Square Enix haven’t been shy in remaking or remastering their back catalogue of RPG releases, whether that’s with big hitters like Final Fantasy VII or something a little less sought after such as Trials of Mana. Despite this, it came as a bit of a shock when it was revealed that Live A Live would also be getting the remake treatment – not only because the SNES RPG was a cult release with a small following, but also because it had never previously been released outside of Japan.
It made its way to the Nintendo Switch last year to plenty of fanfare, and now, 10 months on, you can grab it on PC too (as well as PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4). It’s DEFINITELY worth you attention – it might be one of Square Enix’s quirkier and more niche releases (and perhaps the one with the worst title), but it also stands out as a very enjoyable RPG experience that’ll keep players fully invested in its bite-size adventuring.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Live A Live doesn’t tell the story of just one RPG protagonist, but instead features eight heroes whose adventures span across different time periods. This means you’ll get to experience eight separate narratives (and a bonus ninth chapter after completing them all) that’ll see you adventuring back in the Prehistoric Age, protecting a town in the Wild West, sneaking through Edo Japan, or embracing the technology of the Distant Future, just to name a few. With a different hero leading each story, you’ll get to experience the wider world through multiple viewpoints and see just how much has changed over the vast periods of time.
It’s something that I really enjoyed, especially since the game is so well-written and each character’s chapter is packed with charm. It shifts tones on a regular basis between both comical and more serious sequences, but does so in an effective manner that makes it easy for players to feel engrossed in each character’s plight. The narrative also implements plenty of clever ideas that embrace the time periods in different ways – for example, when in the Prehistoric Age, you won’t communicate through a proper language but instead through extravagant gestures and grunts (which was something that brought a big smile to my face). It never feels like you’re in a different time period for the aesthetic alone, but instead see it embraced fully in the storytelling and the events that occur for each character. It’s really cool and helps Live A Live feel much more unique when compared to other RPG releases.
That being said, each character’s chapter only lasts a few hours at most, so the pacing could be a little bit off when playing through them. Besides the detailed exposition when starting each chapter, they often feel like they’re over before they ever have a chance to really begin. A lot of RPGs don’t really get the ball rolling until you’re five hours or so through, but Live A Live’s chapters would have typically reached their end well before that point. It’s a shame because they each introduce an interesting dynamic and world that I would have loved to spend a lot more time with.
But hey, at least the final chapter does bring each story together, though I’ll leave that for you to discover more about if you play the game.
“One of the coolest things about Live A Live is that it manages to make each chapter feel distinct – not only from a story and time period viewpoint, but also with their varied gameplay mechanics.”
One of the coolest things about Live A Live is that it manages to make each chapter feel distinct – not only from a story and time period viewpoint, but also with their varied gameplay mechanics. Whilst similar ideas are shared across them (turn-based battling, levelling up characters, gathering gear, and so forth), each also introduces its own elements that ensure the game is packed with a creative sense of variety.
Take Edo Japan, for example, which allows players to turn invisible in order to avoid enemy encounters. This means you can either play it as a stealth adventure where you avoid the gaze of enemies to remain undetected, or instead go on a killing spree and simply dispose of every enemy in your sight. It’s up to the player what approach they want to take, with freedom of choice playing a big role across the game.
Then you have the Wild West chapter, which sees players working to a time limit as they carefully assign the inhabitants of a town different tasks in order to fight off some murderous outlaws. Again, the general gameplay flow utilises typical tried-and-tested RPG mechanics, but does so in a way where players also have to think strategically and use everyone they have to their advantage to ensure the battle is a smooth one.
There are also the likes of the Street Fighter-style battling found in the Present Day, the mind-reading antics of the Near Future, and the suspenseful sci-fi vibe found in the Distant Future where battling is kept to a minimum – Live A Live constantly introduces new ideas within each chapter to keep the experience feeling fresh for players, with no two ever feeling too similar in design. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy some chapters more than others, but they all bring something different to the game that ensure that the adventure remains enjoyable from start to end.
Check out some screenshots down below:
The 2D-HD visual style is perfect for the game too, with its modernised take on old-school visuals feeling especially fitting given Live A Live’s roots on the SNES. It actually offers one of my favourite uses of the art style, which is something I owe to the sheer variety of locales you visit across each timeline; each is rich with detail and full of colour, with the blend of old, modern, and futuristic landscapes feeling incredibly atmospheric throughout. I’d be happy if Square Enix modernised all of their old-school RPGs with this visual style…
Oh, and the soundtrack is a banger too, with Yoko Shimomura putting together some wonderful pieces that fit the tone of the adventure perfectly.
Playing on PC has been a real treat, especially since it can be played with an unlimited fps (the Nintendo Switch version was limited to 30fps) and at a 4K resolution. I played through Live a Live on the Nintendo Switch when it originally launched and thought it looked fantastic, but everything is so much smoother and fluid on PC. And if you have a lower end PC? The specs aren’t too high, so you can probably enjoy the game too. There’s plenty of room for customising your settings, but playing with everything maxed out looks REALLY good. Everything runs perfectly on the Steam Deck too, so you can go down the portable route without having to play the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
It all comes together to make for an RPG experience that doesn’t only feel unique but also nails the more traditional aspects of the genre. The turn-based battling is competent and offers plenty of room for strategy (even if there can be some harsh difficulty spikes), whilst levelling up your heroes and improving their gear is equally rewarding. The only real complaint I have regarding the gameplay was that it was guilty of dragging some things out, with a fair bit of backtracking and unnecessary exploration required as you figure out what you need to do or where you need to go. In fairness, the game does a good job of directing players for the most part, but there were a few occasions where I found myself wishing for a little bit more signposting. But hey, what else would you expect from a remake of a 90s RPG?
Live A Live Review
Live A Live is a very unique RPG, but the engrossing storytelling, varied gameplay mechanics, and beautiful visuals ensure that it’s an instant classic. I had a really good time being a part of so many different stories across the varied timelines, and whilst I’ll admit some were better than others, there was a consistent high quality found across the board. It nails the traditional RPG mechanics too, with a satisfying sense of progress found across both the combat and levelling-up characters.
It does have a few missteps here and there, especially with the story pacing, some rough difficulty spikes, and a lack of signposting, but they don’t stop Live A Live from delivering a great RPG experience. It might have been one of Square Enix’s lesser-known releases from the 90s in the West, but this remake proves that it certainly deserves your attention – especially now it’s available on PC where you can play at a higher frame rate and resolution.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enic
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch