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Top RPG Maker Games

Hey guys, minor news here but recently stumbled across this video of a guy's list of the top RPG Maker games and Leo & Leah is listed as #4! Check it out!


Wanna keep track of me and my work?

You dudes should gimme a follow on Tumblr. And I'll follow you back. I'll be posting memos and articles on game design as well as art and personal shit there. Hope to see you guys there!



Just had a very emotional experience.

I just experienced an emotional journey. I just traversed a man's entire life in anachronic order, from the day of his death to the day he met his wife to his earliest childhood memories. All of this in only three hours. This is how I felt after playing "To the Moon", an independent game project developed by Freebird Games, headed by young designer named Kan Gao. I use the term 'game' here in a loose sense, as it is not so much as a game as it is a visual novel, where you are simply guided through the story.

You play as Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts. These two work for a company that grant dying people their final wishes in the form of a dream. They sell a sort of panacea to the regrets we have in our lives. The concept is not new - the invasion of the mind to alter its state and dreams, much like in Christopher Nolan's Inception or Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where even the equipment and the playful banter of the employees can be seen in our own Rosalene and Watts here.

Our two doctors have been hired by John Wyles, an elderly man two days away from death. He lives on a lofty mansion, which sits adjacent to a lighthouse that is no longer functional due to advancing technology. However, it sits, with its obelisk structure, as a relic of the longing past. John can no longer speak by the time the two doctors have arrived but his wish had already been stated: He wants to go to the moon. And he doesn't know why.

John is cared for by a hospice doctor and his servant, Lily, whom resides there with her children, Tommy and Sarah. Each of these characters are filled with personality and life in this game - a product of the excellent writing that would be seen throughout this entire story. For example, Tommy and Sarah, when not picking on each other's looks, are quite fond of hopping side-by-side on a piano stool and playing a simple two-note melody which serves as the diegetic background music for the mansion hallway at times.

From a first glance of John's mansion, one might think of him as a peculiar and perhaps erratic old man, especially when the children lead you into a locked basement filled with dozens of origami paper rabbits and a quirky stuffed platypus. All the clocks in John's house also do not work. The doctors must visit John's memories, working their way backwards to his childhood to collect mementos and memorabilia so they could learn of his past and properly understand his wish. The previously stated eccentricities and idiosyncrasies each serve as a plot point, our doctors learn as they leap from memory to memory.

For example, very early in the game it is revealed that John's wife, River, deceased before the events of this story, had a degenerative disease very similar to Asperger's syndrome and that it was she who had crafted all the rabbits. Why do rabbits have so much significance? You find that out later at the memory of their wedding. These are all connected to construct the very candid but sombre reality symptomatic of John's s coping with a mentally ill wife. Other mementos, such as an umbrella, a backpack, a football, a notice and a jar of pickled olives all seem like just mundane meaningless items at first, until the player realizes the nexus that is forming as they progress.

The situations here are emotionally heavy but our doctors provide comic relief by joking around with each other from time to time, dropping nerdy pop culture references such as Dr. Who, Street Fighter and Dragonball Z to lighten the mood. As they have noted, they have probably seen stranger things in people's pasts. However, in the third act of the game, it is clear that their journey through John's mind has begun to take an emotional toll on them as they unravel a repressed memory and realize the repercussions it has had on the remainder of John's life. This was foreshadowed by a speech given by John's friend, Isabelle, about pretending to be another person for so long that she has forgotten what her real self is like. Anyone who appreciates good writing can appreciate the manner this story is layered. No scene feels like dead weight.

As much as I want to divulge the entire story, I restrain myself. It has affected me more than any form of media has in a long time, and to think that it was a group of young adults on an Internet forum coming together with their creativity and skill that made something of this impact and calibre, not a major videogame company. It should also be noted that Kan Gao is also a pianist and wrote much of the soundtrack for his own videogame. He has written a story about dreams lost, dreams realized and dreams regained, and how the many people in our lives can affect those dreams. It seems that this was a passion, or should I say "dream", project for him and I am ecstatic that he has worked on it and that it exists and that I had the opportunity to play and finish it. And I ain't ashamed to say that there were many times the story nearly jerked tears from my eyes, until finally the ending reached and I couldn't hold it in any longer.

