In RPGs, some eras are more avoided than others! After all, why not go to prehistoric times, the Far West, or even Imperial China instead of heroic fantasy or a dystopian future? Better, why not do everything at the same time? In 1994, that’s exactly what Live A Live introduced to Japanese fans. A cult role-playing game that had not – until then – been released in Europe. Insult now fixed thanks to a Switch remake. Here is our verdict.
Well, Square Enix loves to give us HD-2D games! After Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy, it is now Live A Live that takes advantage of this very special engine, mixing 2D models and 3D decorations. But this time around, an RPG that never left Japan is being revived – officially at least – when it was released in 1994. With this Switch release, many gamers are gearing up to discover Live A Live, a game that almost owes its cult status. Working on its only concept: browsing Seven stories set in seven different eras (Prehistoric, Far West, Present, End of Edo Japan, Imperial China, Near Future, Far Future). Each chapter is independent, with its own characters and environments. The idea is that once you complete them all, you unlock two final sequences that reveal to you the relationship behind these tales, separated by centuries.
Buy Live A Live on Fnac for 39€
7 ways to play
Before telling you its latest secrets, Live A Live will take you on a journey through time and boundaries, which is undoubtedly its greatest strength. Besides the excitement that comes when starting a new story, we should especially applaud the care Square Enix has taken to set up this atmosphere. With one or two exceptions, Live A Live happens all the timeThanks to the great combination of artistic direction and a successful soundtrack, and sometimes great playback, not forgetting the dubbing (in English only) during important clips that really helps to embody the whole. Of course, the HD-2D drive brings a grain of salt, for a palette of color and depth effects that hits home.
Rather docked or portable?
In our testing, we didn’t notice any noticeable difference between the Live A Live handheld mode and the docked mode. Square Enix’s JRPG seems to have a very slight slowdown in the most detailed areas, like the end of Japanese Edo.
But the best part of it all is that Each chapter features mechanics which belong to him. Imperial China for example allows the incarnation of Shifu, a master of kung fu, while training with three disciples. Here the player must decide which apprentice will become stronger, faster or more resistant, the choice being able to have consequences for the continuation of the account. In the Wild West, you will have the task of collecting resources in a limited time and creating traps to besiege an opposing gang. While in the near future, you play as a young man who is able to read the thoughts of other characters. Other stages have a more radical bias, such as in Edo Japan, which takes the form of action and sneak sequences. Not forgetting that the flat design of the stories changes, sometimes somewhat open or linear.
Back to the future
So yeah, everyone shows a Variety more than welcome And Live A Live is a title full of great ideas. But it’s clear that their implementation often smells like the ’90s. And we wouldn’t have said no to a more comprehensive reform in some cases! For example, Edo Castle in Japan is very labyrinthine and punishing, with traps that bring you back without warning from back decks or bosses who pull out of nowhere when their model initially resembles any character. Believe us, you will quickly thank the new autosave system and the “mini-map” at the bottom of the screen that shows the remaining areas to visit and the main goal (which does not exclude a few moments of bewilderment). We can also mention the training system of the Chinese Empire, which boils down to a series of tasteless battles. For the rest, despite the somewhat intrusive chassis in general – especially with the addition of radar – everything is fluid and very pleasant to browse.
Live a Life – A Journey to the Present (Gameplay)
In fact, the concept of Live A Live brings itself Totally counterintuitive situations for JRPG. Where some chapters rely almost exclusively on narrative, others prefer a more exciting approach where you have to level up to beat the bosses. When you start with the first case, it is not easy to activate the “classic role-playing game” later, as training and exploration can be crucial (two or three balancing problems interrupt progress). And after all, what’s the point of spending time developing the champion of every era when we’re not guaranteed to see him again during the Grand Final? The result: we lost interest in the secondary battles of a class, where enemies appeared without warning, in the style of an RPG from the good era. Fortunately, you can escape from clashes without restrictions. It’s kind of a shame.
As long as we’re talking about action stages: Know that Live A Live deviates a bit from JRPG’s turn-based conventions, preferring A more “tactical” approach. Here, there are no magic or action points. The nerve of war is time. Thus, skirmishes occur on a chessboard of seven squares by seven, and the slightest movement will save the opponent vital time. This resource is symbolized by a scale above the enemies. Once it’s over, the villain can attack. Of course, you can do the same, as long as the range of your hit reaches its target. The goal is to use the opponent’s position to your advantage. The backhand will be more effective, as will the technique that is one of the opponent’s weak points. Also, if you are far enough away when the enemy’s time meter reaches its maximum, it is bye bye attack ! In the face of many bad guys, it’s a real game of chess.
In general, the battles in Live A Live work well, and you save a few moments where you will have to tire your mind. But they are not It’s clearly not perfect althoug. The lack of action points or enchantments, for example, encourages the player to always use the same attack, especially when out of reach of the bad guys. Certainly, the most powerful techniques require waiting for a turn or two to be able to charge, during which time the opponent can move or “break” the next hit. Unfortunately, these moments are few and we feel that the clashes could have achieved more. However, we rarely reject the idea of beating ourselves up, so music and visual effects engage us. Not to mention the main rewards: resources, levels, or even equipment.
Forget the flaws quickly
As we just saw, Live A Live is clearly not without flaws, both in terms of its structure and its fights. Is this serious? No way ! During the fifteen to twenty hours it takes to complete the adventure (counting one to three hours per story), there was very little room for fatigue. Different seasons and ages Always interesting, especially thanks to the new gameplay and diverse atmosphere. There’s also equally elegant writing – despite some cliches – and an epilogue worth wrapping up. In short, we always want to see more. So you will have understood, it is a success.
Live a Life – A Few Minutes in the Wild West (Gameplay)
- Always an original and powerful concept
- Diverse great atmosphere
- Lots of game ideas
- Dubbing and soundtrack
- Writing is more than satisfying
- Successful combat system
- Some old school mechanics
- The chapter in the present is disappointing
- Some balance issues
Nearly thirty years after its release in Japan, Live A Live remains a journey apart, through time and borders, enhanced here by Square Enix remakes. It’s simple, the different eras the title has offered (from prehistoric times to the future through Imperial China) have never been so exciting, thanks to the Japanese developer’s HD-2D engine. The result is the color and depth effects that often hit the mark. Setting up a very engaging writing selection though over the years, made even more immersive by the English dubbing. On the other hand, some designs and mechanical options are still stuck in the ’90s, which can sometimes interfere with the fun and pace of progress. There are also fights some of which are still under the pedal. But this is not enough to distort the experience deeply. Whether out of nostalgia or newcomers, Live A Live is a journey that can be savored with pleasure from start to finish. A great adventure that you must (re)discover!
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Buy Live A Live on Fnac for 39€
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