January 7, 2015 2:20 AM | Lena LeRay
Earthbound is known for being a JRPG with a quirky sense of humor and a setting more like an alternate world than a hardcore fantasy or sci-fi world. LISA has a similar vibe, though unlike Earthbound, it isn't kid friendly. It's set in a post-apocalyptic setting in which females no longer seem to exist and brutal bullies have all the power. The main character is one of the bullied, one of the people sketching out a living as best as he can. But he's the one who finds a female baby out in the middle of nowhere and decides that rather than turning her over to the powerful for a reward, he'll raise her in secret. It goes pretty well for the most part, but in a moment of weakness he lets down his guard and the girl gets stolen away from him. Thus begins his journey to track down her kidnappers and get her back.
I don't really want to say more about the story. The storytelling, however, is fantastic. Sound, lack of sound, and... cinematography, I guess, well-designed framing of visuals, are used to good effect with minimal use of text to create an amazing feel right from the start of the game. The player gets to do some things even during the intro, and when the game opens up afterwards, exploration quickly becomes something the player wants to do. How do you get to that random ledge over there? Aha! A secret path. It has all the feel of looking around the environment of a more traditional RPG even though the aesthetic is more like that of a platformer.
I was surprised to learn that LISA was made in RPG Maker. The battle system is turn-based, though it has a custom battle window that looks more like that of Earthbound, with the player characters not really visible and the player looking at enemies head on. Still, it's a fairly standard turn-based JRPG battle system, though the main character does fisticuffs and his basic attack involves the player inputting combos using the WASD keys. That combo system is neat; if the player learns the right combinations of button presses, they can get a couple of regular punches in and finish off with on of their special skills. The game ostensibly supports controllers, but the WASD combos still require a keyboard, so there isn't much point in bothering.
Another neat thing about LISA is that the game gives you some unfortunate choices to make. I don't want to spoil the nature of the first such choice, but an antagonist forces you to choose between being a bastard and weakening yourself immensely.
LISA is a really engaging game. It's got this perfect blend of darkness, humor, and interesting gameplay (in and out of battle) in a world that makes you want to learn more. If you have any interest in RPGs, you should probably check it out. It's $9.99 for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam.