Live A Live is a JRPG that was initially released by Square Enix in 1994 as a Japan-exclusive game for the Super Famicom. It has now been modernized for a worldwide release on the Nintendo Switch. Modeled after the recent HD-2D design of Octopath Traveler, the game is designed to honor the intent of the original release but with a more modern approach to the visual aspects and the gameplay.
The story of Live A Live revolves around seven separate stories introducing different characters from entirely different eras and settings. Each of these seven chapters has unique gameplay mechanics and styles, all setting up for a final eighth chapter that brings them all together. I really appreciated how different each story felt; it kept things fresh and well-paced without ever feeling like much of a slog.
My only real issue with the different stories is the pre-history chapter. While all of the others were relatively easy to figure out how they worked, the pre-history chapter takes place in a world where language has not been invented yet. Everything is communicated through visual movements or pictures above the characters’ heads. In theory, that concept is very interesting, but it was incredibly difficult in practice because it required complete attention at all moments. In my first attempt at the chapter, I was distracted by a phone notification and completely missed vital clues that forced me to restart the entire chapter. I don’t think the design there is terrible. It was just much more complicated and frustrating than the other more straightforward chapters.
Beyond that one frustration, though, it is hard for me to find fault with anything else in the game. The other six chapters had really compelling stories and characters that made me unable to put the game down. I especially loved the Wild West chapter; there was a twist at the end that was really enjoyable and is sure to be a fan favorite for many. The Distant Future chapter was also really intriguing and might have taken the top spot for me, but as a fan of classic western movies, the Wild West chapter really spoke to me. The different genres work perfectly, though for people who may prefer specific genres over others, and since none of the chapters are more than a few hours, even less-preferable genres never drag on to the point that players might be turned off.
Visually, the HD-2D style is really enhanced by the multiple different settings. Each new era and location look distinctly different, and the characters and background come to life both while journeying through the areas and in combat. Characters really pop when juxtaposed with the incredibly detailed backgrounds, which made me appreciate every second spent exploring the different eras. I also really enjoyed the visual design of the battle sequences. Battle animations are visually distinct and detailed, just like the characters and locations, which makes trying new things even more enticing. Overall, I loved everything about the different chapter designs and how they were modernized while still feeling true to their original look and feel. I hope this HD-2D approach to remastering classic games continues in the future, retaining the original feel but in a more updated manner.
As much as I loved the stories and visual appeal of Live A Live, the thing that really makes it an all-time favorite contender is the new re-done soundtrack. Yoko Shimomura, who wrote the original score for the 1994 release, returned for this 2022 remaster, and the modernization of the classic soundtrack is an absolute masterpiece. In addition, the distinct musical differences in each chapter also further enhance the story and make the game a complete package.
Live A Live is an absolute masterpiece, so much so that even the one chapter that frustrated me was still enjoyable once everything came together. The HD-2D design is perfect for the style of the game, and the remastered soundtrack is marvelous. Live A Live is an easy game to recommend to any fan of JRPGs.
Live A Live is available now on the Nintendo Switch.
Live A Live
- Rating - 9.5/109.5/10
Live A Live is an absolute masterpiece, so much so that even the one chapter that frustrated me was still enjoyable once everything came together.