The following is a review of the game:
"Strangeluv's latest leonine-themed project, Leo & Leah: A Love Story, has been pretty hyped within the RMN community ever since it's first publicly-released teasers and that hype has continued pretty steadily right up until it's release. A healthy helping of nicely put-together trailers, screenshots and content-heavy blog posts had managed to keep at least my interest and evidently the interest of a decent following right here on RMN.
My first impressions? - I was a little turned off by the thematic choice but I could see that there was a high degree of production quality in this project and enough of a subversive undertone to keep me interested despite the surface appearance of a game with a "silly" and cutesy theme. I'm not saying a game has to be y so srs in order to keep me interested, I just doubted, from the pre-release material, that this game could deliver in terms of narrative depth and suspension of disbelief with such a seemingly strange setting and theme, at least for an RPG (an RPG Maker RPG especially).
So when the release date arrived, I had mixed feelings. I knew it would be a high quality RM project simply because a game creator's reputation, for better or worse, tends to precede them in a community as niche as this, but production quality alone does not a good game make.
Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. Release date rolls around for Strangeluv's magnum opus. I click download, load up Leo & Leah and begin a journey into one of the most impressive, ambitious and genuinely entertaining RM projects, scratch that - games that I've played in a long time.
Now, time for my breakdown.
Style: - This game has buckets of it.
As I mentioned earlier, the surface style of this game can be polarizing; cutesey lion and animal sprites, chrono trigger rips (a lot of rips in general to be honest, a criticism I have is that a project this nicely made could have done with more custom graphics), a lot of colour and not a fantasy orc or troll in sight (minus some of the characterization, ha-ha). Not your usual RPG fare by a long shot. But Leo & Leah is presented beautifully, the mapping is excellent (bar some annoying map-transition teleport placements), the visuals are thoughtfully arranged and Strangeluv has, characteristically, gone above and beyond the call of duty in terms of ensuring that every minutia of this project's audio-visual and narrative style is helping to bring the player's experience to life and convey exactly what was intended. Not to mention that stylistically speaking this game is consistent as hell.
Enemies can be rushed and pounced before transitioning into a simple yet effectively balanced DBS battle; giving the player the first strike in combat. Defeated enemy parties EXPLODE comically after you successfully finish a battle, a network of stereotype-conscious black cats allow you to save your game and provide you with entertaining tid-bits of dialogue whilst a similar network of disenfranchised signs help guide the titular Leo throughout his quest to find and rescue the love of his life - and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Musical choices in this game are probably some of the best I have ever heard in an RM game. The music in this game really is just plain awesome. Ranging from happy hardcore remixes of operatic and orchestral classics to low, ominous, melancholy sounds to up-tempo tarantinoeqsue, western-sounding, folkish instrumentals (I have no idea how else to describe them). sound effects are fitting, often comedic and near-always effective. My only criticism would be that a quick, 5-10 minute job in audacity could have helped make some of the more obvious looping points for songs seem a lot less obvious. This is a common issue with RM games but not one that is totally unavoidable or unmitigable.
In terms of narrative style - the game is very self-aware, which can be tiresome if it's pulled off sloppily. This game manages to carry it very, VERY well (by bringing with it a super-sized dose of clever, and sometimes dark, humour).Characters address the player directly, fourth-wall breaks are commonplace but for the most part tastefully done. The combination of merciless comedy and the innocent-seeming theme and setting to convey an often much darker, nastier and "adult" subtext is most likely this game's greatest stylistic achievement. Which leads comfortably into:
Substance: - Oh, it's there.
I (well, me and a friend) played this game from start to finish and i can honestly say that I was not expecting this game; this silly, colourful, eye-candytastic game about lions to have anywhere near the amount of substance it delivers. This game's deep. It feels odd to say it, but it really is. This game is deceptive, it lures you in, anesthetizes you with it's wit, presentation and silliness; only to smack you in the face with a huge slab of deep character introspection, semi-disturbing themes, philosophical questions and existential angst - bringing you sharply back to attention and into actually giving a shit what happens to this charset lion, his pink counterpart and pretty much the entire cast of the game.
Perhaps the best thing about all of this is that it doesn't come across as the all-too-typical, contrived attempt at narrative depth which makes the player feel like they're being coerced into investing into a storyline and it's characters by clumsy dramatic techniques and unaware cliches. In-fact it does exactly the opposite. This game first disarms you with a thematic outset so seemingly ludicrous and a style so naive and flippant; that at the beginning of the game the very idea of actually investing in the narrative, or the game even managing to effectively suspend your disbelief appears very doubtful. By doing this the game makes room for the player to be lured into the subtext and deeper themes of the narrative naturally, rather than being forced into a badly constructed melodrama replete with overt attempts to push the player into a particular feeling like a lot of "more serious" games try to do.(which can come across as narm.) Before you know it - you're in it. You don't feel forced.
This is what makes this game maybe the best rm game I've played so far. Style and substance are one and the same in this game, inseparable from each-other and mutually-enhancing from start to finish. Nothing is without reason, customization is present but doesn't come across as "CUSTOM FEATURES MAKE ME COOL!", everything is intentional yet you don't have to "get" everything about it for it to pack a punch. Strangeluv abdicates the puppet-master position of " sole architect of the experience" and instead creates space; allowing the player to have their OWN experience of something a lot deeper than a cookie-cutter storyline with two-dimensional characters and predictable "plot twists".
So in conclusion; I could have gone on and on a lot more about specifics, but in short, this game is a work of art, or, if you think that's too pretentious (and it's probably showed by now that I'm a sucker for hyperbole) then it's at least an example of how close a game made in RPG Maker can get to being "art". It shows what's possible with the medium. We could all learn a lot by playing this game!"