If you've been following game news lately, you've probably heard about Live A Live. You probably also belong to one of two camps: Someone who knows what Live A Live is, and someone who can't really tell it apart from all the other HD-2D Square Enix games, like Triangle Strategy and Octopath Traveler.
Well, whether you're the type of person who knows about Live A Live or not, you can hopefully learn something from us, as we walk you through everything we know, and everything you need to know. And probably also some things you don't.
All Your Live A Live Questions, answered
What is it?
Live A Live is a 1994 Super Famicom RPG, previously released only in Japan, that is coming to the Nintendo Switch on the 22nd July, 2022. The remake will be in Square Enix's now-iconic HD-2D style, like Triangle Strategy and Octopath Traveler.
Who made it?
Square, which eventually became Square Enix (the Final Fantasy folks). They also published it, and that means that Square Enix are publishing the 2022 version — but only in Japan. Nintendo is publishing Live A Live everywhere else.
Is it "Live A Live" or "Live A Live"? Or is it "Live A Live"?
This is not a good question for the written form, but if you read the original katakana, it's "Live A Live". As in, live music.
What is the plot?
Live A Live is a story split across seven chapters, eight protagonists, and nine scenarios, all of which are in a different time period. There is an evil force called (some version of) Odio in each time period, who you will have to kill in order to complete the chapter. Although you can play the chapters in any order, they range from a prehistorical time period through to the far future, each with their own protagonist from the period in question.
What kind of game is it?
It's a role-playing game with turn-based combat, much like other JRPGs of the era like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. Each of the time periods and scenarios has different mechanics, too — sometimes you'll be focusing on dungeon-crawling, other times you'll have to use stealth to get by.
How does the combat work?
Well, it's turn-based, and it's presented much like a typical JRPG: two parties, one that you control, and one that you fight, stand facing one another. You have a bunch of moves to select from, including attacks and skills, some of which can give special effects like healing or defense to a single tile when you stand in it. You can also move around the tile grid, with different moves requiring different distances and stances.
Enemies also have an action meter on top of their heads, which tells you how ready they are to make a move. If you're not within range when their action meter reaches the end, then the meter will reset. A good strategy for staying out of danger!
It's worth noting that some characters' stories will prioritise combat, others will discourage it, and some will have none altogether.
Who are all the characters?
Pogo (Prehistoric times)
A caveman who hopes to save his crush from being a human sacrifice.
Earthen Heart Shifu (Imperial China)
An old master of Xin Shan Quan Kung Fu, and his best student, who he hopes to succeed him, who have to avenge the deaths of their fellow students.
Oboromaru (Feudal Japan)
A ninja on a mission to rescue a prisoner.
The Sundown Kid (Wild West)
An outlaw about to have a showdown with his rival, Mad Dog, in an old west town in America.
Masaru Takahara (Present day Japan)
A fighter hoping to become the strongest in the world.
Akira Tadokoro (Near future, Japan)
A psychic orphan who learns of a kidnapping ring run by bikers.
Cube (Distant future, space)
A spherical robot on a spaceship called the Cogito Ergosum.
Why is it coming out now?
Square Enix seems to be reviving a lot of their old catalogue, with great success — consider the glossy remake of Final Fantasy VII, the recently-announced Front Mission remakes, the HD-2D remake of Dragon Quest 3, and even just the nostalgia-adjacent HD-2D style of their newer games. Square know that they've got some gold in their archives, and they're happy to trot it all out alongside their newer IPs.
It turns out that Takashi Tokita, the original director of Live A Live, was working on the team developing Octopath Traveler, and he was inspired to use the HD-2D style to resurrect his own game.
Is Live A Live a big deal?
Yes, and no. It didn't sell particularly well in 1994 — only 270,000 copies, according to Wikipedia, which doesn't name its sources on that figure — but it's an important historical gaming relic.
It was the first game that Takashi Tokita would work on as a director, and his next one would be... Chrono Trigger. So it's basically the precursor to Chrono Trigger, which isn't surprising, given its time travelling plot.
One of the game's designers, Nobuyuki Inoue, would go on to be the director of Mother 3.
And, of course, despite its low sales, Live A Live is a beloved early RPG with enough of a cult following that a fan translation was made by Aeon Genesis in 2001, who describe it thusly:
Live A Live is truly unique when it comes to RPGs. Rather than have one long continuous storyline, LAL throws a whole bunch of rather short (but good) stories at you. Each chapter is set in a different time period, and each has unique gameplay aspects... The story is fairly generic, but it's told very well, and a couple of the chapters throw you some real curve-balls. Suffice to say, the game is really worth your time. Just don't spoil it for yourself with a walkthrough!
Is it actually good?
Yeah! Although it's no Chrono Trigger, it has its fans and its place in the JRPG canon. It got a 29/40 in Famitsu when it came out, which is not too shabby, and although several reviews apparently criticised its shortness and its final chapters, the overall consensus seems to be that the game was unique, interesting, and well-written.
Is the music good?
With Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimomura at the helm, you BET it's good. It looks like Shimomura has returned to orchestrate and arrange the soundtrack, too!
Expect bombastic fight themes, epic organ pieces, and Megalomania, the theme that Toby Fox's "Megalovania" was named for.
Is there new stuff for the remake?
- Voice acting for main and important characters
- Re-recorded soundtrack
- A physical and collector's edition of the game
- UI updates
- Sound effects updated
- Rebalanced gameplay
- Radars and maps added
- Redrawn character designs (by Naoki Ikushima)
Why did it take so long to come to the West?
Tokita told Famitsu that he had tried multiple times, but it just didn't work out. It wasn't until he joined the team behind Octopath Traveler that he realised that the HD-2D style would work perfectly. In particular, he said, the Edo and prehistoric chapters were hard to finish, because the team had a much higher bar for the remake than the original!
How long is it?
About 30-40 hours, according to Tokita. How Long To Beat says anywhere between 18-30 hours, depending on whether you're a completionist or whether you play games leisurely, as well as the ways you choose to play some of the chapters.
Is it related to Chrono Trigger?
In a sense, yes. The director, Takashi Tokita, went on to direct Chrono Trigger. You can see from the original designs that it's quite similar-looking to Chrono Trigger, too!
Will I enjoy it?
Do you like JRPGs? Did you like Chrono Trigger? Do you want to experience an older, cult-favourite game without having to play it in Japanese on a Super Famicom? Do you want to listen to some absolute bops? Do you have about 18-30 hours to spare? Then yes, probably.
There's a demo available on Switch eShop, and you can check out our hands-on preview for some early impressions ahead of our review which will arrive in due course.
Can I switch between old and new graphics/music?
We don't know! That would be nice, though.
When is it out?
July 22nd, 2022.
Is it on other consoles/PC?
No! Well, it's on the Super Famicom, so technically yes. But it won't be on PC, Xbox, or PlayStation.
Any other details?
- It's 4.6GB
- It costs $49.99 / £34.99
- You can pre-load it right now, if you want
- Tomokazu Sugita (AKA Joseph Joestar in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Chrom in Fire Emblem) will appear in multiple voice over roles
- "Cube" is apparently a reference to Stanley Kubrick (who is also not a cube)
- Influences range from 2001: A Space Odyssey to the SaGa and Final Fantasy games
- Different manga artists designed each of the main characters:
- Yoshihide Fujiwara
- Yoshinori Kobayashi
- Osamu Ishiwata
- Yumi Tamura
- Ryoji Minagawa
- Gosho Aoyama
- Kazuhiko Shimamoto
That's a lot of things to know about Live A Live! Let us know if you have any more questions in the comments below!