Introduction: A Long-Awaited Adventure
The original Live A Live RPG, released in 1994 exclusively for the SNES in Japan, has finally made its way to the West through a new 2D-HD remake exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. This influential game tells eight unique stories, each featuring a different character, before bringing them all together in an epic finale. Back when it was first released, Live A Live’s storytelling structure was truly ahead of its time.
Diverse Characters and Time Periods
Live A Live introduces players to a diverse cast of characters, each occupying a distinct setting and point in time. For example, there’s Pogo, whose story takes place in prehistoric times when speech was still primitive, and Cube, who lives in a distant future dominated by space commerce. Each character’s chapter features a unique gameplay gimmick, such as Shinobi’s Edo period dungeon crawling or Akira’s near-future open-world exploration reminiscent of classic JRPGs like Final Fantasy.
The Power of Turn-Based Battles
One of Live A Live’s greatest strengths is its enjoyable turn-based battle system. However, similar to its slow-building narrative, this system takes time to reach its full potential.
Octopath Travelers: Selecting Stories
Live A Live allows players to select any character’s story from a menu screen and dive right in. Once a character’s story concludes, players can return to the menu screen to choose another. The game does an excellent job of presenting different gameplay mechanics in each chapter, keeping the experience fresh. Some chapters stand out in particular, like Masaru Takaharu’s tale, where he competes in a global tournament as a powerful fighter. This chapter adopts a classic fighting game structure, similar to Virtua Fighter, where Masaru can select opponents and even learn their moves for future battles.
The Road to the Finale: Memorable and Missed Opportunities
While most chapters in Live A Live are enjoyable, a few fall short. For instance, the Wild West chapter with the character Sundown feels underdeveloped and lacks a strong gameplay hook. Additionally, the chapter itself is short and fails to fully explore its potential.
The Finale: A Thrilling Conclusion
The overarching narrative that brings all the characters together in Live A Live’s final chapter might not be groundbreaking, following the standard plot of banding together to defeat a big evil. However, this is where the real fun begins. Players can choose a lead character and search for the rest of the cast scattered across the area, allowing for a customized party composition. Extra dungeons and end-game equipment await in the final chapter, where the battle system finally shines as players gain access to all the characters and their unique abilities. It’s unfortunate that Live A Live saves its best moments for last.
Embracing the Grid: A Unique Battle System
Live A Live’s battle system utilizes a turn-based structure on a grid, with both allies and enemies having their own Charge gauge. When a unit’s gauge fills up, they can perform an attack. The Charge Gauge increases with any action, including movement. Each character also learns different skills as they level up, with powerful end-game skills that are visually stunning.
A Feast for the Senses: Visuals and Music
The HD-2D remake of Live A Live truly enhances the game’s overall presentation. The retro charm of the original graphics remains intact, while the 3D particle effects accompanying attacks provide a beautiful contrast to the 2D sprites. Notably, the most powerful attacks in the game look absolutely stunning. The music in Live A Live is also fantastic, with the boss theme accurately reflecting the intensity of facing formidable foes. The updated tracks, particularly the encounter themes for Akira and Masaru, feature energetic guitar riffs that enhance the gameplay experience.
Some Bumps on the Journey: Difficulty Spikes
There are some inconsistencies in difficulty throughout Live A Live. Certain characters have an easier time facing their respective bosses due to better access to healing items and moves. On the other hand, solo fights can prove challenging, particularly when the character’s damage output is low. Overall, some chapters can be frustrating until the battle system reaches its full potential in the end game.
A Revamped Presentation
The transition of Live A Live from the SNES to the Nintendo Switch is truly remarkable. The graphics retain their original retro charm, complemented by stunning 3D particle effects. The user interface has also received a substantial overhaul, with vibrant color schemes and animated sprites bringing life to the menus. The addition of full voice acting, absent in the original version, adds another layer of immersion to the game.
Our Verdict: A Memorable Journey
Live A Live achieves its goal of delivering a satisfying story-driven experience with engaging gameplay. However, it takes time to reach its most enjoyable part, the final chapter. Some character chapters may feel like a slog, but the visual presentation and captivating music make the journey worthwhile.
Is There a Worthy Alternative?
Octopath Traveler, another HD-2D remake game, comes close to Live A Live’s premise. Octopath Traveler boasts better individual character stories and a more consistent progression in its battle system.
How Long will the Adventure Last?
To complete the main story, defeat the final boss, and explore the optional end-game dungeons, players can expect to spend around 25-30 hours in Live A Live.
Should You Embark on this Journey?
Absolutely! Live A Live is a must-play for any JRPG fan. It captures the essence of the genre, providing a delightful battle system and a much-needed presentation boost.
Live A Live was tested on Nintendo Switch.
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