Live A Live Preview: A Classic JRPG With A New Coat Of Paint

Live A Live started out as an RPG that was released for the Super Famicom back in ’94 and was only ever a Japan-exclusive title. While the game used turn-based RPG battles, it mixed numerous different genres and gameplay styles, with a story involving heroes from different time periods that predated Chrono Trigger by a year. Live A Live is now being remade using 2D-HD visuals on the Nintendo Switch, in the same style as Octopath Traveler, and Screen Rant had a chance to preview the game ahead of its July 22 launch.

The Live A Live remake was announced during the February 2022 Nintendo Direct, alongside other classic Square Enix RPGs that were being reborn on modern systems. The game follows seven different heroes throughout history, as they each face a threat known as Odio (or a derivative of that name) in each time period. The combat system in the game is turn-based, with no mana system, so characters can use whatever moves they like on their turn. The battle system in Live A Live is more about positioning and using AoE/status effects, rather than resource management, with a more chess-like approach than a standard JRPG.

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There is a Live A Live demo available on Nintendo Switch that allows the player to carry their progress over to the main game. Screen Rant has been given the chance to preview four of the chapters: Imperial China, Wild West, Distant Future, and Twilight of Edo Japan. Each of these four chapters has drastically different gameplay styles and tones. Those who have played the original Live A Live will appreciate how incredible the new visuals are, with the 2D-HD helping to bring these characters and worlds to life far better than the 16-bit SNES ever could. Live A Live now features high-quality voice acting, as well as a new QoL feature, in the form of a radar that shows the next plot-relevant location. All of these changes combined lead to an incredibly polished overall title, but what about the individual chapters?

The Imperial China chapter of Live A Live stars Earthen Heart Shifu, an elderly kung fu master who senses that his time has nearly come, and he must search for a successor to his martial arts style. Luckily for Shifu, he soon finds three: Hong Hakka, a gluttonous boy whose greed is matched by his strength; Lei Kugo, a fiery-tempered girl who is as fast and deadly as a tiger; and Yun Jou, a weak boy with incredible drive, who wishes to surpass his fellow students. Shifu takes the three to his home and teaches them the Earthern Heart style of fighting. A nearby town is threatened by bandits and Shifu goes to deal with him on his own. Shifu quickly sends the bandits scurrying, only to realize, too late, that he was led away for a reason. He returns to his home to find it in shambles, with two of his students slain, and the surviving student (the one the player spent the most time with) left wounded and feeling guilty about not being able to save their friends. The loss of two of his prized students prompts Shifu to seek revenge against their killers.

In the Imperial China chapter of Live A Live, the player controls Shifu, who is already a powerful level 10 warrior with a wide selection of moves. The fact that he’s so strong makes this chapter a good starting point, even if the training sections with the students can become repetitive, especially as there are long sections that involve nothing but the training fights. Shifu and his students are strong and have lots of moves that let them strike from different angles. This gives players the perfect chance to get to grips with the combat system, without fear of being overrun by enemies.

The Wild West chapter follows the Sundown Kid: a wanted outlaw, who is being pursued by a bounty hunter named Mad Dog. The two of them end up in a small outpost out in the desert, which is being hassled by a gang called the Crazy Bunch. The two decide to put their animosity aside, in order to help the townsfolk, by preparing an ambush for the Crazy Bunch, leading to a showdown between the two sides the next day.

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The Wild West chapter of Live A Live is short, as it’s set in one small location, and the player’s actions are timed. There is a ticking clock element, as all of the player’s actions push time forward, until the showdown the next day. It’s up to the Sundown Kid and Mad Dog to search the town for items that can be used as traps and then give them to the townsfolk, who will help set them. The aim is to set as many traps as possible, as each one will reduce the number of gang members that will be fought the next day. The actual scene of the traps going off is quite nasty, with men and horses sent flying from explosions. It’s advised that the player make the most of their time, as the leader of the gang is a powerful foe with a Gatling gun, who can cut down the Sundown Kid or Mad Dog with one barrage of bullets. This chapter is a race against the clock to prepare for the battle, which is an interesting gimmick that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The Distant Future chapter pays homage to pretty much every major sci-fi franchise, including Star TrekStar Wars, and especially the original Alien. The player takes on the role of Cube, a spherical robot on roller skates, who was been built by a crew member of a spaceship called the Cogito Ergo Sum. The small crew of the Cogito Ergo Sum is carrying a dangerous alien life form, known as the Behemoth, in captivity on a journey to Earth. What starts out as a cute story about a human crew accepting the diminutive robot into their ranks takes a swerve into dark territory, as one of the crew members dies from oxygen deprivation, when their space suit’s life support gives out on a mission. The crew member’s lover then steals hid body from sickbay, having been convinced by messages sent to her computer that he is somehow still alive, and is waiting for her outside the airlock. While the rest of the crew tries to stop her from leaving the ship, Cube investigates the carbo bay, where the Behemoth has escaped…

The Distant Future chapter is totally different from the others, and not just due to its sci-fi setting. There is no combat, save for battles that take place in the Captain Square arcade game in the Recreation Room, which the player can complete for fun. What makes this chapter stand out is how quickly its tone shifts from space soap opera to an incredibly dark murder mystery, as the mission falls apart due to unseen forces. The Distant Future might not have fights, but it’s certainly the most memorable of the preview chapters, due to just how dark it can get. If there’s one complaint, it’s that the Behemoth design isn’t particularly scary, as it looks more like a Legendary Pokémon than a xenomorph substitute. It does have a great cry, however, and hearing it lets players know that things are about to get serious.

The Twilight of Edo Japan chapter stars Oboromaru, a shinobi of the Enma clan, who is dispatched to a secret fortress, in order to defeat a vicious lord named Ode Iou. He must infiltrate Ode Iou’s stronghold, which involves learning passwords, scrouging for any useful gear, hiding from guards, and learning the secret paths through the walls. Oboromaru may be skilled at hiding, but he is not a stalwart warrior, and he must choose his battles carefully. There are allies that can be found within the fortress, as well as powerful healing items and shinobi scrolls, which Oboramaru will need, as Ode Iou has strong warriors at his command that need to be defeated before the two can meet.

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The Twilight of Edo Japan chapter sits in stark contrast to the others, as it’s action-packed, with little in the way of storytelling or dialogue. The new radar is a god-send in this chapter, as the fortress is like a labyrinth, with numerous rooms and snooping guards at every turn. This chapter can be frustrating at first, as most enemies will kill Oboromaru if players try to use him as the other Live A Live characters. It is possible to brute force this chapter, but that would be missing the point, as it’s much wiser to gain knowledge of the surroundings, pick out with enemies who are weakest, and gather as many useful items as possible. Ode Iou’s fortress is the real star of this chapter, as it’s full of exciting encounters and treasures, with it being the most traditional dungeon in the chapters presented so far, and exploring it is a blast.

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Live A Live will be released for Nintendo Switch on July 22, 2022. Screen Rant was provided with a digital code for the purposes of this preview.

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Author: Scott Baird