Live A Live's unique style and structure makes this classic RPG timeless - Preview

I myself had never heard of Live A Live until Nintendo & Square Enix’s surprise announcement of an HD-2D remake earlier this year. Originally having released on the Super Famicon, never seeing the light of day outside Japan until now. The concept of playing through the stories of various heroes in different time periods was a promising premise that caught my attention.

Since each chapter of Live a Live stands alone from the rest, they can be played in (almost) any order. In my time with the game so far, I’ve played through four chapters starting with the Wild West. As the Sundown Kid - or the Paige Kid as I named them - I engaged in duels against bounty hunters and trouble makers. I hadn’t looked much into the mechanics themselves before getting my hands on the game, but I found myself thus surprised by the combat system.

Live A Live is a turn-based affair set on a grid, where moves can only be executed within a certain attack range. There are no skill or magic points, but there is a charge gauge. Initially, due to how turns work, I thought it was going to be something like an active-time-battle system, but thankfully it’s actually not that hectic. Certain moves may require more time to set off, though, and these charge gauges fill as you or your enemies move and attack.

The combat system remains largely the same in other chapters, but these heroes do more than just fight. The little dusty town I’d dropped in was desperate for help. With the time limit of sunrise impending, I scavenged for items to help the townsfolk set traps in anticipation of an imminent gang attack. At one point, I may have deliberately sent a lady out so I could sneak into her room to look around. My actions in town ultimately made an impact on how many enemies were in the boss fight. Even still, I had to make careful use of positioning to ensure my party members could heal each other readily, without being blocked off.

Out of the Wild West and in Imperial China, I played as a Kung-Fu master in search of apprentices to pass on my legacy. While doing so I also helped out the sickly townsfolk by giving them medicinal herbs and was duly rewarded. Most of the time, though, the Kung-Fu master has to regularly engage in training matches with several students, making his story a little more repetitive than the rest.

The Twilight of Edo Japan scenario has been the largest of the bunch I've played so far, acting as an infiltration mission to rescue a prisoner. The complex is large and sprawling, laden with traps and treasures. In this portion, players have the option of avoiding combat (almost) entirely with stealth and smarts. Of course, I took it upon myself to slaughter as many of the opposing clan as I could, even the maids and merchants. Every life I took was counted, though I suppose ghosts are apparently an exception. I did learn that some fights are best avoided after all.

In the Distant Future, I played as a newly created robot, helping out a space crew not too far from Earth. Unlike other scenarios I've tried, this one is mostly devoid of combat, with a small exception. There’s a “retro-game” that can be played that is an arcade version of Live A Live’s own combat system, which I think is a really clever play.

The HD-2D visuals are an amazing modernized take on a classic sprite-based RPG, although I did find certain parts of the environments to be a little too chunky, particularly in the Wild West. Meanwhile, the remade soundtrack is very fun with each chapter having its own themes. I can’t quite say the same for the voice acting, which has left me some rather mixed opinions with questionable accents in some characters and less-than-grand performances in others.

In each of these chapters, I have already found several secrets and optional objectives. I'm particularly interested to see what I can do differently in other playthroughs to see what influence they have. I’m very excited to play more Live A Live, and am even more so interested in seeing how these stories come together.

The Live A Live remake is set to release for Nintendo Switch on July 22nd, this year. A demo is currently available on Nintendo eShop, taking you through the start of some of the aforementioned chapters with transferable save data to the full game.