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Live-A-Live, in general

Lokii

Administrator
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Yowza that Remake news. I had conjectured that Live-A-Live would be a great candidate to follow-up Trials of Mana. Specifically, in the way that remake brought the SNES game to 3D in direct fashion but modernizing and fine tuning all its aspects. From character models down to map layout, its very faithful to the original, I felt Live-A-Live would be the perfect material for a similar treatment. But I never really thought it was likely to happen. And now, outta the blue this new remake that seems exactly that, except instead of fully rendered models they're doing it in the pixely 3D style Square has deemed "HD-2D." I find this style charming and I'm glad they're continuing to develop it both here and in Project T, but I can understand why some people don't like it. Regardless Live-A-Live is a perfect fit.

I adore the original game. Among the group of SNES RPGs that were never officially localized but made available through fan translation, it's tip-top. A real hidden gem. This announcement seems a good opportunity to grouse on about Live-A-Live in general and the gang in Discord said make a thread so here we are. I'm going to speak openly about the game and some of its major surprises so if you haven't played it, I will say its worth going in blind. If you're waiting to play the remake as your first exposure: beware, spoilers.

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Live-A-Live is a hecka'va game! It's a root-tootin, club bashin, sneaking slicin, robo stompin, alien stalkin, jump kickin, suplex smackin good time. It's unique in the way it explores all these different genres through a JRPG lens, and it ties them all together in a stratifying final act that's emotionally and thematically resonant. Now I'm not saying it's Undertale with its punch to the ol' heartstings, but it feels pretty good when you take down the final boss. There's some creaky bits for sure (I'm looking at you, Near Future chapter), but mostly it's a real neat game that articulates its ideas with artistry and grace.

Over in the Nintendoom thread ozacrot said he loved how the different time periods were all expressed through the unifying battle system, and I agree. With the battle system at its core, the game can express all these different modes of setting and play in ways that not only explore different aspects of the game systems but also how JRPG storytelling can articulate. I think it's appropriate the battle system is on the simpler end as it allows a flexibility capable of tackling this variety while providing an unifying context.

One way it does this is through the visual design of combat. Battles are rendered on a grid that is laid out in a checkerboard pattern contextualized by location and setting. That is to say, when you fight a giant fish, you do it on a crisscross of lily pads.

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Sometimes the grids are as simple as rows of grass or shades of concrete.

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But sometimes they're full of character, like the lines drawn in the sand for the contest against Jackie Iaukea or the footprints left by a mammoth stampede.

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The game could have as easily featured generic grids over bland backgrounds but by contextualizing the battle system into the setting Live-A-Live gains several advantages. The first is the aforementioned unity. No matter if you're a martial arts master on high china peak or a cowboy in a dusty one-horse-town each era is characterized through the same visual language. This common factor allows the various chapters to explore their genres to a vast degree of difference without throwing the player off balance. It also adds interest to the battle system, creating value that helps to shore up some of the simplicity of the mechanics. The wealth of combat arenas is a true creative display and part of the fun of the battles is seeing all the different ways this singular theme is varied. I could see pixel art pieces of the fights making a cool geeky-chic décor.

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I should also mention how great the enemy sprites are. Big and detailed and popping at the seams with character. Amazing work, it's a chef make-out all around.

It's not just the battles and systems that create a unifying effect. There's a number of lines of reoccurrence stitching the chapters together. Thematic and mechanical threads binding the patchwork nature of the different scenarios. An example of one of these threads is poor Watanabe, a soul doomed to witness his father's death by amusing means over the course of human history. In each chapter you can find a reincarnation of Watanabe just at the moment of his father's demise. Sometimes he's encountered in the normal course of action, such as in the Near Future chapter where his father appears as a boss and you have to do the dirty deed yourself; and sometimes he's only found through specific means, like in the Kung-Fu chapter where he only appears on one of the three primary story branches. His most obscure appearance is in the Present Day chapter during the fight with the vicious Great Asia. Not only do both the player and Great Asia have to be on specific squares and facing the correct directions for the scene to occur, but Great Asia must also perform a specific move and even then there's only a 50% chance of the event triggering. Should it occur Watanabe's father will toss a can at Great Asia from the audience. Enraged, the brute jumps from the stage and bites off his face.

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If you were a skull head wrestle man you would do no less.

