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Friday, July 22, 2022

LIVE A LIVE Relives on the Nintendo Switch; Out Now

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Surely you've heard about it by now.

Once upon a time, in a not-so-distant past (2021, to be exact), KoopaTV reader Captain Stitch wrote a guest article titled, “Live A Live — The best game you’ve never heard of”. A mere half a year after that was published, Nintendo and SQUARE ENIX announced a LIVE A LIVE HD-2D remake on the Nintendo Switch. Clearly, Captain Stitch thought very highly of LIVE A LIVE (though some aspects of its game design were notably outdated or frustrating). Now it's out on the Nintendo Switch for $50.

Before I go and sink in any such cash, I figured I'd try out the LIVE A LIVE free demo and share my thoughts. Captain Stitch shared that the full game has seven storylines plus two additional ones. The demo states that it consists of “portions” of three chapters: Imperial China (presumably the “Kung Fu Chapter”), Twilight of Edo Japan (I assume this is what he called the “Ninja Chapter”), and The Distant Future (Captain Stitch called this the “Space Chapter” if I'm not mistaken).

I started with the China chapter. I might be trying to boycott China nowadays, but I don't have anything against virtual ancient China. This featured an old man (I guess playing as an old man is actually unique in JRPGs), Earthen Heart Shifu. But he knows he's old, and he needs to find a worthy successor to his kung fu art before his years run out. I like that his level is maxed at 10 and he can't gain anymore experience points, but his disciples can.


LIVE A LIVE Voracious Thief Hong Hakka no skills trade job
In this economic environment, employers will hire any living person who'll show up to work on time and not steal company property.
...Unfortunately for Hong Hakka, he's at least failing that last qualification.


There is a toggle-able (read: optional) radar in the corner of the screen that has icons to lead you to where you need to go next to advance the story. I would have liked for there to be an actual map of the area. I also would've liked a party talk feature or at least some way to get dialogue from your fellow party members. Especially for that Imperial China chapter, where I guess you need to choose an ultimate disciple among the three party members you recruit. Though the demo for that chapter ends almost right after collecting all three and then... beating them all up for the Shifu's amusement.

LIVE A LIVE Ode Castle Twilight of Edo Japan map screen
OH. IT'S A MAP SCREEN. This one is more primitive than The Distant Future's, which fits the game world.


I played the Twilight of Edo Japan chapter next, with the protagonist's default identity being Oboromaru. Oboromaru is a budding shinobi who has a secret and important mission to infiltrate the castle of an enemy clan, the Ode, and rescue a hostage. He can sneak into the shadows or be very aggressive. Unlike the Shifu (despite him living in that area of China for what must be a long time), Oboromaru was smart enough to bring an Ode Castle Map. The first thing I did was get a non-standard game over by abandoning the mission by heading south from the starting point. I like that this was an option (though there's no narrative reason or conflict presented why you'd do this), but what ends up happening is that Oboromaru is branded a traitor and hunted down by overpowered Enma Trackers who fight you after a cutscene, with no flee option.

As for playing the actual chapter as intended, I think you're encouraged to sneak through the castle as opposed to killing the guards, since Oboromaru verbally keeps track of a kill counter. The Ode also has a simple password system you need to learn (saying the word river OR the word origin, depending on the time) if you want to avoid combat. But a whole bunch of optional areas can put you in scenarios like having you fighting off a swarm of five ninjas, which could be rough if you haven't leveled up by killing things. And leveling up gives you more attacks to choose from and vary/customise your gameplay, which is fun.

I did try to go back to the start and fight off the Enma Trackers that cause the non-standard game over if you flee after I reached the point where the demo won't let you progress.. I actually beat the first four because I got the Phantom Butterflies ability, which is an extremely broken inaccurate multi-hit ranged attack (like Bullet Seed in the first Pokémon Mystery Dungeon). ...But then the game repeated the sequence and I game-overed again to the next four. I tried some more times and defeated three waves of them. But I couldn't keep going forever (though the game seems to be able to), because these require item use to heal yourself and you don't gain EXP from fighting them. While your HP restores itself to full at the end of every fight, you still need to not die during the fight.


Finally, I played The Distant Future, with the setting being a spaceship. It's a big mood difference from the previous two chapters. I'm playing as Cube, the round autonomous support robot, who is a new cremate in the ship. Cube also has a map of the ship, which is called the Cogito Ergo Sum. There's not much action for a ship full of friends (or to be more straight-forward, there was zero combat, and the pause menu implies Cube doesn't even have stats), though there is a Captain Square arcade game that uses the same battle system but puts you in control of Captain Square against fantasy enemies with incredible powers. I got as far as Uranus. That minigame is pretty much all there is to do in The Distant Future, because otherwise it might as well be an adventure game and not a JRPG since you just go and examine things and talk to people. (Not that I have a problem with that.) I think I skipped some parts of the linear progression, since I went to Rachel's room and then the Bridge and triggered a story scene without talking to either of the two dudes the story prompted me to first (or at all). Or maybe it's not linear!

