Live A Live, review – Nerd4.life

The Live A Live review talks about a classic of the SNES era that comes to life on Switch with a remake in HD-2D: will it be a JRPG suitable even for the less nostalgic?

Playing Live A Live was like taking a dive not so much into the past, but into an alternative dimension, which on the one hand reminds us of what the games of the past were like and on the other shows us how they would be now, in this market: Out of time. Which is not necessarily a flaw, but it is something to keep in mind if you embark on this venture. The game coming out on Nintendo Switch is a HD-2D remake of the Japanese RPG of the same name that Square Enix released in 1994 for SNES: this you should know if you have followed the development, or even just read our previous Live A Live test, in which we have examined a few chapters of the game. Alternatively, the Nintendo eShop also offers a demo that could help you understand if this strange JRPG is for you, or if you need to orient yourself on something more classic.

In case you decide to give Takashi Tokita’s game a chance, the director of much more famous titles such as Chrono Trigger or Parasite Eve, ours Live A Live review will explain why it is a truly unique, even if imperfect, gem.

So many stories for so many protagonists

Live A Live, the story selection screen

The seven initial chapters of Live A Live follow the misadventures of as many protagonists, but exactly as it happened in the original version of ’94, after completing their stories the game continues and, with its more finalguarantees a more complete experience. In these terms, Live A Live might seem like a rather long RPG, but that’s not quite the case: it is completed in about twenty hourssomething more if you want to unravel all its secrets. Tokita’s title belongs to an era in which Japanese role-playing games did not last too many hours and this makes it particularly suitable for those looking for a contained JRPG, but with a great variety of characters, situations and gameplay.

Despite this, we must admit that Live A Live feels the weight of its years, especially on the front of the storytelling. As we had anticipated in our test, not all the stories that make up this mosaic are truly valid.

The worst of all is undoubtedly Todaya boss rush with a completely anonymous protagonist that is completed in a short hour and does not represent the ambitions of the game in the least. The others, on the other hand, are already more interesting: usually, the writing, the themes and the soundtrack compensate for the shortcomings in terms of characterization and deepening of contexts and characters, and it is for this reason that the best stories are actually the longest ones, if nothing else because the protagonists are able to breathe a little more.

I am anyway fairly obvious plotscharacterized by an invisible thread – which more than anything else is a generic theme – which connects them in the concluding chapter. It is, however, a “reunion” more in terms of gameplay than narrative.

These dynamics might be reminiscent of Octopath Traveler – not surprisingly Tokita worked on that as well – but there are actually a few important differences between the two games.

Live A Live, the Today chapter is a turn-based fighting game

Live A Live, the Today chapter is a turn-based fighting game

In Octopath Traveler the characters existed and met in the same world and in the same era, but the optional recruitment involved a narrative estrangement for which all the party members disappeared in the fundamental moments of the story, with the exception of the protagonist on duty. This in Live A Live doesn’t happen simply because the characters live in completely different eras and each story is totally autonomous, if we exclude the aforementioned recurring theme which then triggers the final bars of the game. In this sense, the narrative of the individual chapters of Live A Live is more compact and coherent, but also essential, and this aspect could please those looking for a Lightweight RPG and also straight from the point of view of history.

In short, everything depends on the meaning you give to the genre. If you think that RPGs are above all engaging stories, which justify the gameplay and not vice versa, then Live A Live is not the title for you: the remake of Square Enix is ​​in fact a kind of collection, a compilation of micro role-playing games. to nibble, and in this sense it is excellent entry point for those who are approaching Japanese role-playing games for the first time and do not want to get involved in too long adventures.

Live A Live, the chapter The Far Future is science fiction

Live A Live, the chapter The Far Future is science fiction

As we said, some stories are significantly more engaging than others, particularly the Near Future or the Wild West. There Italian localization he ventures a colorful register and returns flowing dialogues that give greater personality even to the protagonists who are barely sketched. As a whole, Live A Live is an extremely suggestive game also for the solution of setting each chapter in a different era, thus employing different designs for the sprites and scenarios.

