We've finished the remake of the classic JRPG and are left less than impressed by it.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a preview on Live A Live, and in that very text, I was rather cautiously optimistic about the game and what parts of it I had seen. Jump forward to today, and I no longer have the preview restrictions limiting what I can check out, and while you may be hoping this means I can tell you about how great this JRPG is, unfortunately, I'm going to be doing pretty much the opposite. Because after completing this game, I'm left absolutely underwhelmed by it. And the reason for that is down to the dull innovations between the chapters, the fact that certain chapters are significantly better than others, and because the pace of the game is quite frankly exhausting. But let me elaborate on each point.
Starting with the pacing and the way that Live A Live is structured. I still appreciate the nature of this game and the fact that you can play each of the unique chapters whenever you see fit. But, what I really have come to dislike is the incredibly slow pacing of the narrative. It's so slow that a lot of the time, you will just become disinterested in what is happening, and will just skip through the dialogue to be able to continue exploring. Granted, the exploration is pretty monotonous itself in most chapters, meaning this isn't exactly something to look forward to either. In fact, going a step further, I would argue that out of the eight chapters, only three of them are actually interesting or handled in such a way that I could find myself replaying them at some point (with those being Prehistory for its broader nature, Twilight of Edo Japan for its level design, and Imperial China for its interesting narrative). You may have noticed that two of these are chapters I talked about in the preview.
As for the other five chapters, The Wild West is incredibly linear and slow, Present Day attempts to be a Street Fighter clone but without the exciting combat gameplay (this one can also be completed in like 20 minutes), The Near Future basically all takes place in one of three buildings and really lacks variety, The Distant Future is exhaustingly monotonous and never seems to end, and The Middle Ages has a serious navigation problem, which causes you to constantly travel around areas you have already been. Needless to say, it's not the most exciting or enthralling of JRPGs to play these days, and you can see why certain chapters are better than others.
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It's also worth noting that some of my concerns during the preview phase haven't gone away at all. The combat is still really dull and basically features zero strategy to it whatsoever, even if there is a typing and effectiveness system in place that should determine how you approach threats. In reality, you can get by using the same move all the time, because enemies rarely ever do anything that would warrant you to deviate from this strategy. It's also worth noting that the user interface often gets in the way of itself, so you can't see what an enemy's strengths or weaknesses are, meaning there's no point in leaning on this anyway.
Likewise, as I mentioned in the preview, the progression basically has no weight to it at all, until the very closing stages of the eighth chapter. I won't get into why this is the case as it dances around spoiler territory, but it includes "recruiting former heroes" as the Switch Store listing for the game states, meaning you can probably infer what I'm alluding to. All you need to know is that each chapter's progression doesn't really mean anything or connect to one another (bar the final chapter) unless you plan on actually beating the game, which I can imagine will be a challenge for most when considering the pacing and lack of engaging gameplay.
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Another point I spoke about earlier was the lack of innovative gameplay between each chapter. What I mean by this is that each chapter - aside from having a unique setting and list of characters etc. - is defined by a unique gameplay mechanic. For Prehistory this is the ability to use a distinguished sense of smell to locate enemies and items. On the other hand, Present Day revolves around the main character having the ability to learn attacks of foes that strike him, and in The Near Future you can use telepathic powers to read the minds of NPCs, which basically just adds an extra line of dialogue to discover. The most disappointing part of the unique mechanics is that these are pretty much the best ones on offer, and that's taking into account the fact that the latter is one of the most uninspired ways to approach such a power.
But it's not all doom and gloom. I do appreciate the different settings in time and I think that the concept for the game is a very intriguing one, it's just not handled in a particularly entertaining way. Plus, as I said in the preview, the HD-2D art style is still one of the game's biggest strengths and it is a very pretty video game to get lost in, when playing both on a big screen and when using the Switch on-the-go.
There are clear highlights when it comes to Live A Live, but I can't help but feel that for the most part, this is a game that will struggle to hold a player's attention, and will struggle to make someone want to return and keep checking it out. If you are impressed with the way Live A Live looks and are excited about it, I'd suggest checking out Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy instead, and then making a decision about this title, as both of those games are significantly more impressive experiences than what has been delivered here.
5 / 10
Looks very pretty. Has an intriguing concept. The game runs incredibly well in a performance sense.
Narrative is incredibly slow and monotonous. Lacks innovation between chapters. Combat is still a weak aspect of gameplay. Progression pretty much has zero meaning.