Preservation has become a bigger topic in the world of gaming. With older platforms being harder to obtain, and iconic experiences costing a fortune, companies have started to revisit some of their best, and forgotten experiences. This recent boom has also caused various companies to correct mistakes from the past. One of the biggest was not publishing Live A Live in the west, something Square Enix corrected with the Nintendo Switch version, which is now available on other platforms. Given these platforms have a bit more power, is this the definitive way to experience Live A Live, or are you best off getting a portable version?
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 journey, 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.
So Many Choices
Unfortunately, by the same token, it’s a rather simple RPG. Since every adventure is meant to be completed in 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 go all out 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 (PS5) Review Verdict
It’s great to see Square Enix reach into their past and allow a new generation to experience some of their best titles. While there are some negatives to Live A Live, such as weak combat and bite size adventures, these quirks actually work in portable versions favors. Sure, this version loads slightly faster, so much of the performance quirks are part of the software itself. Since this isn’t quite a full remake, the differences are marginal at best.
[Editor’s Note: Due to us previously covering the Nintendo Switch version, this review is based off that. Live A Live was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]