Live A Live Review: Classic RPG saves one of the best moments for last

“Live A Live is a high-effort remake from the presentation side, though the bottom game stays an uneven RPG experience.”


  • Fun battle system
  • Unique character stories
  • Gorgeous HD-2D visuals
  • Excellent music


  • Takes some time to get going
  • Frustrating difficulty spikes
  • Some weak chapters

The unique Live A Live launched on the SNES in 1994 but never left Japan … until now. A recent 2D-HD remake, released exclusively on Nintendo Switch, brings the influential RPG to the West for the primary time ever. With a forged of various characters, the sport tells eight separate stories before bringing all of them together. When it first released, this storytelling structure was ahead of its time.

Each of the characters in Live A Live occupies a certain setting and time limit, equivalent to Pogo within the prehistoric times when speech was still primitive, and Cube within the distant future where space commerce is the norm. Each chapter featuring a personality has a novel gimmick, equivalent to the Edo period Shinobi’s being a full-fledged dungeon crawler, and the near future Akira’s having an overworld to roam around in much like classic JRPGs like Final Fantasy.

Live A Live’s biggest asset though, is its fun turn-based battle system. But like its slow-building story, that system takes too long to achieve its full potential.

Octopath travelers

Live A Live lets players select any character’s story from a menu screen to dive into. Once a personality’s story has concluded, players come back to the menu screen to choose one other. Thankfully, you may switch between different chapters any time you want as well.

A few of its chapters especially stand out.

The sport does an ideal job of presenting different mechanics in each chapter to combine up the gameplay. A few of its chapters especially stand out. Masaru Takaharu’s tale is an incredibly fun one, as he competes in a worldwide tournament to turn out to be the world’s strongest fighter. His gameplay is about up like a classic fighting game, much like Virtua Fighter. Here, Masaru can select his opponents from a fighter select screen and even learn his opponent’s moves and retain them for future use. These ingenious mechanics make the chapter feel entirely distinct from the remaining of the stories.

While many of the chapters are enjoyable, some miss the mark. I discovered the Wild West chapter boring, with its character Sundown underdeveloped. His chapter’s mechanic of establishing traps isn’t too strong a hook. On top of that, the chapter itself is brief, failing to completely develop the system.

Masarau Takahara's fighting game menu screen

The overarching narrative that brings all of the characters together after completing their individual stories isn’t all that spectacular. It’s a regular plot of banding together to defeat a giant evil bad guy that strayed away to the dark side. Nevertheless, the ultimate chapter can be where the true fun begins.

You may pick a lead character to enter the ultimate chapter, after which find the remaining of the forged as they’re scattered across the realm. This permits you to customize your individual party together with your favorite characters. The ultimate chapter is stuffed with extra dungeons and end-game equipment so that you could prepare to tackle the ultimate boss. It’s here where the battle system really comes together as players gain access to all of the characters and systems directly. It’s only a shame the RPG saves its best moments for last.

Prepare for battle

The battle system utilizes a turn-based structure on a grid. Each allies and enemies each have a Charge gauge, and when a unit’s gauge fills up completely, it may possibly perform an attack. The Charge Gauge increases by any type of motion, even simply moving across the battlefield. Moreover, each character learns different skills as they level up, with end-game skills being particularly flashy and powerful.

The battle system doesn’t reach its full potential until the tip game.

The HD-2D remake aspect of Live A Live especially shines here, as these end-game skills look absolutely beautiful. Akira can summon an enormous Angel to harm enemies and buff his allies, while the Shinobi can hurl blades of darkness, slicing all of his enemies to pieces. The art direction makes every one in all those attacks appear and feel impactful.

Live A Live’s music is unbelievable as well. The boss theme, Megalomania, accurately reflects the entire bosses’ gargantuan sizes and the intensity of facing them down. Particularly, Akira’s and Masaru’s normal encounter themes stand out due to their energetic guitar riffs.

Nevertheless, there are some inconsistent difficulty spikes along the approach to the ultimate chapter. Some characters have a much easier time fighting their respective bosses because they’ve easier access to healing items and moves than other characters. For instance, I discovered the shifu’s boss to be difficult since it was a solo fight, and my character’s damage output was low, together with the incontrovertible fact that I kept getting KO’d in 3-4 hits.

The special effects for attacks in Live A Live look great

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Prehistory boss was much easier to take care of resulting from the story providing a full roster of 4 characters in battle, one being a healer. That’s why a few of the chapters could be frustrating: The battle system doesn’t reach its full potential until the tip game. When you’ve gotten access to the entire characters in the ultimate chapter, it suddenly becomes way more fun as you don’t must worry about not having a healer.

Getting a facelift

Live A Live’s overall presentation going from the SNES to the Nintendo Switch is staggering. The graphics retain their original retro charm and the 3D particle effects that surround attacks contrast nicely with the 2D sprites. The aforementioned strongest attacks in the sport look absolutely stunning and the instrumentation within the re-recorded tracks sounds clearer than ever.

Live A Live is a high-effort remake that gives way more than you’d get from a fan translation.

There was great care in overhauling the user interface as well. The motion menus that pop up during battle when choosing attacks or selecting items look modern, however the fundamental menu outside of battle received the largest improvement. In the unique game, the fundamental menu was bland. On this remake, it’s bursting with color.

There are individual icons for equipment, items, formation, and setting screens. The underside right corner shows who’s currently in your party and the sprites are robotically animated, bringing them to life. A fun detail is within the shifu chapter where the shifu stands still, completely calm as his disciples practice kicks or spar with one another. It adds a considerable amount of personality to the sport.

The updated menus in a Live A Live look amazing

There’s also full voice acting in the sport, whereas the unique didn’t have any. The performances are solid and there’s nice attention to detail in casting decisions. As an example, because the shifu chapter takes place in Imperial China, the entire fundamental voice actors within the English dub forged are of Chinese or Asian descent. Details like that make Live A Live a high-effort remake that gives way more than you’d get from a fan translation.

Our Take

Live A Live mostly accomplishes what it’s speculated to do: tell a serviceable story and back it up with engaging gameplay. Nevertheless, the sport takes too long to get to one of the best part, which is the ultimate chapter when the entire characters can be found to hitch a single party. Until then, just a few of the character chapters could be slogs to get through. The visual presentation and music are great, though, making the journey to the tip a treat for each eyes and ears.

Is there a greater alternative?

The one game that comes near Live A Live’s premise is Octopath Traveler, which is one other HD-2D remake game. Octopath Traveler boasts higher individual stories between its forged of characters and steadier battle system progression.

How long will it last?

To finish the story and defeat the ultimate boss, together with ending the optional end-game dungeons, you’ll need around 25-30 hours.

Must you buy it?

Yes. Live A Live is ideal for any JRPG fan. It has the hallmarks that make it an excellent entry within the genre, especially a fun battle system, while also providing a much-needed presentation boost.

Live A Live was tested on Nintendo Switch.

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