Mixed bag is, well, a mixed bag

Live A Live’s Western chapter is one of the game’s high points.IMAGE: NINTENDO
Live A Live’s Western chapter is one of the game’s high points.IMAGE: NINTENDO
Wyatt Ryder reviews Nintendo Switch game Live A Live ★★★
Live A Live is a game about being a lone gunslinger, wandering into a troubled town.

Live A Live is a game about being a martial arts master, raising your disciple to be the ultimate warrior.

Live A Live is a game about being a super-powered street punk who can read the true thoughts of others and use them to his advantage.

Live A Live is a game about being a caveman with gorilla for a best friend.

Live A Live is all these things, and plenty more.

The latest release in Square Enix’s line of HD-2D games, Live A Live is a remaster of the 1994 game of the same name, which never received a Western release.

Live A Live is a strange game. It features seven seemingly unrelated chapters, each set in a different time and place. Each features a unique mechanic, protagonist and story. Once completed, more of the narrative unlocks and links the chapters together.

Some of chapters, such as the cowboy-themed one, are absolutely fantastic. Others are not.

The issue was that finishing a chapter felt satisfying, but didn’t make me want to continue on. Starting a new chapter and finding it frustrating was like hitting a wall.

The game excels in the style department. The HD-2D (used in other games such as Octopath Traveller and Triangle Strategy) is brought alive with fluent animation and cinematography which makes it clear the pixel art style was not based on limitations, but instead the perfect tool for the wacky stories the original developers wanted to tell.

The sound design is a particular highlight, with catchy and bold music and sound effects that pop.

The dialogue and story is written with the bizarre wit that only ’90s games could get away with. It’s cheeky, it’s absurd and it’s so damn cool.

Unfortunately, the actual gameplay holds it all back.

The combat is poorly explained, but once you do get the hang of it you’ll start to hate how frequently it occurs.

Almost every enemy is pure fodder, thrown at you in annoyingly large groups. About 10% of the battles are actually challenging, and these are actually really fun. The movement-based turn system and grid layout makes for a really cool boss fight, but feels utterly pointless during the constant random encounters featured in some chapters.

Some chapters feature little-to-no combat, which I generally enjoyed far more.

One combat-heavy chapter ended with 13 consecutive battles. While it was cool learning about each of these warriors, I wanted to pull my hair out for half of it.

Each chapter only takes a few hours and can be knocked out in an afternoon, but I often got tired of the fighting and had to take a break.

Being a game from the early ’90s, naturally the gameplay philosophy is outdated. You are often sent off on fetch quests that achieve little more than frustration.

It’s hard to say whether or not you should play this game, because each chapter is so dramatically different. I hated the prehistoric chapter, with no dialogue and a slow moving story, but the super-powered near-future chapter and the Western chapters had me laughing and grinning ear to ear.

If you want something that feels like a classic Japanese RPG without the bloated grinding and huge runtime, this game might really appeal to you.

It offers a bizarre and fun style you can’t really get from anything else. I just hope you find the bloat less frustrating than I did.



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