Cthulhu Mythos RPG The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea (or Cthulhu Mythos RPG to simplify) is not only one of the games with the longest name ever, but an unexpected call back to the first horror JRPG ever created: Sweet Home. For people that doesn’t know it, Sweet Home was a game created by Capcom in 1989 for NES. If the plot was merely about a TV crew trapped in a haunted mansion, the game has instead really unique gameplay elements, such for example the permanent death of the party characters. Thanks to strong horror elements and a punishing gameplay, Sweet Home is still remembered as the precursor of modern horror games.
Many years after, Cthulhu Mythos RPG could be intended as an indie spiritual sequel to Sweet Home. From the aesthetic, to the complex gameplay focused on the correct amount of horror elements, many things in Cthulhu Mythos RPG are a homage to Sweet Home. But there are also many new interesting and complex mechanics to provide to Cthulhu Mythos RPG its own identity. Cthulhu Mythos RPG is apparently part of a series of indie JRPG quite famous in Japan, but this one is the only one that got translated to English. However, the saga looks interesting, so I hope that also the next entries will be translated. Just by looking at the main art, I feel curious to check the other titles.
As for Sweet Home, also in this case, the plot is really an accessory. Four teenagers decide to challenge their braveness by exploring a haunted house, and of course things will go wrong. The characters are not very deep in terms of personality, from the scared schoolkids to the mysterious policeman, but are instead very different and peculiar in terms of skills and utility in combat. A girl knowing karate could become lethal if equipped with a brass knuckles, while a bizarre nerd can easily learn new magic and possess an item that allows to save everywhere. There are lot of possibilities and combinations, and it is exactly in these role-playing elements that Cthulhu Mythos RPG really shines.
The skills are a deep and interesting feature, able to create a variegate and replayable experience. Not only different characters have different skills, but also at the very beginning of the game, the player can select between a huge lists of skills to create the main character. They are very variegated for utility and applicability, with some of them that are useful in combat, others to avoid enemies, to explore easily or to access to new areas or events. For example, Martial Arts allows the player to be deadly in combat, while Hide or Navigator are useful to escape from combats. But the most interesting skills are the one that allow specific access to otherwise hidden areas, such as Jump, Climb or Swim. These skills also improve the replayability in another run, since a different party could access to different areas in a new play.
The game also features a sort of internal system of achievements. The interesting thing is that each achievement has points associated, based on the difficulty to obtain it, which will increase the starting points used to select skills. The more the achievements obtained, the more the points during the character creation.
Cthulhu Mythos RPG has even more features that improve the replayability. For example, during the dialogues, the player must often decide how to advance in the game. The choices are quite important and heavy, not only selecting the characters composing the party, but also to decide which area to explore. This means that, in a single play-through, the player could not explore all the areas or the events, since many decisions are mutually exclusive. The multiple branches also affect the ending and, according to the forums, the game features around 4 endings. Worth to specify that there is also a powerful secret boss that can be challenged only after obtaining all the endings.
The combat system is simple but anyway satisfying, and players with enough knowledge of old school JRPG will instantly feel at home, with turn-based combats and random encounters. If each character has his own core skills, it is also true that they could learn new spells by using books, or could be personalized by equipping new weapons. The monsters are very interesting, with a nice pixel art. If at the beginning they are more Gothic inspired, such as Zombies or ghosts, or grotesque things, such as a Mass of Cockroaches, later in the game they will evolve into more Lovecraftian creatures.
The weapons are also interesting and quite deep. Handguns and bows uses ammo, while silver weapons are the only ones that can damage ghosts. In Cthulhu Mythos RPG the health is not the most vital parameter, but it is instead the Sanity. Facing a monster for the first time, or specific skills of the most creepy creatures, will damage the Sanity. When this will receive too many damages, the characters will go crazy. It is important to heal Sanity promptly with items, or it could be too late. The Sanity of the party could be also damaged while exploring, for example after finding something terrible and shocking.
Cthulhu Mythos RPG could also be consider a survival horror, not only for the Sanity system, but also for the items management. Each character has only few spaces available to collect items. When burdened, old items could be left on the floor to be collected again lately.
In Cthulhu Mythos RPG, running away and escaping from the mansion are a real and often suggested possibility, especially in a game featuring the permanent death of the characters. By running away, the player can start again the game by keeping all the levels and the knowledge collected. This feature is very interesting and useful. Your party went half-crazy? Run away and try to face the mansion again. Normal difficulty is not so challenging, but in Hard Mode this feature could be very useful.
The game is not perfect, especially from the aesthetic point of view, which is very simple. The backgrounds and the rooms are sadly empty and void, making often very difficult to navigate the mansion, especially without a map. The music and the dialogues are also very minimalist. However, fans of old school horror RPGs will find in Cthulhu Mythos RPG an interesting indie title. The new mechanics, such as the legacy mode, the different endings and choices, are very interesting and will keep the game balanced and replayable.
The developers provided a free key for the review. I would like to remember that the English version of Cthulhu Mythos RPG The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea is available on STEAM.