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LIVE A LIVE remake hands-on preview

Before Chrono Trigger and Parasite Eve, Takashi Tokita’s first time as game director gave the world Live A Live for the Super Famicom in 1994. Sadly, this was during the days when localization was much harder to achieve and even more tragically; this was an era when Squaresoft produced some of their greatest games.

Treasure of the Rhudras, Bahamat Lagoon, and Treasure Hunter G were some of the mega RPGs that would never leave the shores of Japan and would stay as Super Famicom exclusives. Thankfully, Live A Live has escaped this fate thanks to a remake.

Live A Live (2022) aims to deliver a very faithful remake that makes use of the Unreal Engine 4 and goes for a sprite/polygon mix that has been marketed as “HD-2D”, made popular with Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy. The gameplay and scenarios will be seemingly the same as they always have been.

In this Live A Live preview, we had access to the very early chapters in three of the seven main characters. Earthen Heart Shifu’s scenario is set in Imperial China and has a Wuxia flavor to its story. His plot focuses on him finding three losers and training them to become his successors before he passes on.

It plays out like a Kung Fu movie. There are scenes of elaborate martial arts and comedy that gets punctuated with soulful scenes of Earthen Heart Shifu’s pupils learning to cope with their shortcomings.

Oboromaru’s scenario plays out like a stealth game and has some gameplay elements inspired by retro Metal Gear. His section is set in the last days of the Edo period and is on a rescue mission and must avoid killing by any means necessary. He is a truly ruthless and brutal ninja that can turn invisible.

The third playable character in this preview is Cube; the droid on a spaceship in the far future. Cube’s scenario is unique in that it is plays out like a horror game that takes influences from sci-fi classics like Alien (1979), Silent Running (1972) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Cube never speaks and most of the story is expressed from the human characters who are the crew of Cogito Ergo Sum. He gets no combat outside of the video game within the game, “Captain Square”.

Sadly, Cube’s demo ends just when the events are about to get very intense. Given the very blatant influences for this sequence, it is very easy to assume that things will go south and the human crewmates will have a very bad time.

The first thing gamers may notice is Live A Live‘s visuals and how detailed and fluid the sprite animations are. The original 1994 version was a decent looking 16-bit RPG, but this remake redraws all the sprites and makes them bigger and more expressive than ever.

Small character gestures that go a long way like how Oboromaru’s crouch walk when he is bowing to the shogun or how Kato assumes a “thinking” pose when trying to come up with a name for Cube, draw the player into the world.

Compounded with the expanded scope of animation is the unbelievably strong voice acting. For over 30 years, Live A Live was not officially localized and this remake not only has a very strong script, but voice acting that sounds incredibly natural.

At its core, Live A Live is still an RPG from 1994 and yet it does not play like anything else. It is turn-based, but also tile-based. Players won’t need to worry themselves with MP as a resource, because turn cost is the main commodity when executing various attacks and moving on the field.

Each character has various moves that have different uses on the field. They all have bespoke tile patterns, effects and use up some of the active time bar. Some attacks have lasting effects on the field and damage can vary depending on which side players assault their target.

Battles are surprisingly deep and fast paced due to the forward thinking design and streamlining. The preview build didn’t allow any chances to tinker with character builds or equipment, but interestingly; there are four slots for accessory items. It will be interesting to see how that is implemented in the final release.

Live A Live‘s demo does not let players get far enough to experiment with parties and the scenarios available are too early to have any of these characters meet. All of these eras and periods through out time and space may seem like they are part of a disjointed anthology, but they do eventually converge.

Live A Live shows a lot of potential as being one of the greatest remakes of all time. Every aspect of the game is designed to honor the original and to enhance what was already there. It is a game from a different time, from one of Squaresoft’s best directors and had music composed by a Yoko Shimomura; her first RPG.

Fans of Chrono Trigger, SaGa Frontier and Romancing SaGa 3 must not miss this one. It has already been an enduring classic in Japan for decades and it is finally getting the treatment it deserves in the West.

The LIVE A LIVE remake is set to launch for Switch on July 22, worldwide.

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A youth destined for damnation.