In an era of fighting for worthless achievements, explosions and floating gun barrels, and the graphics-over-story stance most professional companies tend to take, To the Moon brings back a valuable element of gaming that I last felt in the Squaresoft era in the 90's: a gripping story that will last long after the game is complete. It is proof that, yes, deep emotional reward can be drawn from tiny 16-bit pixellated gestures. You don't even have to like videogames to find what I found in this. You just have to love good storytelling.


Let's Play Leo & Leah

So I decided to play through my own entire game here. There isn't any amazing commentary or anything, but if you're too lazy or stuck to play the game, you can use this as a visual walkthrough! You may even see some secrets you didn't know of!


The Notorious "Chapter Four" (spoilers, obviously)

There has been a lot of talk about Chapter Four of Leo & Leah: A Love Story, and I thought I would pitch in with some of my thoughts while I was making it. Obviously, Chapter Four is a major turning point in the game and those who have not played it yet or arrived at that part yet should note that there will be HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD!

These were simply my thoughts during making Chapter Four and do not necessarily serve as the "ideal definition" of it.

Chapter Four begins as Leo is done scouring the Coast. Up until this point, the game had been mostly upbeat, with musical choices and atmosphere to follow suit. Up until this point, I had been basically mimicking a bit of Conker's Bad Fur Day, juxtaposing bright colours and environments to faux-emotional scenes and sudden gory violence. While most NPC's, and even bosses, appear harmless, there is still one credible threat that looms: shotgun-wielding trigger-happy Brandy and her pet, Whiskey. She is the only unfunny thing in the game so far. She is the "party pooper", a tornado destroying anything that comes across her path, including two bosses the player would have just fought and a secondary character.

Brandy is the element I used to keep the player on their toes, keeping them guessing about how much more bloodshed there will be to come. And what the end-fate of such a nefarious character will be. The appearance of Brandy and her leitmotif usually signals moments before the "End of Chapter" screen pops up. And usually, when you hear this, you know someone is going to get shot.

I placed scenes between each chapter as a sort of "lead in" (or "cold open", if you wish) to the upcoming one. For example, between Chapters One and Two, Leo examines the Communes. Between Chapters Two and Three, Leo has a dream about Leah running through a field of snow and he is unable to catch up with her, which leads to him waking up in the Croaker's Chateau with the injured ram. Between Three and Four, he searches the Coast for Leah after she is washed away by the flood. She is nowhere to be found. The only things to be found are some hermit crabs, frogs lamenting the loss of their home and leader, a band of pirates lamenting the loss of their ship (guess who?!) and Brandy scolding and firing her gun at a man named Skarsgaard (guess from which game?!).

The music this time is wistful. No real rhythm. And it's also night-time. (I don't know if anyone has noticed, but the game's story itself lasts a total of 2 days.) After the gunfire, Brandy storms off with Whiskey. Leo waits a little and then follows her. The title screen flashes: "CHAPTER FOUR: ABANDON SHIP!"

It's suddenly raining and Leo finds himself aboard a ship said to be haunted. The ship itself is referred to as the "Marooned Matey" in the location marker. For those who have played at least half of A Home Far Away, they would remember Cap'n Grizzlybeard and his ship, the "Mighty Matey" and they would remember it being wrecked. This is the same wreckage washed ashore. The reason I picked to set Chapter Four aboard this location wasn't to have a cheap tie-in to A Home Far Away, but as a symbolic reference of a rotting corpse. A shell. Something that has died but refuses to dissolve. Those who have experienced the "Mighty Matey" would probably feel the full brunt of this, as the Mighty Matey was a rather light-hearted, cheery place. Easy life on the sea with quirky (stereotypical) pirate talk and a quirky Captain. Now, it's been reduced to collapsing floors, wandering ghosts who refuse to leave, and apparently housing a bizarre entity known as "The Void". This corpse of a ship is what I wanted to represent what is happening to the titular couple.

