A few weeks ago, I wrote a preview on Live A Live, and in that text, I was fairly cautiously optimistic about the game and what parts of it I saw. Skip to today and I no longer have a preview that limits what I can check out, and while you might hope that means I can tell you how awesome this JRPG is, unfortunately, I’m going to do pretty much the opposite. Because after finishing this game, I wasn’t impressed by it at all. The reason for this is the dull innovation between chapters, some clearly better than others, and the game’s pacing, frankly, exhausting. But let me elaborate one by one.
Start with the rhythm and the way Live A Live is structured. I still appreciate the nature of this game and the fact that you can play each unique chapter at any time. However, what I really don’t like is the very slow pace of the narrative. It’s so slow that a lot of the time, you’re not interested in what’s going on and skip the conversation to keep exploring. Granted, the exploration itself is pretty monotonous in most chapters, which means it’s not something to look forward to either. In fact, going a step further, I think of the eight chapters, only three are actually interesting, or dealt with in such a way that I find myself replaying them at some point (those are prehistory because it’s broader nature, Edo Japan’s Twilight Saga for its level design, and Imperial China for its interesting narrative). You may have noticed that two of the chapters are the ones I discussed in the preview.
As for the other five chapters, Wild West is incredibly linear and slow, and Today tries to be a Street Fighter clone without the exciting combat gameplay (this chapter is also available in 20 minutes), Near Future basically takes place in one of three buildings and really lacks variety, Far Future is exhausting, drab and never seems to end, Medieval has a serious Navigation problems, which cause you to constantly travel in areas you’ve already visited. Needless to say, playing JRPGs isn’t the most exciting or engaging right now, and you can see why some chapters are better than others.
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It’s also worth noting that some of my concerns during the preview phase haven’t gone away at all. Combat is still very dull, with basically no strategy whatsoever, even with a typing and effectiveness system that should determine how you respond to threats. In fact, you can use the same move all the time, as the enemy rarely does anything that will guarantee you a deviation from this strategy. It’s also worth noting that the UI often gets in the way so you can’t see your enemy’s strengths or weaknesses, which means there’s no point in relying on that anyway.
Again, as I mentioned in the preview, until the very end of Chapter 8, the progress basically carries no weight at all. I won’t delve into why this is, as it dances around spoiler territory, but it includes “recruiting ex-heroes,” as stated in the game’s Switch Store listing, which means you can deduce what I’m referring to. All you need to know is that the progression of each chapter doesn’t really make sense or relate to each other (except for the last chapter) unless you plan on actually beating the game, which I can imagine when considering the pace and lack of engaging gameplay A challenge for most people.
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Another point I touched on earlier was the lack of innovative gameplay between each chapter. I mean, in addition to having unique settings and character lists, etc., each chapter is defined by unique game mechanics. For prehistory, it’s the ability to use a unique sense of smell to locate enemies and items. Today, on the other hand, revolves around the protagonist who has the ability to learn the attacks of his enemies, and in Near Future you can use telepathic abilities to read the minds of NPCs, which is basically just adding a line Additional dialogue lines to discover. The most disappointing part of the unique mechanics is that these are pretty much the best mechanics, considering the latter is one of the least inspired ways to approach this power.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. I do appreciate the different settings, and I think the concept of the game is very interesting, it’s just not handled in a particularly interesting way. Plus, as I said in the preview, the HD-2D art style remains one of the game’s greatest strengths, and it’s a very beautiful video game when playing on the big screen and using the Switch on the go.
When it comes to Live A Live, there are clear highlights, but I can’t help but feel that, for the most part, this is a game that struggles to grab the player’s attention and struggle to make someone want to come back and keep checking it out. If you’re impressed with what Live A Live looks like and are excited about it, I suggest you take a look at Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy before making a decision on this title as both games are more of an experience than what’s offered here deep impression.