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Review: LISA: The Painful RPG(PC, also on Linux and Mac)
LISA was a game that came out of left field for me. I had heard about it from a Destructoid post, but it's concept immediately had me intrigued, even if I wasn't sure it could carry a whole game. Boy was I wrong. The game really surprised me.
LISA: The Painful RPG is about a broken man named Brad, who while out on a stroll, discovers a baby, and more to the point, a girl. One of the last possible females left in the world after a cataclysmic event which has made pretty much made all females vanish without a trace. Of course this leads him to raise the child in secret. Unfortunately this secret leaks out, and she is taken away. And Brad is driven to save her from a world now full of perverts, creeps, substance abusers, and murderers.
There are bits of inspiration taken from many classic RPG in LISA. It's set in a sort of post-apocalyptic time, making it similar to Shin Megami Tensei in setting. Nods to Earthbound with it's sense of humor are also present, only if the insanity and gore factor had been cranked to 11. And the battles play out by traversing the map and running into enemies on screen. The battle backgrounds and music selection in general are nice nods. The battle system plays out like most basic RPG, with Dragon Quest being the obvious inspiration. Especially since most battles are done with a single opponent at a time. Although there are a few twists. Brad and some other characters can use 'dial-a-combo' attacks that end with deathblow style attacks reminiscent of Xenogears. Others have a TP meter that builds over time. Status ailments in this game are very important to take advantage of, and they actually have meaning here, unlike most RPGs.
To compensate for the fact that you usually have multiple party members on hand, these single opponents are typically quite resilient, and are more like bosses in their own right. They also typically have the largest EXP yields. These battles are one-time deals, so if you need money or some more experience you will need to grind off of a few spots where you can do random battles for cash. The experience granted from these encounters is typically negligible though. And that leads me to some of the game's issues. Brad is a recovering drug addict, and even though he's been sober for a long time, he occasionally suffers a status ailment that is similar to Earthbound's homesickness, only it makes physical attacks do nothing, and weakens skill power. It's kind of annoying just how quickly he gains the debuff though. Also, characters in the game that do not partake in combat do not level up, so you are pretty much just stuck using the same crew that you've been using, until you find a new recruit that's closer in level to you. Combine that with the previously mentioned EXP yields, and you are mostly stuck with the old faithfuls. Not much room for experimentation. Other issues stem from a lack of full controller support, making players either stick with the keyboard or make use of something like xpadder, then making sense of control correspondence. Blame this game being an RPG Maker engine game, with all it's warts.
However, the game is fun to play, has a bunch of insane humor, and some special cameos. The game also forces the player to make some tough decisions. Eschewing the infamous 'Moral Choice', the game just gives you the 'terrible option', and the 'equally terrible' option. Will you let your partner die, give up all your possessions, or will permanently gimp Brad? There are a lot of characters to recruit, but I feel guilty for even thinking that they are expendable. The game truly does live up to it's name as The Painful RPG. The music is great, and it's quite affordable, in both cost and hard drive space. Be sure to check it out, you won't regret it. Just be aware of some of the graphic(gore) elements.