Live A Live Preview: Unique But Inconsistent RPG Stories

live alive was originally a Super Famicom game released in 1994 and never made it out of Japan until now. Remade in a new visual style similar to Octopath Traveler and Triangle strategylive alive is a nice game, but it is not without some inconsistencies.

In our preview, I got to play as four of the seven characters. Each character has their own chapter story and even some unique gameplay mechanics. However, live aliveFirst impressions will depend a lot on which character you decide to play first. If you don’t like the story of a certain character, it can set the wrong expectations for other characters. My first four adventures in live alive were filled with highs and lows. Here’s a summary.

the infiltrator

On the character selection screen, you’ll be presented with seven different characters in vastly different time periods, ranging from the dawn of history to the far reaches of the space future. By just choosing one, you experience their own personal story with unique gameplay mechanics. I chose Shinobi’s story first and it was definitely the strongest in terms of gameplay. Here you play as a shinobi on a rescue mission.

He must fall through a large castle area full and draw enemies. The castle is much bigger than I initially thought, with multiple hidden paths to explore. It was very nice to find certain keys scattered around the castle to reach the top. The Shinobi also has the ability to avoid regular enemy encounters, and if he gets into a situation, he can pull up an invisible cloak to hide from enemies.

There’s even a counter for the number of lives taken, which the Shinobi updates every time it ends a battle. However, there are some unavoidable battles that count towards the kill counter, so I wasn’t quite sure what its usefulness was.

Anyway, the Shinobi’s story was an incredibly strong start to my adventure and set my expectations for the rest of the characters. Unfortunately, my feelings about the other chapters are mixed because of that.

The mechanical heart

I chose to play the robot Cube story next. Here, Cube is created by a member of a space cargo crew to help with tasks while the ship goes to Earth. However, the situation on the ship changes dramatically when members of the crew drop dead one by one like flies.

This one was a surprise as it was nothing like the Shinobis I played before. The ship was much smaller and less confusing to navigate compared to the castle, and Cube’s story played out like a space horror drama, something akin to Alien: Isolation

This scenario was much more narrative-driven and involved character motivations and backstories via computer terminals. There were also no battles in this scenario as Cube can’t fight, but you can play a minigame on the ship that mimics a grid-based battle system.

This one has a welcome change of pace after going through the ? traditional RPG inspired Shinobi story. Even as a simple robot, Cube exudes a lot of personality by bringing coffee to the crew members and cheering them up.

the successor

In Imperial China, players take on the role of a shifu looking for successors to continue his kung fu legacy. The unique mechanic here is that you will find three characters to train. Each time you spar with one of the three, they gain experience points to level up. You have a few days to train with them and up to four sessions a day to fight them.

Players can choose to split the training sessions evenly among all three characters and level their levels, or choose one disciple over the other two and make them incredibly powerful. Whoever you spar with gets extra stat points after the session.

Compared to the other two characters I tried for the sequel, the story was a bit of a struggle to get through due to the number of mandatory battles. It only gets really interesting towards the end. However, the scenery here was my favorite. The 2D HD visual style, which has been a major highlight of the pack so far, transforms dated landscapes into breathtaking mountain peaks and foliage.

The homeless person

For my final story of the preview session, I went with the Wanderer. This story follows a cowboy in the Wild West named Sundown, which is a promising setup. Unfortunately it was the weakest I played. Not only was it incredibly short compared to the previous three, but I felt like I didn’t really understand Sundown as a person. He has a mysterious outlaw vibe to him, but that’s all the depth I got towards the end.

Sundown deals with a group of rogue cowboys, the Crazy Bunch, who head into town the next day to terrorize the citizens. The unique mechanic of this chapter is that Sundown can make the citizens prepare various traps throughout the city, and when the sunrise hits, members of the Crazy Bunch will fall victim to them, easing the burden of the chapter’s final battle .

Due to the shorter chapter running time, the cowboy was the most underdeveloped of the four characters I played, and his chapter’s unique trap-setting mechanism didn’t quite match the creative highlights of characters like Cube.

Looking forward

live aliveThe individual stories are inconsistent in quality and can feel a little undercooked at times. I enjoyed the Shinobi and the Cube more than the shifu and cowboys. However, I’m much more interested in seeing how these stories eventually interact, despite coming from completely different time periods and settings.

The combat system is great fun, but since each chapter is only about two to three hours long, I didn’t feel like there was much customization or depth to it. Still, it’s a strong constant mechanic that’s the same in all chapters, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it anchors the full game. If the turn-based combat can carry the weaker chapters and further elevate the stronger ones, the complete package should feel more unified than my scattered first dive.

live alive currently has a demo available in the Nintendo eShop for players to check out. The game will launch on July 22 for Nintendo Switch.

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