Live A Live Review


I’ve been a huge fan of JRPGs my whole life. The 90s era of SNES JRPGs provided some of the most critically acclaimed titles in the genre that stand the test of time, even to this very day. Unfortunately one of the greats of the time, despite being widely praised, never got a worldwide release. That game was Live A Live, which until playing this Nintendo Switch remake had never been ‘officially’ released in the west. This lead to an incredibly lengthy plea from fans to officially release the game. And the time has finally come. For the first time since it’s release in 1994, Live A Live is widely available to play on the Nintendo Switch. Completely remade using the HD2D engine that brought Octopath Traveller and more recently Triangle Strategy to life. And due to some clever design choices, Live A Live too stands the test of time and does things that I’m surprised haven’t been widely replicated within the genre almost 30 years on since it originally debuted.

Live A Live Review

Live A Live is not like your typical JRPG focusing on a main character and a vibrant party of adventurers. Instead it utilises a unique storytelling concept, containing 7 different stories, following different casts of characters across 7 different time periods. And while it offers up 7 adventures to play through, it manages to pull it all together to create an incredibly engaging and cohesive game when the credits do roll.

Upon starting the game, you’ll have the ability to start your adventure with any of the 7 protagonists, allowing you to tackle each of the stories in the order you prefer, and also allows you the ability to jump into another character’s chapter at pretty much any time. So if you do get over the setting or mechanics of any one of the adventures, it’s easy enough to jump into something fresh to keep you engaged as each of the stories feel unique and varies from one another and take place in a different point in history which also keeps things visually interesting too. Each chapter also has it’s own set of systems, mechanics and gameplay styles introduced too to help them feel distinctly different but also similar enough that the overall story and gameplay experience does feel cohesive.

Live A Live Review

The combat system is a consistent mechanic that is persistent throughout all of the chapters that include encounters. It’s a turn based grid focussed system not too dissimilar to something you’d find in Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. While the core system is utilised in each chapter, each character’s attacks and special abilities play into their individual strengths. Such as some characters being focused on martial arts, hand to hand combat while other’s strengths lie in attacking from a distance with pistols etc. It was cool to see how the same core combat system could vary so much depending on the current character you were controlling. Once again keeping things consistently fresh and never repetitive, which can often be the case with longer form JRPGs.

Going in, I was somewhat aware of the kind of game I was expecting due to the trailers I’d seen. But I wasn’t expecting how consistently gorgeous and varied the game’s environments would be. Live A Live really shines in this HD2D remake, mixing gorgeous sprite based characters and environments but in a 3D space to produce a game that pays homage to the classic era of pixel based JRPGs but puts an attractive modern visual twist and depth into the presentation too. A feature that just wasn’t possible on the SNES at the time.

Live A Live Review

The second surprise came with the presentation of the game’s story. I wasn’t expecting it to be mostly voice acted, and the performances of the characters was great. I went in expecting a solid story, and what I thought would be a text based narrative, but when the cast started to speak, and when it continued throughout the whole story, it really took my enjoyment and attachment to the characters to the next level. Live A Live’s story is full of twists and turns and emotional connections to it’s characters and settings. It’s a game truly driven by it’s story and uncovering what’s going to happen next. Go in completely blind if you can, so that the experience and the twists aren’t spoiled.

Outside of the main narrative, there are plenty of optional environments to explore, bosses to fight and even endings to witness, which not only promotes further exploration, but even multiple playthroughs if you’re up to that. And are the kind of player that likes to see everything a game has to offer. Thankfully the game’s soundtrack is awesome, featuring many tracks that help set the mood of the game and it’s varied time periods, ranging from soft tranquil score pieces to energetic fast paced tracks during combat and boss encounters.

Live A Live Review

Overall Thoughts

It took almost 30 years to be able to experience Live A Live, but the wait was definitely worth it. Featuring a great, varied cast of characters and settings, the game is seemingly designed around keeping the player engaged by letting the chapters play out in the preference of the player. The remake with the HD2D technology has brought an already unique experience into the modern age, simultaneously paying homage to the era the game came from while also standing up to the most recent of JRPG titles. It an rpg well worth your time.

A Nintendo Switch review code was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.

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Played On: Nintendo Switch

  • + great story full of twists and turns
  • + Varied and interesting cast of characters
  • + Gorgeous visuals
  • + Awesome soundtrack

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