How The Alliance Alive HD Remastered Brings a 3DS Gem Back To Life
The Alliance Alive was a standout RPG that unfortunately released on a system that was far past its prime. I bought the game on a whim in 2018 and was surprised just how much it clicked with me. I can’t imagine it sold too well, which is why I was excited to learn it was getting a second chance with an HD Remaster on Switch, PS4, and PC. The Alliance Alive HD Remastered doesn’t aim to overhaul the original experience, just clean it all up and present it on modern systems. Our own Adam Vitale reviewed the original release, and even though I enjoyed the game far more than he did, it’s an excellent in-depth review of the game. I highly recommend giving it a read since all his points still stand. But briefly, the HD remaster is just The Alliance Alive with a fresh coat of paint, with the gameplay and content remaining the exact same.
The Alliance Alive is a story of a world that was divided into four different regions many years before, now controlled by Daemons. The people who live in each region are unaware of each other, thinking they all live isolated. The main characters are all seeking to resist against the Daemons, and you jump around between multiple groups until the entire cast joins together.
The visuals are where the most changes come, and even then, it remains faithful to the original. The 3D models look a lot cleaner, and now all the characters have a black outline to make them pop out against the backgrounds. All the FMV cutscenes have also been cleaned up, looking wonderfully crisp. I played the entire game on my new Switch Lite, and found the game to look gorgeous for the most part. The game’s aesthetic made the transition wonderfully, with Ryo Hirao and Masayo Asano’s art direction only enunciated. I always loved how the original used the art direction to creatively complement the system’s limitations with draw distance, with objects on the overworld both fading and popping into view as you approach them.
My only real nitpick with the presentation is that the textures were just upscaled. I think redrawing them would have been ideal and would have looked better with the increase in resolution. They look blurry whenever the camera tends to get a bit too close to them, but this was never bad enough to be an actual problem. The Alliance Alive was a 3DS game, and so the textures weren’t designed for HD. I’m sure the porting budget for this project wasn’t the largest given that Furyu targeted a worldwide release on three different platforms, but I should also mention that when I call this game gorgeous, I mean so mostly in a comparative sense. If this is your first time with Alliance Alive, I can see how you might find the art direction to be beautiful but the visuals themselves a bit simplistic.
The UI also got cleaned up from the transition to a single screen display, and I think it works well. Menus are nice and intuitive, although I think the text size should have been a bit larger. This might look better on PC or PS4, but this design choice was a bit of an oversight for those playing on undocked Switches. Not a deal-breaker, but a slight disappointment given that the original game’s text is a perfect size for portable play.
The core gameplay is untouched, so if you weren’t a fan of how skill progression was based around RNG don’t expect that to be addressed. I enjoy this aspect of the game, but I think it tends to be too easy in the opening hours for the variety of weapon skills to matter. I will say that I quite enjoyed having an analog stick to control the camera on the overworld, and the improved framerate across the board makes these segments play much smoother.
One thing I’m extremely satisfied with however is the increase in music quality, thanks to no longer being compressed by 3DS hardware limitations. Masashi Hamauzu composed the game's soundtrack, and I honestly think this is his best work to date. You might know his work from the Final Fantasy series, where he co-composed Final Fantasy X and was the head composer for Final Fantasy XIII. It gives the game’s world a unique tone, and beautifully adds to the bizarre setting.
Despite how much I enjoy the work Furyu has done in cleaning this up for a larger audience, I can’t help but wish that this Remaster added more to the original package. The game still doesn’t have voice acting, which would have fit perfectly with the game’s larger focus on story compared to its predecessor, The Legend of Legacy. The FMV cutscenes can sometimes lack the intended punch, so this remaster would have been the perfect opportunity to add voices. The charm of the writing can shine through despite this omission, but I can only imagine how the addition of voice acting could have improved the package.
The Alliance Alive HD Remaster is a solid version of a great game. Any issues I have really boil down to nitpicks, and I’m happy with the work done to make this game more approachable. I feel like there were a few missed opportunities here to add on to the original game, but it does a great job being faithful to the original work and highlights what made it work so well. If you’ve already played the original to completion, then you might not consider this package to have enough value to double-dip. I personally find this to be the definitive edition of the game, and highly recommend it for those looking for a fresh modern RPG that successfully attempts to call back to an older era.