Live A Live Review – Was it Worth the Effort to Remake

I had never heard of Live Alive before the remake was announced. After all, it was previously a Japan exclusive RPG for the Super Famicon. Regardless, I was excited about the remake, primarily because it used the HD 2D Arts, all that is all so beautiful. But was it worth the effort to remake, or should it have stayed an unreleased relic? Well, that’s why Gaming Raja here to answer.

Setup Structure and Unique Mechanics

Live Alive is a unique JRPG, chronicling details of eight characters across different areas, each offering variations of gameplay and narrative, and to say the game is one of a kind would be an understatement. It’s unlike any other classic JRPG I’ve played, and Live Alive dared to step out of the boundaries, and unfortunately it wasn’t rewarded for his efforts at the time. Each chapter is unique in some way, and you can freely jump in and out of them at any time, whenever you want.

This feels almost like a traditional JRPG with no real gimmicks to speak of. It gives you an expansive level to explore, some stealth mechanics so you can avoid battling. The Distant Future chapter has virtually zero combat to speak of. Instead, it’s a mystery set on a small spaceship. The most unique one, though, is the present day, a JRPG take on Street Fighter.

It’s a short chapter, but you must fight champions from all around the world who wear their inspiration on their sleeve. Being remixed versions of Street Fighter characters here, you don’t level up traditionally. Instead, you must bait out the attacks of your opponents to learn their moves and become stronger. The list goes on, but as I write this, I can think of at least one way every chapter story.

Plenty of Issues with the Game

It’s a short game

While they are distinct, there are plenty of issues with the game structure. The chapters are short, maybe two 4 hours, and it feels shorter than I would expect from A JRPG of the Air, and as a result, all of the characters feel pretty shallow as they don’t have time to develop. There were some exciting narrative strings at points, but ultimately they fell flat when I only spent a few hours with them. With nine chapters, I expected the game to be a bit longer than it was, but I finished it in 27 hours. I’m not looking for each chapter to take ten or 15 hours, but I felt like each character could have used another two or 3 hours for me to grow fully attached to them.

Issues with Narratives and Gameplay

Game narratives have come a long way since this was initially released, and I’m sad to say I couldn’t care less about most of these characters. Thankfully, it’s not all bad from a narrative standpoint, as the dialogue is generally written well and the game is genuinely funny, much of it is toilet humor, but I have the brain of a five year old boy, so I chuckled every single time there was a fire joke.

Gameplay is a bit of a mixed bag, partially because every chapter has something different to offer, such as in the Wild West, where you have a time limit to prepare a small town for battle against raiding bandits. At first I thought this mechanic was so cool, but it boiled down to finding items and giving them to the random people in the village to set traps, and I didn’t feel any time pressure doing this, so it was quite uneventful. The Near Future has a mind Raider mechanic that led to the funniest encounter in the game.

Issues with Mechanics

But just like the narrative, the mechanics are either not fleshed out enough or aren’t given enough time to flourish. Take the Prehistoric chapter, for example, which has a crafting system. As you defeat enemies, you gain materials to make improved weapons and armour, but it’s barely functional. I only had to use it a handful of times and never felt compelled to do it otherwise. Unfortunately, this extends to combat.

Live A Live’s Combat

Also, there was nothing wrong with the combat itself. When it works, it’s probably the most engaging combat system of any classic JRPG I have ever played, but for the majority of the game, it’s as wide as an ocean but deep as a puddle. It’s done off a grid system, which adds a bit of complexity to the combat, but in most cases, battles can be completed with just one or two attacks, while each character can learn a ton of moves, I usually ended up using just three moves or so that could handle most enemies with no issue. The boss fights, too, are nothing to write home about. I had no problems beating most of them, and I was hoping for a bit of a challenge.

Now, the combat is at its best during the final two chapters, and the placement of your party members is crucial to beat the battles. And building a diverse team that can deal with the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses showed me just how engaging the combat system can be, but for the rest of the game, it just isn’t implemented this well.

The Best Bits or My Favourite from Live A Live

The game is somewhat disjointed. No mechanic or narrative point has given enough time to come into its own entirely, and as a result, I would say prepare yourself to play these as a handful of short stories rather than one coherent experience. There is one thread that links all the stories together which I won’t spoil, and it all culminates in the final two chapters.

The penultimate chapter really sinks its teeth into me, although it tells a cliched story of a knife who has to save a kidnapped princess. Nostalgic presentation helped elevate it into something that I love. Plus, the combat here is actually challenging. While the basic enemies are still easy to dispatch, the boss fights are significantly more difficult and engaging than anything the game previously offered, and it only gets better from there. The final chapter is where the entire narrative finally comes together.

Again, no spoilers, but this chapter made me do a complete 180 on how I felt about this game. This is hands down one of my favourite parts of any JRPG ever. You start with one of the seven characters of your choosing, and you can find the rest of them throughout the map and recruit them to your party. I explored every last inch of the map, looking to build the strongest party I could ensure. I had a healer, a hard-hitting physical attacker, and a sharp shooting range.

Powerful. And to make it all better, the map is littered with characters, specific dungeons that house valuable items, and a character’s ultimate weapon. Again, I’m not going to spoil anything, but I had an absolute blast in this chapter. It shows how good this combat system can be when given the proper care. As I said, the placement on my party was vital to my success, and even the basic enemies took a bit of brain to fight.

On top of this, the bosses in the dungeons and the final boss were exhilarating. It took me quite some time to figure out the best strategy for the final boss, and even though I was frustrated at the difficulty, the rush from beating him was fantastic. It’s a shame that this chapter can be so strong and the others have so many issues. If the combat was engaging throughout the story, I could forgive the relatively shallow characters. Even the narrative and how the game wraps everything up are way better than anything in the previous chapter.

It’s Great Demonstration

Now I can say that the presentation is absolutely phenomenal. I want Square Enix to remake their whole classic catalog in this arts all because I love it so much. The sprites are beautifully detailed, with so much care poured into even the smallest and most insignificant enemies of foliage. The character animations are amazing too. There’s something about how little bits of their hair and clothes move that just brings them to life, and it would be a shame if I didn’t mention the attack animations.

Some are basic slashes that have a nice bit of feedback, but others are massive screen shattering moves that send a fiery phoenix across a screen or a load of wonderfully animated butterflies. And I couldn’t wait to see what each new chapter brought to the table.

Music

Regardless of how I felt about the gameplay, the game is not only a visual feast, but an audio one two as the music is masterful. I can hear the main team playing as I write the script, and there are so many sound out tracks that I don’t even know where to begin. There simply isn’t a bad piece of music in the game.

Conclusion


Square were onto something with this HD 2D art style in octopus traffic, and it’s used to an even better effect here, and I can’t wait to see what else has to come with Dragon Quest tree and future projects. Overall I’m quite torn and live alive. The lack of depth is a major problem, as each chapter feels too short and shallow. The unique mechanics aren’t given enough time for them to matter and ultimately wind up feeling more like gimmicks. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have fun, and there’s a nice variety of locations, stories and characters, and it all looks beautiful, but I was just hoping for something a little bit more.

There we have a review for Live Alive. Are you going to get it? And if so, who are you going to pick first? Let us know in the comments down below.

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