A once happy place...

The first things I wanted to do in Chapter Four was simply "fuck everything up". No more upbeat music. No more battle music. No more victory music. The signs that were once helpful tell you to go home, give up and that Leah is dead. These signs are not talking to Leo this time. They are talking to you, the player, even referring to you by your name. This is where I wanted players to realise that this game is no longer going to be what they thought it was going to be. This was my April Fool's Joke. Visions of characters, even dead ones, appear randomly to taunt Leo. Most notable is the vision of Zara and the vision of the head of Sssssslither, the liver-eating mini-boss in Croaker's Grotto.

Your aim in the ship is to collect five scattered Pearls for a ghost named Brooksy Bergen. She then proceeds to give Leo an item called the "Fading Smile" and tells Leo to wear it whenever he is afraid and nothing will ever get to him. While the item can be used to avoid enemies, this item is vital, as Leo cannot proceed to the Void without it. The pathway to the Void is blocked by a giant eye that knocks Leo backwards. Is it knocking him back, or is he running away? Is he too scared? Why can he enter when he is only wearing the mask?

So, what is The Void exactly? Is it a dream world? Is it a real place? My real intention was that it is a collaboration of the nightmares of every individual that has somehow passed through it. It absorbs the nightmares of its visitors. The Void is actually partially based on Tanetane Island from Mother 3, where Lucas goes on that weird mushroom-induced trip and sees members of his family wandering around and saying some really bizarre shit!

When Leo first approaches the Void, it is said he is seeing himself staring back out. When he enters, he finds himself swimming in unfamiliar waters with rain pouring down on him. As he swims up, he sees himself staring back. He hasn't entered the Void yet. He is simply outside of the pirate ship, in the rain. He only enters the Void when he collides with himself. Everything goes red. He is suddenly surrounded by white swans. He wants no interaction with the white swans. The one he has to talk to is the black swan. The dark side of himself. Maybe he needs to unlock or access a certain part of himself he hasn't before. This is what the scene looks like:

He is convincing himself that everything will be okay in the end, no matter what. Why is he suddenly seeing red? Is he angry? Remember when Zara was seeing red upon discovering Zinn's wedding? Is this a similar emotion Leo is feeling? He is then transported to my personal favourite moment in the game: the Pink Tree. I admit, this part is partially inspired by catmitts' Blood Caverns (if I remember correctly) from Space Funeral. During this part, Leah scampers around a pink tree. I don't know if anyone really noticed, but there's a lot of "pink" and "orange" symbols I placed throughout the game. For example, yellow/orange and pink flowers aligned. Only pink and orange butterflies exist and flutter together in this world.

But here we just have a lone pink tree sitting in the snow. No orange whatsoever.

The above screenshot shows why I made Leo a silent protagonist. You don't really realise he has any real despair or sadness until this point, where it is actually said. Before this point, he was mimicking any videogame hero who has to "rescue the princess". All you needed to know about him and his mission before was located in the lyrics of Shelly Duvalle's "He Needs Me" (Until the day I die / I wonder why / I knew he needed me!) But now he sees her and he is sad. We can only surmise what is going through his head as this apparition scampers faster and faster, her monologue getting more and more insane as she does, reaching to the topic of cannibalism. In the background, the voices of two people mumble about "hitting bottom". Has Leo hit bottom?

The apparition soon disappears and turns into a pink butterfly, which follows him for the rest of the chapter. What could this butterfly represent? And why does it follow him, lingering as close to him as possible? A path clears and he is now revisiting part of his dream in the "cold opening" of Chapter Three. But this time, it's populated with characters he's once met. And they all curse at him, speak gibberish or narrate how he is feeling. One even tells him that he will die early if he continues yearning like this. The music is despondent and a heartbeat is heard. As the heart rate increases, characters begin to express their pain and regret. Are they mirroring Leo's thoughts? Then finally, he encounters clones of himself, saying "Supper's ready". What does this mean?