Perhaps my favorite through-line is the manifestation of each chapter's final boss. Each is a monstrous villain, appropriate for the that chapter's ultimate encounter, and each's name is themed around the letters o, d, o. Sometimes it's truly a monster like O-D-O, the last living dinosaur who is worshiped as a deity through human sacrifice. And sometimes it's monstrous in nature, like Odie Oldbright, the marital arts master who murders his opponents in the ring. The naming pattern becomes clear as the player progresses through the game but takes on meaning and substance in the final chapters. The first of them is a Dragon Quest pastiche in which we learn that all the previous final bosses are reincarnations of a demon lord called Odio. The tragic events of the chapter transform him from a generic Dragon Quest antagonist into something more primal and universal, a symbol of humanity's capacity for hatred, something that must be contended with no matter if its caveman times or cowboy.

In this way Live-A-Live can tell the small-scale stories of the preliminary chapters while still bringing the game to the type of cosmic or mythic place that JRPGs like to go. And at the end of the game when you're confronting Odio in his true aspect it really does feel like a conflict working at a more essential level than the mere concerns of any of the individual chapters' stories, a symbolic encounter representing humanity's ongoing struggle with its base aspects.

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These are just a few of the techniques Live-A-Live uses to achieve its ambition, but there's so much more to the game. It's almost endlessly inventive and full of charming details. It's a real classic that's not just enjoyable as piece of entertainment but a true artistic work in the way it utilizes and plays with the JRPG form. It's wonderful that SquareEnix is coming back to it with this remake. It hope it sharpens the experience without losing sight of what made it special in the first place. I also hope it brings raises some awareness of the original, shining some attention on a game that more than deserves the spotlight.

Anyway, enough rambling. Now for what everyone's here for, Megalomania:

 
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Sprite

(He/Him/His)
I love HD-2D but find it funny that Square Enix tries to act like it’s a new fancy aesthetic when really it’s just a PlayStation RPG look with better lighting and 16-bit textures.
 

SpoonyBard

A Bard Named SPOONY
(He/Him)
Missed opportunity to have the space chapter boss not be named Odiwan Kenodi.

Great game, this. A bit rough around the edges in parts but unique among its contemporaries. Banger of a soundtrack, too. Can't wait to hear what the remixed tracks sound like.
Anyway, enough rambling. Now for what everyone's here for, Megalomania:

I see what you did there.

For real though, I wonder if anyone's made a mash-up of Megalomania and Megalovania, they'd play off each other well I think.
 

Issun

Avarice
It is weird that I finally played this last summer and all of a sudden here is a remake. Anyways, Megalomania is a bop and they'd better do it justice.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
Oh! Wow! I just saw the news about the Chrono Cross remake, and I'll admit, while I didn't expect that, I REALLY didn't expect this. I'm excited!
 

Issun

Avarice
A couple of other thoughts:

I noticed there's now a map option for the Ninja scenario, which is what that chapter sorely needed.

I really hope they have the option to turn off battles, because the encounter rate in the final chapter is the absolute worst part of the entire game, considering how much walking about you have to do.
 

Issun

Avarice
I forgot about this:

From the wiki, which has a very through breakdown



I like it a lot too. It's varied, with lots of different encounter situations depending on what characters/moves are involved. Some of the chapters are specifically set up to explore combat situations. like the wonderful mega-man-esque wrestling tournament or the Captain Square battles. Really, the only place where the battles start to feel tedious is in the mecha chapter, and that's largely because they all sorta play out the same way.

I'd like to see an expansion on the system too in a sequel, or really just an HD port/remake. Live-A-Live is such a wonderful hidden gem.


Edit: Also listening to Megalomania and Megalovania back to back there is definitely a through-line there. The time signature is identical, as are some chords.
 
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Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Mmmmmm, Yoko Shimomura. Always a good time. You can tell this is from back in her Street Fighter era.
 
I love HD-2D but find it funny that Square Enix tries to act like it’s a new fancy aesthetic when really it’s just a PlayStation RPG look with better lighting and 16-bit textures.
Squeenix marketing can do w/e it wants, I'm just thrilled it's happening in general. I have consistently thought for two decades that more games should look like Xenogears.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
How long would you say this will likely take to beat?

i suppose it depends on what's changed in terms of how long it take to get from Point A to Point B, but the SNES version was maybe 20 hours blind? and again pointing out that the snes version had much smaller maps to traverse because it was FF4/FF5 style tiny characters running around
 

Valentein

Smart Hero 3/Occultist 7
(Zie/zem)
*announcement trailer starts*
Me: "Holy shit there is literally nothing about this I could dislike"

*announcer says the title Live-A-Live out loud*
Also Me: "No. Wrong."
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
*announcement trailer starts*
Me: "Holy shit there is literally nothing about this I could dislike"

*announcer says the title Live-A-Live out loud*
Also Me: "No. Wrong."

Now you finally understand how I feel when you intentionally mangle some poor defenceless word in my presence.
 
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