Live A Live Review – The Classic JRPG Lives On

    Title: Live A Live
    Developer: Square Enix
    Release Date: July 22, 2022
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Nintendo
    Genre: Role-Playing

Twenty-eight years ago, the world was greeted to Live A Live, a classic JRPG on the Super Famicom, and a unique one, at that. Unfortunately, it had failed to sell well in its home country, which led to it never being localized in the West, with the only way for English fans to enjoy was via a fan translation. But that changes with the HD-2D remake of Live A Live on the Nintendo Switch, utilizing the graphical style that Square Enix debuted with the release of Octopath Traveler.

Describing Live A Live is complicated yet simple at the same time. After all, calling it a singular game with a singular story is very inaccurate, as you aren’t playing just ONE of them. Instead, it’s more accurately described as eight small-sized games, each with its own different and unique stories sporting their own distinct flair, plus an additional scenario that ties all of them together. Each of the stories, or “Eras,” as the game calls them, takes place in different chronological periods, going from the analog Prehistory to the highly technological Far Future. Truthfully, it takes me more words than this review would allow explaining each and every one of them.

Live A Live Era Selection
Initial selection when the game is booted for the first time.

I was genuinely surprised when I played through each of the eras because none of the stories felt identical in any way, and I mean ANYway. Their art directions, their mechanics, their difficulty, and even the plot all contained elements that I didn’t, or rather couldn’t, anticipate. Yes, each era’s story is shorter than your typical modern RPG, but they’re still full of uniqueness and flavor. As I cleared each of them, it made me understand just how ambitious this project might’ve been in the Super Famicom era.

The one thing that all eras share in common is that, if there’s any ounce of combat, they all go through an identical system, which is a classic seven-by-seven grid with an ATB-esque system. The wide grid can be especially advantageous for even situations where you must flee to use a healing item. However, as you’d expect from its Super Famicom soul, Live A Live hails from an era of JRPGs where grinding was not an optional thing but something that you will have to do in order to progress smoothly, which can be a bother for some because reaching the higher levels can take a half-hour or more.

live a live review combat

Now, let’s go to the part which I have to talk about, and that is the translation. I won’t be comparing it with the fan translation, mostly due to the fact that I have never played it, but there are some changes that I noticed because of my choice to go with the Japanese voices, which follow the original script. Contrary to what some may believe, the English localization gave a lot of flavor and pizzazz to the original Japanese script.

This, unfortunately, brings an issue where if you turn Auto-Advance on, the text will advance to the next voice line before all of the English characters have shown up due to how extensive the script got with these changes. Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind. The UI is also not bad, with lots of different textbox types present, such as the chalkboard style for when you read minds in Near Future or the futuristic console when you get a message from someone in Far Future.

live a live review screenshot 2
Props to the translator who made this joke. You get my approval.

The HD-2D remake of Live A Live is, without a doubt, a hidden gem that exceeded many of my expectations and made my emotions swing back and forth with each story. Without spoiling much of the content that each era offers, I can only say that there is something for everyone to enjoy, even if what you’re after is a specific genre and art style.

The rather short total play time might be a downer for certain players, and the grinding being almost required might get annoying, but in essence, this remake of Live A Live felt like a qualitative title that had so much love and time put into it, to make this JRPG masterpiece from the Super Famicom now available to a broader audience, and this time, outside its home country. It’s not perfect, of course, but it does so much, so right.

Review copy purchased by outlet or reviewer

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