When you have a Nintendo Switch, it would be difficult to miss the multitude of RPGs that have found a home on this machine. And even if we don’t necessarily talk about quality, Square Enix remains one of the most active publishers on the Nintendo console. So much so that they even decided to bring out a classic Super Famicom, with Live a Live.
Image credit: Square Enix / Nintendo
Passed a little unnoticed, but not too much
What we can leave to Square Enix is to have released exclusively on Nintendo Switch, a game that was until now inaccessible for a good majority of players. Live a Live was released in 1994 on Super Famicom and it never left Japanese territory. Players in North America, and even Europe, have never been able to enjoy this JRPG in good conditions, even though the magic of the Internet has meant that there have been unofficial fan-made translations 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. It is thus possible in these chapters to visit Prehistory, the Far West, the End of Edo Japan, Imperial China, the Near Future, as well as the Far Future. After going through these seven stories, it will be possible to indulge in two complementary chapters that will link all these stories.
These stories, although breathing a lot of the 90s, are on the whole well constructed, if not really very original. They are especially highlighted by their form of narration, which can vary from one chapter to another, by the themes addressed, but also by the addition of dubbing in English. Not all the stories are created equal and some are too short, even really repetitive, but the updating of the game’s graphics in HD-2D (like Octopath Travelers), ensures that we end them anyway with a some pleasure.
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. In Edo Japan, it will be a vague story of revenge, in a labyrinthine castle that sets up infiltration mechanics. In prehistory, the protagonists have no dialogue and express themselves only in onomatopoeia, whereas in the Far 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 do not escape a few clichés, each chapter manages to bring a very distinct atmosphere. In particular thanks to the work of Yoko Shimomura on the music, which was re-orchestrated.
Already in 1994, Live a Live was trying to break the JRPG codes, in some chapters you will have to follow the guideline of the story, while in another you will be free to roam. However, everything is not perfect and there are a few passages that tend to become annoying, such as the chapter in the Present, whose narration is almost absent, or even Imperial China, which is only a series of battles. coaching.
Fortunately, this is made up for by a turn-based combat system that favors fast-paced clashes. No magic or action points, only a time bar on each character that advances according to moves or enemy or allied 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 fights, 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 in order to get rid of the enemies as quickly as possible.
With Live a Live, don’t expect very advanced JPRG mechanics. The combat system is functional, but don’t expect more. Some chapters will be more demanding than others, but in more classic stories, it will not be uncommon to run away from combat after a while. It must be said that each chapter takes about one to two hours to complete, which does not 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 prehistoric fights and objects or to embody a Shinobi who can hide in the scenery in Feudal Japan.
Always a little more
However, Square Enix did not stick to a simple port, since additions were made compared to the original. As mentioned, the graphics and soundtrack have been revised and improved, as well as the narration by new camera shots. In the small non-negligible bonuses, it is necessary to underline the automatic saving. The game shows peaks of difficulty at times, especially against bosses that we don’t see coming, so having a backup just before in case of death is good. What is also is the addition of a mini-map helping us to know where our objective is and the areas we have already visited.
Even if we sometimes feel the years hanging over 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 flaws and this must be attributed to the format of the chapters, but that should not prevent us from enjoying this little gem of the JRPG. A role-playing game that you can browse at will, for a story or two and according to the time you want to devote to it.
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