Live a Live Review - A Life Worth Living

share to other networks share to twitter share to facebook
Live a Live Review - A Life Worth Living

Nostalgia is a potent tool. How certain sights and sounds get stuck in your head can significantly improve how you view something. Live a Live is a game that revels in its past whilst being solid enough to stand up on its own. I was worried it might be overly reliant on a time I never lived, but it manages to solidify itself in a new one.

It isn't without its faults and can occasionally suffer from some of the hang-ups of remaking a game from two decades ago but it's hard to resist the charms of its story, visuals, and music. To put it simply, Live a Live is an RPG that puts you in the shoes of several characters throughout time, all with some throughline keeping you together.

While you may get bogged down with the game's multiple different intros, the constant changing and exploring of new mechanics and abilities leaves you waiting to see where you'll be taken next. Though some more classic JRPG fans may get a little frustrated with the comparatively short playtime and consistent exposition, I found it all rather thrilling.

Live a Live Review: Prehistory Screenshot
click to enlarge
+ 3

Table of Contents

Carved in Stone

Advertisement

Trying to fit some semblance of cohesion into a story that doesn't initially have it, I started in the stone age. This is an odd place to start given that no character speaks and you have to guess what people want based on little thought bubbles above their heads. This doesn't always work but I constantly appreciated how unique this design choice was. Given the game isn't going for hyper-realism, they could have gotten away with dialogue. Instead, you are given an oddly charming yet simple story of a boy looking to save a girl he is in love with, in the middle of a tribal war.

Every chapter in Live a Live has these little selling points - ideas that make them special in their own right. This is a great gimmick for the game, and it managed to get me through all the exposition needed to do it in the first place. Some chapters aren't quite as interesting as others but they tend to move so fast that it's never a huge problem. Only taking an hour or two per chapter, you can rush your way through the ones you like less. This does break up the story somewhat but it's worth getting through them for Live a Live's best moments.

One thing that is immediately striking about Live a Live is its look. Fitting the mould set by games like Octopath Traveller and Triangle Strategy, it's an HD-2D game focusing on cute sprites and light textures. It's not hugely graphically intensive but looks wonderful on the shine of the Nintendo Switch OLED screen. Colours are vibrant and distinct, and characters are simple but effective. It's very easy to make out what everything is, even though they're pixelated. There's a definite nostalgic feel but it never feels overly indulgent. The game just looks great.

Live a Live Review: Chapters of the game
click to enlarge
+ 3

A New Era

Advertisement

From era to era, parts of the look and sound change. Square is trying to make every chapter feel separate in its own way and, for the most part, they succeed. Certain musical motifs only permeate some chapters and this works well to make the game feel like what it is - a collection of stories that come together to make one central experience. They have separating ideas that make them stand out and a story that makes them come back together

That experience can be pretty inconsistent at points. As well as this, many of the smaller stories are pretty cliched. They often rely heavily on tropes, only to attempt to subvert them as the game reaches its climax. This is a gambit that doesn't always pay off. Luckily, some central decisions near the end of the game can majorly affect the end - something that makes you invested in seeing the story through one more time.

The game's voice acting and somewhat branching paths reward that extra playthrough too. Live a Live's voices are melodramatic and over the top, but in a fun way. Some of the chapters can be quite goofy but in a way that is instantly charming. As a cowboy, I made a "your mom" joke to an outlaw threatening me. I can't remember the last time I did that in a JRPG.

Live a Live Review: Combat Screenshot
click to enlarge
+ 3

Constant Changes

Despite all the changes you go through and the lives you live, some of the game's mechanics stay relatively consistent. As far as combat is concerned, it favours a tactical role-playing style, making characters move along a grid to unleash special moves. It's not quite as complex as the likes of Fire Emblem but feels somewhat similar. You rarely need to think too hard about your loadout but preparing in advance will give you a slightly easier time.

Ultimately, this is both the best selling point and biggest drawback to playing Live a Live. Given every chapter is no more than a few hours long, it's hard to become invested long-term in the lives of any of the characters. Part of the fun of it all is figuring out what is going on and really enjoying the intro to everyone's lives but this isn't for everyone. If you skip through the opening of a JRPG to get to "the good stuff", Live a Live likely isn't the game for you. If you can really get engrossed and just love to see those numbers go up, it's surprisingly effective.

Advertisement
Live a Live
Live a Live puts together many of the things that put people off from playing JRPGs but makes it surprisingly accessible. It gives you several lives worth living and rewards you for really exploring every one of them.
Nintendo Switch