Nintendo is having a terrific year with several amazing Nintendo Switch exclusives, one of which being Live A Live. It is a classic JRPG that never saw the light of day in the West, hence there was no English localization. This was first launched on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and Square Enix didn’t waste any time in remaking it in the fantastic 2D-HD engine. It is one of the most aesthetically stunning HD-2D games I have seen in motion on the Nintendo Switch, and while there aren’t many, I doubt it will be surpassed very soon.
Live A Live isn’t your typical JRPG. This is why I urge that anyone interested in checking it out first see the demo. It has seven separate storylines, each with its gameplay aspect. These each has its cast of characters, settings, and gameplay systems. They are well-written independent stories worth exploring, particularly if you enjoy quirky JRPGs. They are aided by the HD-2D style, which keeps their original design while presenting it in a stunning 3D format.
I am surprised by the innovations being offered here. For a game that was released so long ago, in the 1990s, Live A Live is a refreshing change of pace. It is not a JRPG where you are going to team up with random strangers and go on a quest to save the world. It is a personal story of a group of characters who go through their trials and tribulations. The themes are varied enough like a Wild West theme, or a Prehistoric world where the character has to communicate through animations. Each of the various periods depicted in Live A Live is unique and uses this as an opportunity to offer gameplay mechanics that help set them apart.
In the Wild West chapter, we’ll be looking for objects to use as traps while defending the people from a rival gang. Exploration takes precedence over combat in this instance. The prehistoric chapter we discussed before has no dialogue, so only sounds and animations are used to help grasp the situation. The main character in this story has a keen sense of smell, which he may utilize to track down enemies and other non-player characters. There’s also an Edo-era scenario in which we play as shinobi and may slaughter adversaries in stealth. As a result, the many gameplay options available here are not only intriguing but also make good use of their particular period.
When I started playing the many chapters of Live A Live, I was reminded of Chrono Trigger’s superb character development. Takashi Tokita, one of the creators, did work on this game, and it shows in the scenario design. While each chapter provides a unique gaming experience, they are all linked by the same combat system in which each character is put on a grid.
The battle took place in a turn-based format, with the characters making movements in a grid structure. While each chapter is brief, there is generally a chance to earn experience points and level up in the event of a difficulty spike. This does not always happen, therefore the player must try their luck or alter strategies to get through some of the more difficult encounters.
The combat works effectively since the game takes advantage of the character’s unique abilities. Some characters may teach new moves to others, while others can learn them from enemies. The game also alternates between time eras, so there is a present day, a future day, and so on. Some characters are more successful at long range and others are more effective at close range. Some of these will be able to trap the enemies, giving them a strategic advantage. Essentially, each of the seven chapters plays differently, avoiding the boredom of repetition that comes with a turn-based JRPG.
I cannot stress how unique this JRPG has been, and I don’t remember playing anything that comes close to it. The chapter-based approach works out well and the game doesn’t force the player to go through these in a sequence. Any chapter can be picked at any point, even when the player is in the middle of one. The game manages to save progress so going back and forth is not a big issue. All of this helps to make Live A Live one of the most unique JRPGs of recent times.
Completing all chapters results in another epilogue in which we have control over all of the key characters. It is here that the game truly excels and reveals the full potential of its combat system. The game’s selling point, though, is its diverse gameplay, with seven separate stories offering us a view into different historical periods and some fascinating characters. The script and voice acting are both excellent, and the comedy is typically on the money, with many funny sequences making us laugh while still progressing the story.
I heartily suggest Live A Live to everyone who likes JRPGs. I also hope that Square Enix will be able to continue this IP in the future with further games that take a similar approach.