It's been ages since I made this game but if I recall correctly, Leona is found elsewhere.... Don't worry about it uwu sorry late reply.
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You need a certain character in your party to recruit squish. Other than that, I don't think there was a particular way to cheer her up. Polly appears briefly in a tower only accessible in new game plus. She cannot be recruited. It's been a while since i worked on this game, I hope I'm not forgetting anything.
i'm not quite sure which area you mean but if you don't want to lose frog girl, there's ways to remove her from party temporarily. You can also finish the game without doing the parts where you might lose her.
A slightly updated version, 1.16 is now available. A map layout was reworked to allow easier backtracking and make those 3 screens more interesting. Also, a physical release of Machine Cave is in the works!
Yeees... It took me about 3-4 months to make everything. I had to learn a lot of new things from tutorials and nesdev wiki online. I wanted to make more content but writing the game in C limited me to using small cartridge types. I'm quite proud of how well I optimized and structured the program code. Some of the program code is 3rd party, such as the audio engine.