Live A Live Review – A Timeless Classic JRPG Makes Its Comeback
Live A Live is a very special game that stands apart from traditional JRPGs. It is composed of multiple short stories, each with a different protagonist. This rare gem from the past was initially released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1994 without any official localization for the wider market. Thankfully, the game has now been brought to Western audiences with a localized release, and it has also been fully remade using the HD-2D engine that powers Octopath Traveler. This remake perfectly captures the art style and appeal of the original 8-bit release.
This is the perfect game to play on the go, thanks to its short story format. I was fortunate enough to test it both on a PC and a Steam Deck. I was impressed with the game’s support, as it didn’t require any tinkering to run on the Steam Deck. It plays beautifully on the handheld, with support for a crisper resolution and 60 FPS, making it a superior portable experience compared to the Nintendo Switch version that launched last year.
When I played Live A Live, it reminded me of the golden age of Square Enix, especially during the SNES and PS1 generation. Their games had a lot of heart, even if their scope wasn’t as extensive as it is now. In some of their bigger games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, there were usually short stories that focused on an NPC, and while not central to the plot, these stories were usually well-written and thought-provoking. Live A Live is essentially a compilation of such short stories brought together in a single game.
The game offers an anthology format with its stories, allowing players to jump into a story at any point and switch to a different character as desired. Each story features a unique setting or period, along with different gameplay mechanics. However, the combat system remains consistent across the different scenarios. Live A Live covers an impressive range of settings, from the prehistoric era to a futuristic world, providing a fascinating journey through human history.
The combat system, while central to the gameplay, undergoes minor tweaks based on the different scenarios. It operates on a grid-based system where the player and enemies can move freely without restrictions. Attacks can be executed in the form of special abilities or spells, depending on the range between the enemy and the player. This system establishes a sense of strategy in combat, encouraging players to think carefully about their moves. Unfortunately, it is not very beginner-friendly, and some time is needed to learn the ins and outs of the combat system due to the lack of a proper tutorial. Nonetheless, Live A Live offers a unique and engaging experience that will appeal to fans of classic JRPGs.
The game features a fantastic soundtrack composed by Yoko Shimomura. The music provides a nice contrast to the different periods and suits their respective styles. The catchy tunes enhance overall immersion and evoke memories of classic Square Enix titles like Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series. This connection is not surprising, as Yoko Shimomura has composed music for other Square Enix games such as Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy. However, some songs do get repeated across different scenarios, which detracts from the experience slightly.
The game offers decent replay value due to its multiple endings. There are seven different chapters, and some can be played again to achieve a different ending. While this choice adds variety to the gameplay, the story can feel convoluted at times, particularly in the Edo-Japan period, where players control a ninja sneaking into a castle. This chapter demonstrates the diverse range of genres Live A Live incorporates, reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid with its stealth-focused mechanics.
Despite its complicated combat system, Live A Live makes gameplay more accessible with quality-of-life improvements, such as the ability to save at any point in the story and easily switch to a different chapter. This feature makes the game well-suited for platforms like the Steam Deck, where players can enjoy the game in short bursts and save their progress. It also streamlines the game by eliminating the need for backtracking or replaying segments. These improvements showcase the progress made since the original game’s release.
Live A Live is a hidden gem from the golden age of Square Enix. Beautifully remade using the HD-2D engine, the game shines on both PC and Steam Deck, offering a superior portable experience. The diverse range of settings and unique gameplay mechanics keep the experience fresh, while the grid-based combat system adds a layer of strategy. With a fantastic soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura, this title evokes memories of classic Square Enix games like Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series. Although the combat system can be complicated for beginners and some storylines can feel convoluted, the game’s multiple endings and quality-of-life improvements ensure a satisfying and accessible experience for fans of classic JRPGs.
Live A Live Game Information
- Price: $49.99
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher