Live A Live Review
It's been over two decades since the release of Live A Live, it has finally made its way to the Switch. Does this RPG classic still hold up?
Live A Live is a game that marches to its own beat, offering a unique experience in the role-playing genre. It's an experience that has been almost 30 years in the making as the original game came out on the Super Famicom in 1994. It was never released outside of Japan, until now. Decades later Nintendo and Square Enix have teamed up to bring the experience to fans around the world in a new remake.
"It was never released outside of Japan, until now."
What makes the game so unique is it split up into eight different chapters, each with their own unique protagonist and setting. This includes everything from a western-style gunslinger story to a mecha anime tale. Despite the disparate genres, all of the stories are connected by a central mystery. Despite its age, Live A Live is still a lot of fun to play especially with the upgraded visuals, sound and host of other quality of life improvements. Let's find out if the JRPG classic still holds up after all these years.
Live A Live Details
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, Nintendo OLED, and Nintendo Switch Lite
Developer(s): Square Enix
Genre: Adventure, Role-playing
Modes: Single Player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
A Unique Evolving Story
The storyline in Live A Live is told through eight different parts and follows eight separate characters. The game has you playing as a ninja in Feudal Japan, a Kung Fu master in ancient China, a robot in the future, a caveman, a cowboy and more. Despite the disparate settings and stories, there are common threads that bind these characters together. What's interesting is you can tackle these stories in any order that you please and each is fully realized with its own detailed world and characters.
"What's interesting is you can tackle these stories in any order that you please and each is fully realized with its own detailed world and characters."
Each separate chapter play through can clock in anywhere from 1 - 5 hours, depending on how many of the side quests or secret bosses you decide to engage with. The game's writing is excellent, with each character having a distinct personality and combat traits. The stories are interesting and provide plenty of motivation to see them through to the end. While some parts are better than others, overall Live A Live is a solid JRPG with an engaging story.
A Diverse Gameplay Experience
Live A Live features a unique turn based grid system that is optimized in different ways depending on the character you are using. This system forces you to think about your actions and use the environment to your advantage. What I found most appealing was just how dramatically different the combat became when you played with a new character. For example, the Western character, "The Sundown Kid" has a revolver so all their attacks are long-range.
"What I found most appealing was just how dramatically different the combat became when you played with a new character."
The gameplay experience is not without its flaws, however. The difficulty can be all over the place, with some parts feeling too easy and others really ratcheting things up unexpectedly. You'll find yourself needing to grind a few levels while facing off against some bosses, it's not a dealbreaker but it hurts the pacing of the experience. Despite these issues, Live A Live is still a lot of fun to play and an innovative JRPG all these years later.
Live A Live's HD 2D Graphics
The graphics in Live A Live are simply stunning in their own pixel-art styling. The Switch remake does a great job of modernizing the game without losing the charm of the original art style. Square-Enix's HD-2D that was used in games like Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy is very much in effect here and it looks fantastic. The game runs smoothly and I didn't experience any slowdown or framerate issues. The Sprite-based characters and worlds look truly stunning, and the unique use of different camera angles really helps to immerse you in the different adventures.
"The Switch remake does a great job of modernizing the game without losing the charm of the original art style."
Game's Audio and Sound Design
The game sounds just as good as it looks, with an excellent score that sets the tone for each of the game's unique settings. The game's original composer from 1994, Yoko Shimomura, took the 16-bit track and has added modern instruments, vocals and more to upgrade the soundtrack. The sound design is also well done, with each area having its own unique ambiance and effects. The game does a great job of making you feel like you're really in the middle of a Feudal Japan battle or in the middle of the Wild West. It sounds great, and is a fitting homage to the original that players new and old will thoroughly enough.
"The game does a great job of making you feel like you're really in the middle of a Feudal Japan battle or in the middle of the Wild West."
Final Thoughts on Live A Live
Live A Live is a unique RPG that features an interesting story format that you can play in any order. The game's writing is excellent, with each character having a distinct personality. The stories are interesting and provide plenty of motivation to see them through to the end. While some parts are better than others, overall Live A Live is a solid JRPG with an engaging story. If you're looking for something different, then you'll want to give Live A Live a try.
Live A Live PROS
+A huge variety of settings and stories to experience
+Interesting characters throughout
+New English dub is well done
+Game looks great on the Switch
Live A Live CONS
-The game can feel disjointed at times due to its structure
-Not all of the stories are equally compelling
-Final act becomes "grindy" with enemy confrontation
Overall Rating: 32.5/40 (81%)
A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Along with being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on twitter, Instagram and join in on the fun!
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