The HD-2D graphics Once again, games like this, which exist in a real limbo halfway between nostalgia and modernization, prove to be the best choice not to strip their vintage aura, but in some moments we notice a certain poverty in the animations or in the effects which does not help the general picture, although this is characterized by an important level of detail. We appreciated, among other things, the decision to rearrange all the music of the always extraordinary Yoko Shimomurawhich give the scenarios a more engaging flavor, despite the limitations of the narrative: the composer employs a multitude of tools to adapt to the era in which the current story unfolds, even churning out a hilarious anime theme in the chapter of the Future Next.

Compilation of RPGs

Live At Live, in Imperial China you will need to train a disciple

Live At Live, in Imperial China you will need to train a disciple

As we said, Live A Live is not a real JRPG, but more of a compilation that not only offers different stories, but also various gameplay solutions. Again, not all chapters convinced us equally. Ironically, it is the worst story, today, that makes the best use of the combat systemwhich is inspired by the Active Time Battle of Final Fantasy: the characters can only act when the appropriate indicator is recharged and at that point they can move on the battlefield, use consumables and attack with any special techniques. It is interesting that the latter are practically all area-based and force the player to study the positioning of his characters and the enemies lined up with a minimum of attention.

Live A Live is not a particularly difficult game, and Square Enix has made significant changes to smooth out the edges of 30-year-old gameplay – introducing a minimap when needed, for example, or the ability to change chapters without having to start over – but it can become demanding and the difficulty curve is not exactly balanced, even if it depends on how certain chapters are played.

Live At Live, in Japan Edo you will become a shinobi on a mission

Live At Live, in Japan Edo you will become a shinobi on a mission

In the Edo Period, for example, choosing whether to sneak in or attack every enemy makes a difference in terms of difficulty, not just because the protagonist doesn’t earn the same experience points. But Today she is a rush and the boss Edo period it’s a kind of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice before the letterwhile other chapters, such as the Far Future or Imperial China, are a bit more strategic or role-playing and require a more traditional approach both in exploration and in the micromanagement of characters and inventory.

In any case, Live A Live guarantees a variety of very remarkable situations, which fully justifies the different lengths of the individual chapters. Square Enix’s game is balanced in this sense and even when it has its roots in the role-playing tradition, it does so with relative caution, without flooding the player with information, statistics or parameters to consider. For this reason, Live A Live may not appeal to those looking for a more homogeneous or specialized title, so to speak, but it must also be contextualized to understand the goodness of its peculiar characteristics.

Live A Live, Prehistory is a hilarious chapter

Live A Live, Prehistory is a hilarious chapter

Today the idea behind Live A Live – a multiplicity of stories converging in the same direction – could seem even trivial, because many other games have proposed a structure of this type, just think of the aforementioned Octopath Traveler or, if we want to dig more after all, to titles like SaGa Frontier, which has also recently been remastered for Nintendo Switch.

In ’94, however, the JRPG landscape was dominated above all by Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and Live A Live represented experimentation, a breath of fresh air that was practically unprecedented. In this sense, the revived Square Enix in HD-2D is a piece of videogame history, a small cult, but it is difficult to imagine that the average gamer of 2022 can pass over his anachronistic naivety. After playing it and appreciating the modernization work, we can’t help but ask ourselves: why didn’t a masterpiece like Chrono Trigger take precedence?

Comment

Live A Live is a difficult title to judge, because you have to think of it in the perspective of a remake that almost only modernizes the technical sector of a game that, in 1994, was certainly futuristic and experimental on SNES, but which in 2022 pays the price of an ingenuity of yesteryear. It remains an entry-level RPG that stands out for the great variety of scenarios and gameplay dynamics, and that could please those looking for a content title, to nibble on while waiting for the big shots, or want to do everything in the past to bask in nostalgia .

PRO

  • The variety of situations and scenarios always keeps the interest high
  • The modernization work on the technical sector

VERSUS

  • The narrative is nice, but it lacks depth
  • The gameplay dynamics haven’t aged very well