Make of this, what you wish...

The next section is the "field of nothingness". An open area populated with signs that speak of regret and loss. Here he even encounters the sign that faded out of existence. What does that say about the Void? Is this where dreams go to die? But then unexpectedly, he comes across this sign:

The significance of this sign relates to the other signs reading the same thing. They appear twice before this moment. The first time is in the prison cell in the Chateau, where Leah was held with Leo before she was taken away. He was asleep the entire time, but to let him know that she was there, she scratched "Leo & Leah, forever" unto the sign. She does this a number of times for the rest of the game to let Leo know that she is safe. The second time he sees this marking is on the Coast, when he is looking for her. It appears several times after Chapter Four.

And now he sees it again. Maybe she is safe, he might be thinking. But then again, this is the Void. And it could be a mean trick. The following area is filled with Yummyhops, now scared of Leo. This, coupled with the Yummyhop that suddenly retaliates on the ship, stops Leo from automatically eating Yummyhops for the rest of the game. Instead, a Yes/No prompt pops up.

After this section, he encounters a clown who proclaims himself as the "keeper" of the Void. He calls himself Harly Quinn and he seems very impressed by Leo's ability to make his way through the Void. A creature like that must have "the heart of a lion", so to speak. And he wants to know what love and dreams like that taste like. The area where Harly Quinn is found is similar to the Pink Tree area. In fact, it is the Pink Tree area. Leo has just made a complete circle around the Void with the pink butterfly still tagging along. Has he come "full circle"?

After Harly's speech, the pink butterfly morphs into Leah and a fight ensues. Daisy is banished and he has to fight her alone. Before this occurs, a message pops up stating "This is between you and me ALONE." But who is saying this? Could this be Leo's only words in the game? Or are they Illusion Leah's? Who exactly banishes Daisy from the fight? While she fights, she begs him not to hurt her and weeps. But Leo still destroys this version of her. He knows his Leah too well to be fooled by a mirage.

Harly Quinn then disappears, leaving his balloon behind. A splash is then seen, disappearing into thin air as Leo vanishes. He has left the Void and re-entered the waters outside of the pirate ship. Harly Quinn, by the way, is a major secondary character in A Home Far Away.

The "cold open" before Chapter Five shows him washed up on an island with a dog and its owner. The dog reiterates what the black swan said about "everything will be okay, even if you die". The dog staying with his owner even at his owner's worst times is a microcosm of Leo's journey. Note what Harly said: "You are the kind of creature who will keep searching even if you know she is dead." The dog and owner may die on the island but at least they won't die alone. At least they won't have to search for each other. After bouts of bad luck (Zara getting shot, getting frog-napped, the flood, Brandy showing up), Leo suddenly finds "the universe conspiring with him". The music is upbeat once again and some of the humour returns.

Incredible good luck follows, almost like deus ex machinas. The monkey's toy boat. The two birds atop the hill. And Brandy being unusually perturbed, and perhaps distracted, towards the end of Chapter Five. Maybe Leo has grown and has become stronger. Maybe he has faced his nightmares and now there is nothing left to stop him. He will persevere through anything. And he knows if he tries his best, with love, everything will be okay, even if he dies.


No homo

A video of some of the boss fights from Leo & Leah. Excuse the recording lag =( My computer sucks. Enjoy!


Haunted Shits

The video below can be considered a bit spoiler-ish, so if you haven't played Leo & Leah yet, you should before you watch this. This is a video I made to illustrate the "Matey" connection between A Home Far Away and Leo & Leah. As you can see the maps are very much alike, aside from "wreckage" differences. I just thought it was kind of cool how different the atmosphere was for this very same location for the two games. Check it out!