LIVE A LIVE examine distant future memory foam bed
Why can't we have these kinds of beds in the present?
Then I wouldn't have to feel bad about not playing Ring Fit Adventure anymore.
Come on Mike Lindell, do something useful in your life.


Besides Captain Square and the endless (?) Enma Trackers, the combat system was underutilised. Despite the scenarios all being pretty different in terms of what was going on in the overworld (the China story was the only one with party members, for example), the game does have a fundamental grid-based battle system where positioning and timing is pretty important. As someone who is going to start playing Triangle Strategy pretty soon, the game is quite reminiscent of turn-based strategy roleplaying games. Though, again, the China story of these three is the only one with party members, and you have to go grind on wild tigers in the forest (which is unnecessary) to ever actually be in a scenario where your party members will even show up to combat. You can choose from abilities that have a certain tile range and attack value. While you don't have an MP/mana limit, you do have turn order to take into consideration—some more powerful attacks will have you “charge” for a certain amount of actions, which could leave you vulnerable depending on your positioning. Captain Stitch noted that you can dodge enemy attacks (or, rather, they won't even bother attacking on their turn) if you aren't in their range. And while that's true, you also have no way of knowing what their range is or what their full moveset is, so you can't really position yourself accordingly. While you will know when their turn is, you don't know what they can do with that turn. That's different than actual turn-based strategy RPGs, where you can go see an enemy unit's profile and see their moves/inventory. That's not a thing in LIVE A LIVE, at least as far as I know. It's a bit unfair.

LIVE A LIVE can't take a joke always so damn serious Kirk Distant Future
I should keep this image in my arsenal when encountering KoopaTV detractors.


I liked my demo time with LIVE A LIVE, though I gotta confess and say I didn't love it. I can't help but think that the choices by SQUARE ENIX on which parts of the game were accessible in the demo might've been the wrong choices, and they didn't show off the game as well as they could have. Or maybe I'm giving the game too much credit.


Perhaps you already bought the Nintendo Switch version of LIVE A LIVE. Maybe you can compare the demo experience with the full game experience and let Ludwig know if the demo is or ain't a good representation of the full game. Or maybe you only want to get one JRPG in July and you're choosing Xenoblade Chronicles 3 instead. Ludwig's gotta say he's more interested in LIVE A LIVE than that.

7 comments :

  1. shouldve started with twilight of edo japan. how long is this game do u think? is there an overarching narrative? and most importantly.....

    Is this game just a prototype for a HD2D CHRONOTRIGGER REMAKE?!?!?!?!? (Also i still have ur Chrono trigger btw)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it doesn't matter which I started with since they're disconnected without an overarching narrative... although there apparently is a final chapter where the protagonists from the different periods come together. I dunno the details about it since that's quite spoiler-y.

      Haha... Well, I feel like the answer to HD-2D Chrono Trigger is possibly yes, but probably no. (Am I ever gonna see my Chrono Trigger DS again?)

      Delete
    2. https://howlongtobeat.com/game?id=5343

      Also it seems to be between 20 to 30 hours long on the Super Famicom. Dunno if that carries over to the Switch version.

      Delete
  2. I had wanted to play this demo before I commented, but I’m on my vacation. So I guess I better comment before I forget.

    I think things look and sound pretty good so far and just so you know the other chapters have party members and so do some of there’s demo chapters, they just appear later on in gameplay. But varied “chapters” are this games staple, you never really know what to expect and everything is different. I hope you and anyone reading this gets the game and really sees what is has to offer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely want to hear your fuller thoughts on the demo, but what I'm really getting out of this comment is "I didn't bring my Switch to my vacation." C'mon, it's portable! It's MADE to be brought to vacations!

      Delete
    2. I did bring it! But I’ve got no time to play. I try to fit some game time in at the end of the night but I’m stuck with only an hour or so that also gets divided by necessary shower time. No one likes a stinker, and it’s hot here in Florida.

      Either way I’m stuck with a predicament. I’ve already played the game, recently enough, and I’ve started to build a high backlog of games. So while I will play the demo, it doesn’t feel right buying the game right now at full price when I’m not even going to play it for a long while. I want to support there game, but I have to be realistic. Gaming is such an expensive pastime.

      Delete
    3. It's expensive, but KoopaTV also subsidises it for you. (Hence the high backlog...)

      Delete

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