As anime, manga, and gaming have grown in popularity, there are fewer cases of experiences being left behind. In the past, it was somewhat common for something to not come over, for one reason or another, or some rather unusual changes. My favorite example of this is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure turning the first two arcs/first 113 chapters, into a two-page explanation of how Dio became a vampire. Among the things left in the past was an unusual RPG by Square called Live A Live. This makes the remake, featuring the lovely Octopath Traveler-esque style of graphics, so important. Not only does it help modernize this classic, but it’s also a game that many players, even those who grew up in that era, never got to experience. However, with so many past experiences falling short, is it a must for Square fans, or was it something we didn’t miss out on?
What makes Live A Live an interesting experience is how it approaches the core story. Instead of having a single linear adventure that involves some kind of highs and lows, it’s eight episodes that chronicle a single adventure. This makes them pretty easy to digest, especially since each one is around two or three hours, with widely different settings.
One focuses on Feudal Japan, another on the Wild West, with more for the present, future, and more. Due to this choice, the stories are not quite at the level you’d expect from Square at that time. To put it into perspective, it was released between Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, back in ’94. Still, each adventure has its charm, mostly stemming from feeling pretty unique. The various settings make the adventures stand out, with each going so fast it’s hard to get sick of them.
Perhaps the most surprising thing is how robust the core experience is. There are hidden paths, alternate routes, some surprising, for the time, mechanics, and a lot of charm. Depending on how much you explore, it can easily take another hour or two just looking for secrets, alternate paths, or better items.
Unfortunately, by the same token, it’s a rather simple RPG. Since every adventure is meant to be a couple of hours, there is only so much that can occur. For example, players can unlock new attacks, find better gear, or even a companion, but most fights involve using the same handful of tricks. In some cases, a few attacks are so overpowered, that they break the balance.
There are also a lot of considerations that can help or hurt depending on your perspective. These include a lack of MP, finite items, healing fully between battles, and so forth. This makes it incredibly easy to overwhelm enemies or plan on winning without paying a price.
It isn’t all bad though. There are various ways to approach each adventure, giving them a different overall experience. This, along with possibly missing a secret or three, gives Live A Live a fair amount of replay value long term. Especially when you know there is an event you missed or a detail skipped.
In addition to having a solid foundation, the improved visuals help a lot. The team did a fantastic job making these settings stand out or bringing out the original charm. It’s remade like this that shows respect for the source that is always delightful to see.
Live A Live Review Verdict
While I wouldn’t say Live A Live is the greatest RPG that was never localized, it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre. The various episodes help make the experience stand out and when you finish them all there is one final one that brings the experience together. This, along with the improved visuals, make it hard to say no.
[Editor’s Note: Live A Live was reviewed on Nintendo Switch and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]