Have you ever heard of a JRPG called Live-A-Live? (It’s pronounced ‘live’ as in ‘live music’ by the way, both times.)
This game was originally published in Japan in 1994 and never got a western release. Despite this, it has fans all over the world.
For years, the game was an underrated gem that time forgot. But then, Square Enix dropped an announcement earlier this year that it would be remaking the game. Not only that, but that it would be in their so-called “HD-2D” style like Octopath Traveler!
With the game slated for release on the Nintendo Switch July 22 and a free demo currently available for download, we need to have a conversation about this thing.
Whether you know of this game or not, if you are a JRPG fan (old or new), its release should concern and interest you.
Let’s dive into why that is. Here’s why you should care about the Live-A-Live Remake.
1. The Concept is Very Interesting
One of the most standout qualities of Live-A-Live is just how interesting a game it is on every level.
Whether it’s the story, characters, battle system, music, or just general presentation, Live-A-Live is just brimming with creative ideas that really push what a JRPG can be.
Where games like Final Fantasy might focus on telling one long story, Live-A-Live tells several short ones.
Each of the game’s stories is set in a different time period and stars a different main character involved in their own thing. From a cave man to a cowboy to a kung-fu master to a psychic anime boy to a robot on a spaceship, this game’s got it all!
Each of the main characters were designed by different manga artists of the time. Their stories were inspired by other media like the classic movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The music is tailored to each time period too, of course.
When they told this game to pick an aesthetic and stick to it, it boldly declared “NO” and decided to have it all at once.
Playing Live-A-Live is like playing several really good JRPGs at once, minus the stress.
You can pick and choose which character you wanna play and which storyline you want to progress and in what order.
2. The Game was Ahead of Its Time
This game was first released in 1994 but it is shockingly forward-thinking in a lot of ways. It messes with the JRPG formula in ways that really stand out.
For instance, while each scenario shares the same basic controls, it also comes with its own gimmicks that make it stand out. These include stuff like a stealth mechanic, the ability to read NPC thoughts, or a lack of standard battles.
The difference between one character’s path and another isn’t just a new story. It is also fresh gameplay, a fresh art style, funky fresh new bangers from the OST, and an entirely new vibe.
The game even goes as far as to experiment with how combat occurs. In some character’s stories, the enemies can be seen wandering about. You trigger a battle by coming into contact. In others, you have random encounters. In others, all the encounters might be scripted.
The game brims with creative ideas that seem to stand in defiance of conventional or traditional JRPG design. Even its turn-based combat allows for a greater deal of movement in battle than the average JRPG.
This game is obviously from the far future and was sent back in time to be released during the early 90’s. That’s gotta be it!
3. The Game was Created by Industry Legends
Looking at the list of staff from this game is like looking at the roster of the Avengers or something. You would see name after name that would go on to make marks on the industry through the 90’s and 00’s.
I can’t exactly take you through all of them so I’ll focus on two figures that stood out to me the most; Takashi Tokita and Yoko Shimomura (calling all Kingdom Hearts fans).
Let’s talk about Takashi Tokita first. He was the lead designer of Final Fantasy IV. He was also the director for Parasite Eve and one of the three
wise men directors of Chrono Trigger. That game is widely thought to be one of the best JRPGS, if not THE best JRPG of all time.
Then we have Yoko Shimomura; a living legend. You may know her from games such as THE ENTIRE KINGDOM HEARTS FRANCHISE, Street Fighter II, Super Mario RPG, Parasite Eve, Legend of Mana, the Xenoblade Chronicles series, Final Fantasy XV, Radiant Historia, and Streets of Rage 4.
She came to Square Enix after working for Capcom, where she casually crafted the OST for one of the most influential and beloved fighting games of all time; Street Fighter II. Live-A-Live was her first work on a JRPG and she absolutely nailed it out of the park.
The skill and creativity of the team is on display in every facet of the game. In fact, the choice of time periods for the game was made after consulting all the members of the staff and taking their best ideas.
This game almost functions as the missing link in the fossil record of JRPGs to help us figure out how certain games were created or why certain ideas were pursued.
Despite being judged a commercial failure at the time of its release, Live-A-Live would go on to influence the games Takashi Tokita would make from then on.
4. The Next Remake
This next section is for those readers who remain unconvinced by the first three sections. I’ll shift the focus from the game to the implications of its release and see what you think about it.
According to an article on Famitsu, Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda has been wanting to remake and resell some of their older games. Live-A-Live was reportedly on the top of that list of proposed titles.
What this means is that the release of those games will depend on the success of this game. Square needs to see that there is vested public interest in bringing their older games back to life.
When Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers edition was announced, there were resounding cries of, “Where is Chrono Trigger?!” “We want Chrono Trigger!” “Release the Crono Cut!” and all that.
Well, I believe that this is the path to seeing games like Chrono Trigger come back. By showing these companies that there is a hungry audience for these remakes, you end up justifying their investment.
Your actions can lead to more and more older games that were unloved or deserved recognition to come back. Maybe it’s a rerelease, maybe it’s a port, or maybe it’s a full on remake. Whatever the case, the success of this game opens the door to those games.
And what do you think happens when other companies see Square making a killing selling their legacy games again? They’d jump on that train faster than you could say “Mother-3-on-the-Switch.”
I understand that asking someone to buy a whole game out of hope that it would help release another game feels like wishful thinking.
But this is literally the customer voting with our wallet and exercising the only power our economic system affords us.
Plus, Live-A-Live is a phenomenal game that respects your time and efforts. I fully expect it to leave a strong impression on those who give it a try.
So this is your call to action, gamer!
You like old games? Good games? Great music? Ninjas? Robots? Miscellaneous cool stuff?
Then you need to try Live-A-Live.
The remake of Live-A-Live comes out on July 22, 2022. Time already forgot this game once but we won’t.
We will be releasing our review of the game when it releases.