Release Date: May 27, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Adventure RPG
The RPG genre is such a broad spectrum of gaming that a diverse umbrella of titles can qualify for it, if just vaguely. However, there are rare instances where the genre itself seems almost alien to what the rest of a game’s essence provides. The LiEat trilogy embodies this contradictory existence. Having enjoyed these lite RPGs on PC when they initially released, I was more than enthused about revisiting them on the Switch.
After replaying each of these titles, I have found that my past self’s taste in gaming was not misplaced, though certain elements of the collective experience are more head-scratching than anything else.
Each of the LiEat games follow Theobald Leonhart, and Efina. The former is a con artist who looks after Efina and alters his appearance and name in each location he visits, such as calling himself Leo for the first game. He is masterful at deceiving others for his benefit, but despite his cold nature, it is clear he greatly cares for the young Efina.
Efina, on the other hand, is a young humanoid girl who is actually a dragon that can devour literal lies. Lies take physical form around her, and confronting these manifestations of deceit is how the combat occurs. Theo accompanies her during most of these bouts as well. Fighting is turn-based with Skills, Items, and a normal attack that both Theo and Efina can use. There is very little to explain regarding these systems as they are, quite honestly, rather elementary. The difficulty is also practically non-existent, thanks to grinding being almost comically simple to undergo.
There are legendary weapons that can be found across the games that utterly break any sense of potential challenge players might have. Once again, with the brevity of these games and the lack of difficulty they provide, these overpowered inclusions can be seen as easter eggs and nothing more. Still, with how mindless the games make it to grind off of encounters combined with these weapons, the point of combat at all is up in the air.
These games are each around an hour, so the lack of combat complexity is understandable. Yet, I question the meaning behind its inclusion at all since I felt the stories and characterization being told here would have far better fit the mold of a visual novel or the like. Still, the combat is nowhere close to a ruiner. The UI is clean to parse, and fights pass by painlessly. They in no way impede upon the stories being told. Speaking of, while certainly nothing masterclass, the writing of these games is truly where they shine the brightest.
Each title tackles a central mystery of sorts that Theo and Efina attempt to unknot. There are somewhat recurring characters other than the protagonists, too, police force members Neil and Brett, in particular. They impact the first 2 titles with their own directives that collide with Theo and Efina’s. The interactions between these characters and the episode-specific ones are where the games shine due to the brilliant personality packed into each line. Obviously, going into specifics would ruin the impact of the characterizations, but Efina is truly where the heart and soul of the trilogy lies.
While Theo is certainly the more relatable cynic of the two, Efina is a shining ray of optimism and acts as the player’s proxy for the world surrounding her. Not only that, but she brings out the best in people she talks to, and grows noticeably more mature throughout each entry. Her growth is what I’d argue is the linchpin of the collective experience alongside Theo’s past. As seemingly overly capable of events as he seems to be, Theo harbors some deep-seated regrets and trauma that are alluded to but takes center stage in the final game.
There are fun moments of gameplay found in the small-scale environments and conversations with NPCs. The way these characters reacted to situations was in line with what I would expect from real people. This stellar writing stands out thanks to how the screen time everyone gets is minute at best. That shows how natural and cohesive these exchanges feel and how impressively simple it is to grow attached.
The art style is also an enhancer of the experiences. The sprites and illustrations are simultaneously endearing but not overly cutesy enough to negate the stern tone that accompanies the crux of the mysteries and character drama. I found the provided aspect ratio to take me out of the immersion a tad and would have appreciated fuller screen options, or perhaps, other aspect ratio options in general. This is a relatively minor pet peeve though.
There are some bad ends present, particularly when losing against certain bosses, though there are a few viewable via other means. A few of these endings are standout with how they flesh out branching possibilities that differ from the main timeline. I highly recommend seeking out each of these endings, as they will undoubtedly cement a sturdier sense of impact.
When completing a game, players gain access to what I call the post-game room. These rooms contain neat bonuses such as character profiles and a music player. The music player is especially noteworthy since it allows players to adjust the speed of the tracks themselves. With how varied the tracks are, this tool grants the ability to morph tracks into completely unique ambiances that differ entirely from their default nature.
The music, by the way, is this trilogy’s other highlight aside from its writing. The hub area themes emit this ever-present sense of majestical whimsy. Whether due to nostalgia or some other unidentifiable sense of comfort, these songs are never tiresome despite their short loops. The battle tracks are similarly addicting to keep on repeat, but their atmospheres lie on the spectrum of perpetual dread that perfectly encapsulates the terror of confronting lies.
Lies are at the core of each story’s conflict, and the way the concept is approached is undeniably unique. The first story confronts the subject of murder, while the second deals with the facets of memory, so there is definitely variety in theme, environment, and conflict in each of the games.
I found the lore present in this trilogy remotely compelling and would have appreciated some deeper dives into it. For instance, Efina isn’t the only Dragon around. There are others you encounter that are Dragons, and they have their reasons for existing the ways they do that also uniquely tie into their traits themselves. The world, in general, stuck with me as I desired to learn more. Still, I also can’t help but appreciate the brevity of these games since they did not overstay their welcome whatsoever and did not needlessly pan out their lengths for playtime.
The LiEat trilogy presents a lite visual novel esque adventure with a charming duo of protagonists and through a whimsical narrative. While the questionable implementation of combat is puzzling, and the collectively 3-hour play-time for the entire trilogy can be understandable turn-offs, I find the characterizations and soundtrack more than enough to give these games a try.
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