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2022-09-17 13:27:57

Live A Live is a quite unique JRPG not only in terms of design ideas but also how to build narratives. Each character has its own story line that is completely different not only in terms of plot, but also in context and era, and is divided into independent chapters. It all just converges at the most unexpected moment in the game experience. In particular, the cast of characters in each chapter are designed by very famous mangakas from the 90s up to now.

For those of you who don’t know, Live A Live was first released on the Super Famicom in 1994 under the direction of Mr. Tokita Takashi. Notably, he is also the one who directed the extreme JRPG Chrono Trigger and the classic action role-playing game Parasite Eve that the writer loves. However, the original game was not translated and released internationally. Even in 2008, 5 years after the SNES empire ended its life, the game got a fansubs version.

Live A Live 2022 is a remake of the aforementioned 1994 original game with a completely overhauled audiovisual aspect. The game has an HD-2D graphic style similar to Octopath Traveler, combining a sprite that evokes a lot of nostalgia and a 3D background to create depth for the scene. This design creates extremely impressive frames. For example, the image of the ninja Oboromaru in chapter ‘Twilight of Edo Japan’ running on the roof in the middle of the sunset, looks like a beautiful art picture.

The brightest plus point of Live A live is the unique game design. Specifically, each chapter not only takes place in a different era, but the control character is also completely new. That is, I have not mentioned that the gameplay mechanics of each chapter are also very different. For example, in “prehistory” Prehistory, because there was no language, the story was told under specific symbols. Not only that, the enemy also does not appear directly, but only through the scent smelled by the unique skills of the prehistoric character Pogo.

Chapter “far west” The Wild West is the opposite. The main character Sundown mainly contributes to the townspeople to set traps, causing great damage to the enemy instead of fighting continuously like the character Shifu in the Imperial China chapter. In contrast, the Twilight of Edo Japan chapter encourages you to use the skills of the ninja Oboromaru to act stealthily behind enemies, without harming anyone. Of course, players can still experience it at will, but unexpected consequences are waiting for you ahead.

From a player perspective, the non-linear experience design plus the variety in gameplay, as well as the setting and narrative are the biggest plus points of Live A Live. This design even allows players to experience the game freely. For example, you can completely choose a certain chapter, play a little bit and then switch to another chapter and still be able to return to play the old chapter at any time. The game automatically saves the progress of each chapter for you.

But from another perspective, the biggest plus point mentioned above of Live A Live is also the minus point of the game. The reason is because the above design provides an unbalanced and somewhat repetitive experience when experienced in a chapter. For example, the Imperial China chapter takes place in continuous battles throughout the game experience, so much so that the writer feels tired from the second half of this chapter. The Twilight of Edo Japan chapter of the character Oboromaru also has a similar problem.

Live A Live game review

The characteristic design of the castle that ninja Oboromaru had to invade was extremely large. Meanwhile, this game screen has many similar locations with many secrets leading to shortcuts, causing the writer to lose his way continuously throughout the experience of this chapter. This is especially true when the level is built like a maze in the game experience with many unexpected connections. In fact, Live A Live has directional radar in the bottom right corner of the screen, but it’s not very useful in finding the way.

Each chapter has its problems, but the uniqueness of the eras and main characters in each chapter makes the experience feel quite exciting and always fresh. Part of it is also because the duration of each chapter is not so long that it is inhibiting. Not only that, the combat aspect, although sharing a tile system similar to tactical role-playing games like Triangle Strategy, is tailored to each character through a highly personalized skill system.

For example, the ninja Oboromaru uses the majority of combat skills that affect a large area of ​​​​multiple cells, while the character Shifu has a very limited attack range. In contrast, the western cowboy Sundown uses a gun, so he can only attack opponents from a great distance. This design forces the player to learn each character’s fighting style in each chapter, taking advantage of that attack and the protagonist’s skills in battles throughout each chapter.

Even the enemies in each chapter are always designed and positioned, making it easier for you to deploy tactics and effectively use each main character’s own skills. If players don’t realize this and just focus on attacking like traditional JRPGs, the combat experience in Live A Live can become quite challenging. It is also the writer’s bloody experience when encountering enemies such as hidden bosses that are resistant to certain attacks.

Live A Live game review

In fact, Live A Live may surprise you with its turn-based combat system but has a lot of action feel, reminiscent of the classic Parasite Eve. The battle takes place on a squared battlefield like a chessboard. Each attack has a characteristic area of ​​impact like the different pieces of chess. Players must know how to use combat skills most effectively in each case. For example, there are attacks that only deal damage in a straight or diagonal line, even around the character at a very close distance.

Therefore, keeping a distance when attacking is a key factor when fighting in Live A Live. Not to mention, each character and enemy has a “turn” bar that fills up when performing actions such as moving, attacking, and being attacked by enemies. If this bar is full but there are no targets around you and vice versa, the character loses its turn. Players can take advantage of this to disable the opponent’s turn, providing a rather exciting combat experience.

However, the minus point of the combat system in Live A Live is the lack of depth, rarely creating a sense of challenge once you understand how to operate. Much of the combat experience revolves around choosing the right skills. In many cases it is the skill that deals the most damage, combined with moving and keeping a reasonable distance plus healing when necessary, the victory is almost certainly yours. Boss and mini boss, although taking longer, are not outside the above loop.

From a player’s perspective, Live A Live’s performance is extremely impressive on Nintendo’s systems whether it’s docking or playing in handheld mode. The game also possesses excellent audio and is very well optimized when experienced on Switch. One point that I also can’t fail to mention is the extremely fast loading time, usually taking only a few seconds during transitions or into battle. It’s only a pity that the subtitle font does not change according to the theme of each era like the fansub version but is consistent throughout the game experience.

Live A Live game review

After all, Live A Live offers a unique immersive experience with unique ideas in story building and gameplay mechanics. If you love JRPGs, this is actually an indispensable name for your game library.

Live A Live is now available for Nintendo Switch.

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The article uses games supported by the publisher.

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