When you own a Nintendo Switch, it would be hard to miss the multitude of RPGs that have found a home on this machine. And even if we’re not necessarily talking about quality, Square Enix is still one of the most active publishers on the Nintendo console. So much so that they even decided to release a classic Super Famicom, with Live a Live.
Image Credit: Square Enix/Nintendo
It went a little unnoticed, but not too much
What we can leave to Square Enix is having released exclusively for Nintendo Switch, a game that until now was inaccessible to a good majority of players. Live a Live was released in 1994 on the Super Famicom and never left Japan. Gamers in North America, and even Europe, have never been able to enjoy this JRPG in good condition, despite the magic of the internet making unofficial fan-made translations available for a long time.
What has made this game so cult is that it comes in the form of seven stories, each set in a different era. Thus, in these chapters it is possible to visit Prehistory, the Far West, the End of Edo Japan, Imperial China, the Near Future, as well as the Distant Future. After going through these seven stories, it will be possible to enjoy two complementary chapters that will unite all these stories.
These stories, although they breathe a lot of the 90s, are generally well constructed, if not very original. They stand out especially for their way of narration, which can vary from one chapter to another, for the topics covered, but also for the addition of dubbing into English. Not all stories are created equal and some are too short, even really repetitive, but upgrading the game’s graphics to HD-2D (such as Octopath Travelers), ensures that we finish them with some pleasure anyway.
Always a little further
We could therefore speak of a compilation of several small games, because in the end we quickly realize that each chapter has its particularities. Set in Edo Japan, it will be a vague revenge story, set in a labyrinthine castle setting up infiltration mechanics. In prehistory, the protagonists have no dialogue and express themselves only in onomatopoeia, while in the Wild West, the story takes place behind closed doors in the form of a small town that must be defended by setting traps. Even if we don’t escape some clichés, each chapter manages to bring a very different atmosphere. Especially thanks to Yoko Shimomura’s work on the music, which was re-orchestrated.
Back in 1994, Live a Live was trying to crack the JRPG codes, in some chapters you will have to follow the pattern of the story, while in another you will be free to roam. However, not everything is perfect and there are some passages that tend to get annoying, like the chapter in the Present, whose narration is almost absent, or even Imperial China, which is just a series of battles.
Fortunately, this is offset by a turn-based combat system that favors quick engagements. No magic or action points, just a time bar on each character that advances based on enemy or ally moves or actions. Attacks are based on a system of weakness and resistance, sometimes with alterations or effects on a space on the board, such as flames or poison. The combats, depending on the chapter, can therefore take on an interesting tactical aspect on paper, but we will quickly be able to use the most powerful techniques to get rid of the enemies as quickly as possible.
With Live to Live, don’t expect very advanced JPGR mechanics. The combat system is functional, but expect no more. Some chapters will be more demanding than others, but in the more classic stories, it won’t be uncommon to run away from combat after a while. It must be said that each chapter takes between one and two hours to complete, which doesn’t leave much time to really diversify the depth of the fights. This is why we will find, above all, unique abilities, such as being able to smell odors to find fights and prehistoric objects or embody a Shinobi who can hide in the scene of feudal Japan.
always a little more
However, Square Enix did not stick to a simple port, as additions were made to the original. As we said, the graphics and soundtrack have been revised and improved, as well as the narration through new camera shots. In the small non-negligible bonuses, the automatic backup should be highlighted. The game shows difficulty spikes at times, especially against bosses we don’t see coming, so having a booster right before death is good. What is also the addition of a mini-map that helps us know where our goal is and the areas we have already visited.
Even if it sometimes feels like the years are closing in on Live a Live, Square Enix has managed to dust off its game by infusing it with just enough new features not to distort the original experience. There are still quite a few bugs and this has to be attributed to the format of the chapters, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying this little gem of the JRPG. A role-playing game that you can browse as you please, for one or two stories and depending on how much time you want to dedicate to it.
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