Known Bugs

I'm putting these up on the gamepage so people will stop reporting the Item bug. The following are some bugs that have been discovered during players' experiences with the game:

1. Event Script Error (Item Not Referenced) - This is one that keeps popping up continuously. It usually pops up if one tries to use the "Apple" command in certain battles. I've tried to fix this but I'm not sure how to. I don't know what causes it, as the event command references no item at all Also, the bug is not consistent. Some players get it. Some players don't. It is difficult to replicate and usually only shows up once through an entire playthrough of the game. If you wish to avoid this bug, you can avoid the Apple skill completely. It is not a very useful skill and can be replaced early in the game.

2. Direction Bug - Crystalgate and another player found problems with Leo continuously facing the same direction after the balloon mini-game in Chapter 5. I was unable to replicate it myself, so I'm not sure what causes it.

3. Swim Bug - Mellytan encountered this. If you try to sprint in between diving into the water and hitting the water, the Phasing gets screwed up. To avoid this, avoid pressing Shift while diving.

4. Mapping errors - These seem to be purely aesthetic and don't affect the gameplay in any way.

5. Attacking one's self/Random attacking - This is caused by trying to select Roll before trying to select a skill like War Cry or Snarl. The game glitches for the next turn and the player attacks a random enemy or himself. It is caused by RM2K3 limitations but is quite rare.

6. Trick fails to work - For a "Roller" battle, Leo's Trick command does not work. The command simply does nothing and the game goes on as normal. This is caused by my forgetfulness to copy the Trick command into that specific battle.

7. Rock Targets may strike twice - In the Impy Caverns, the imp rocks may hit Leo twice. This is caused by RM2K3 limitations.

8. Speed glitches - These may or may not occur. it is most likely to occur when encountering the Eye in the Marooned Matey. However, any speed glitch can be fixed by simply pressing the '1' key.


Leonardo di Tropio

Thanks to "argh" for making this:


Might be cool for those who've played and finished the game to skim through some of those! Just some excerpts:

Leo & Leah: A Love Story is a freeware RPG made by Strangeluv in RPG Maker 2003. It tells the tale of the titular couple, two lion cubs. One day, however, while venturing out into the wilderness, Leah is captured by a psychopathic hunter who intends to sell her to the highest bidder — or worse. Leo takes it upon himself to rescue his Love Interest, though the journey takes longer than expected and soon grows in proportion beyond his wildest dreams.

The story starts off very lighthearted, hardly taking anything serious at all, with humour reminiscent of Earth Bound and Super Mario RPG. Eventually, however, a deeper narrative emerges that arguably deconstructs the genre — Leo must confront his doubts and ask himself how far he is really willing to go for Leah's sake.

Download the game here for a bizarre and thought-provoking tale.

# Fantastic Racism: Plants, bugs, frogs, and mammals all hate each other.

# Theme Naming: Brandy and Whiskey.

# Save Point: Black cats! They're part of an international corporation that wants to remove the stereotype of black cats bringing bad luck, so they became save points so that people would be happy when a black cat crossed their path.

# Lost Forever: Everything, potentially, since you can't return to previous areas after the end of a chapter. However, most of it's just common items and seashells — the only really important things are balloons, which are rather hard to miss.

# Shotguns Are Just Better: Brandy.

# Deconstruction: Of the typical Distressed Damsel and Rescue Romance plot.

# Silent Bob / Heroic Mime: Leo. This would be justified due to the fact that he's a lion, but every other animal in the game can also speak, and he can understand human speech... (Also subverted, since he often speaks through his actions and one can learn a lot about his character that way)

# Climax Boss: Brandy and Whiskey.

etc. etc.

Also caution: There's a lot of spoilers in there. Thankfully they are hidden. Also I am still wondering who did this!


Craze tries Leo & Leah

This is the first Let's Try I've seen of any of my games, so I think it's pretty worthy of a blog post here. If anyone wants to see Craze try Leo & Leah (and shriek at battle animations...), here you go:

Many thanks to Craze for taking the time to give this game a little bit of exposure.

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