Live A Live Impressions – Contextual Ambition

Live A Live is a classic Square Enix RPG that I legitimately never heard about until its upcoming HD-2D remake was recently announced. It was supposedly a genre definer, so the prospect of playing a modernized version of it has undoubtedly been a thrilling one. Thankfully, Square Enix has released a generous demo for players unsure of what they could be potentially jumping into.

The demo comprises the beginnings of three eras, Imperial China, Twilight of Edo Japan, and The Distant Future. This is a decent selection to start off with, as these three eras innately differ in style and gameplay. Imperial China has players control an elderly yet sturdy martial artist seeking to find disciples to pass down his skills to before he passes away.

Twilight of Edo Japan focuses on a promising shinobi on an imperative secret mission to avoid nationwide conflict. Finally, the Distant Future is perhaps the most divergent, with the protagonist being a robot created to support a spaceship’s crew.

Live A Live 1

What stood out to me most throughout these three prologues is how each era truly feels like a different era. The art directions are impressively distinct, emitting wholly unique ambiances. Further, the gameplay directions take notably separate turns. For instance, in Imperial China, the main character is absurdly powerful to a degree where losing is rather challenging to do, while Twilight of Edo Japan emphasizes stealth and avoiding confrontation.

I haven’t had the opportunity to assess or familiarize myself with combat, but there’s interesting grid-based movement coupled with an elemental system that influences the state of the terrain. As the shinobi, he can use spells that impact surrounding tiles, making them cause damage to any characters standing on them, even himself. I’m curious to see this mechanic’s implementation throughout the full experience, perhaps widening in complexity or maybe even combining multiple types of elements. Regardless, it’s cool enough to catch my attention.

Live A Live 2

If anything, this demo has me looking forward to seeing what other unique gameplay approaches will occur in the myriad of remaining eras and to what extent they will be pursued. I imagine there will be some limits in place, seeing as at least seven eras are at play here. Still, as long as they manage to effectively incorporate their gameplay styles and aesthetics to fit their respective narratives cohesively, that’s all that matters to me.

I must also admit that I wasn’t expecting as much voice acting as there ended up being, as several story exchanges were fully voiced. Further, the English dub seems to be qualitative, with fittingly chosen voices and excellent line delivery absent of out-of-place awkwardness. Of course, it’s impossible to fully judge this aspect before playing the entire game, but it’s certainly left me excited to see what else is in store.

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Even after playing this demo containing only a snippet of what the entire game will provide, it’s gradually becoming clear to me why this game is so beloved. It must have been wildly ambitious during its initial release so many years ago, and seeing it re-crafted for newer audiences like myself is highly appreciated. From the numerous time periods to the excellent voice work and diverse gameplay utilization, Live A Live is standing out to be a must-play title if it carries on to be consistently engaging.

If you’re interested, the demo is now freely available via the Nintendo Switch eShop, with save data transferable to the full game when it launches on July 22, 2022.


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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual. Fan of JRPGs, Action, Platformers, Rhythm, and Adventure titles.