fights, includ­ing a cre­ative com­bo sys­tem in which you can rack up mul­ti­pli­ers to do heavy dam­age with spe­cial moves. How­ev­er, using a com­bo fin­ish­er or a (for­give me) C‑C-C-COMBO BREAKER will reset the mul­ti­pli­er, so a lot of trade-offs affect your deci­sion mak­ing. At the end of com­bat, your HP is entire­ly replen­ished, ensur­ing that each dun­geon does­n’t become a drawn-out endurance round. You only get a lim­it­ed amount of MP back based on how quick­ly you fin­ish the fight, so once again, it’s a trade-off. When your char­ac­ters lev­el up, you’re giv­en a choice between two options, which can be stat and attribute boosts, dif­fer­ent skills, or the same skill in two dif­fer­ent forms. I real­ly like this con­cept, because you can shape the char­ac­ters into the exact role that you want them to play.

Now, the mechan­ics are all well and good, but the true core of the clas­sic RPG was the sto­ry that was deliv­ered to you via text box­es, music, and high­ly pixel­lat­ed pic­tures, right? Well, this is where Breath of Death shines. The graph­ics are good even with the lim­i­ta­tions of the medi­um and the music is some of the best I’ve heard in any recent release, big or small. The sto­ry fol­lows a real­ly cre­ative take on the arche­typ­i­cal RPG “Save the world and uncov­er secrets of the past” plot in which the undead are the major­i­ty, the “good guys”, and the ones who need sav­ing. Not only is the game fair­ly wit­ty by itself, but there are count­less quotes and throw­backs to clas­sic games, espe­cial­ly RPGs, which real­ly makes this game hit home. It’s a clas­sic style RPG for peo­ple who love clas­sic style RPGs. It’s a tough game to top.
Cthul­hu Saves the World topped it.

If Breath of Death VII was com­pa­ra­ble to Final Fan­ta­sy I, Cthul­hu Saves The World is more along the lines of Final Fan­ta­sy IV or V. The mechan­ics are the same, but are some­how even bet­ter than Breath of Death VII. Com­bat fea­tures yet anoth­er mod­i­fi­er called Insan­i­ty (to fit with the whole Cthul­hu mythos) that can actu­al­ly make ene­mies stronger, but also pro­vides you par­ty with cer­tain buffs based on the lev­el­ing selec­tions you make. You obtain quite a few par­ty mem­bers, so you have all sorts of par­ty com­po­si­tions to try out and com­bined “Unite” skills to use. No par­ty com­po­si­tion is real­ly “bet­ter” than any oth­er, and every­one lev­els up whether or not they active­ly par­tic­i­pate in com­bat. It’s a lit­tle eas­i­er in some cas­es to fig­ure out where you need to go, and there are a num­ber of minor improve­ments that real­ly round out this game.

What real­ly gives Cthul­hu Saves The World the edge is pre­sen­ta­tion. The humor relies less on ref­er­ences to clas­sic games, and more on out­right wit­ti­ness. The graph­ics are real­ly rem­i­nis­cent of Final Fan­ta­sy IV-VI, and some of the dun­geons actu­al­ly make me think “Zel­da.” The music is good enough that you will remem­ber it. I’m hum­ming the bat­tle theme right now. It gen­er­al­ly takes a nos­tal­gic clas­sic to do that. Real­ly, that’s what this game is. If Cthul­hu Saves The World had exist­ed on the Super Nin­ten­do, it would have been an instant clas­sic that some oth­er indie game would be mak­ing a throw­back to. It’s real­ly that good. I can­not point out a flaw with this game. It’s so wit­ty that there’s even humor in the menu screens, it han­dles like a clas­sic, and you won’t get bored with it. I could bare­ly put it down long enough to write this arti­cle.
I’m not going to ask you to buy these games. I’m not going to get down on my knees and beg and implore you to buy them. I’m telling you. Yes, you read­ing this. I am demand­ing that you spend the diminu­tive price of $3 to pur­chase two extreme­ly good games. Make a Steam account if you don’t already have one, use any method pos­si­ble to make this trans­ac­tion, and buy these games.
If you don’t, I will burn your house down.
With the lemons.
You can vis­it Zeboyd Games, the mak­ers of these incred­i­ble RPGs here.
You can watch some trail­ers and meet my demand of pur­chas­ing these games here.
Ques­tions? Com­ments? Absurd ref­er­ences? Drop me a com­ment below!


  1. T8 - July 23, 2011 11:17 pm

    looks like poke­man for game­boy. No won­der its right up your ally.

  2. thsoundman - July 23, 2011 11:39 pm

    Man such rage from you T8… I know they all can’t be CS but thats harsh 😛 Great review Char­coal. The game looks quite inter­est­ing. Sounds like they put alot of qual­i­ty work into the title. Maybe I shall pick it up on steam!

  3. Kamiki - July 24, 2011 8:30 am

    Those look like fun! Espe­cial­ly the Cthul­hu Saves the World. All I can see is Cart­man befriend­ing the beast in the Coon episodes on South Park and it makes me gig­gle.

  4. Pingback: The Gamers Blog interviews Zeboyd Games! | The Gamers Blog

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