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Live-A-Live, in general

Valentein

Smart Hero 3/Occultist 7
(Zie/zem)
Being less glib, I initially parsed it as (verb) Live-A-Live, though it did click that given the title's wordplay the expected pronunciation was (adjective) Live-A-Live but by then it was too late
 

Issun

Avarice
Being less glib, I initially parsed it as (verb) Live-A-Live, though it did click that given the title's wordplay the expected pronunciation was (adjective) Live-A-Live but by then it was too late
I've always read it as (verb) A (adjective) myself.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
Being less glib, I initially parsed it as (verb) Live-A-Live, though it did click that given the title's wordplay the expected pronunciation was (adjective) Live-A-Live but by then it was too late
Same on both counts.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
some key art of the prehistoric and china chapters from a famitsu article, which sort of gives overviews of these two chapters as well as the battle system and overall game structure
G5ErsVX.jpeg

1JIl1aI.jpeg
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
The Switch shop is posting more videos to the game page and I want to play this, thanks.
 

Lokii

Administrator
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
I've put a little time into the demo. In terms of pacing, game feel, etc it replicates the original experience pretty closely, which is cool. Significant changes include the menus giving you lots of information up front, which removes much of the mechanical obscurity in the original. A positive change IMO. Menus also feature adorable little dioramas of the party that change based on what location you're in. Love it.

Surprisingly the most standout feature is the writing and voice acting. The SNES fan-translation went as far as to make different fonts for each scenario, giving both them and the game as a whole a lot of personality. That's not present here. Instead the vocal performances do that work, and I found the feature super compelling. I'm not usually a fan of voice-acting in traditionally RPGs, as it slows down story segments and usually is of dubious quality. Here it's top-notch. First of all the sentence-level writing is well above the quality you usually find a JRPG, with an expansive vocabulary and a literary bent. Then the voice performances add nuance as well, bringing a lot of personality to story-scenes which otherwise would be pretty static. The voice work too uses light accents to add that distinctive character to the different time periods, picking up the work the different fonts did in the original. This caries the danger of stepping into stereotype or even overt racism, but in what I encountered it was done with control and nuance. It shades the experience rather than blasting it with an over-the-top cartoonishness. I really liked what I saw and in a way it's almost become the main draw of this remake. I'm really interested to see how they use this technique in the later chapters.

It seems like the remake is doing a great job of updating the game while preserving the stuff that makes the original so unique and compelling. One change did leave me scratching my head though. If you're going for a pacifist run in the Japan chapter you have figure out the secret password system the guards use. It's pretty punishing in the OG as the clue to how it works is easy to miss and not even reachable until you have to choose the correct password a couple of times. It's something you have to feel out and intuit through mistakes. Apparently they felt like it was too much for modern design as now a tutorial box pops up that not only explains the whole puzzle but outright tells you the answer. It totally removes the teeth from the mechanic and makes it a non-event. Really baffling decision. I hope it's a one-off thing and not indicative of a hesitant over-tutorizing that will persist throughout the game. At least you can turn off the pop ups in the settings.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
Still the height of cruelty that they force you to choose between Lei and Hong.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
This is out. I finished "The Strongest," the present day scenario. Got all the techniques (though I did require confirmation that the scenario boss doesn't have any, and it was a bit tricky to get Fleetfoot from Seishi Moribe since it's a ranged attack and he won't use it if you're adjacent to him). It seems that the option to rematch the fighters is newly added in this version.

It was a nice gentle intro to the combat system. Obviously, one-on-one fights simplify it enough to remove what I can tell will be some of the more significant tactical elements.

I think I'm gonna have a great time with this.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
This game is good as hell, I'm already at Middle Ages.

The only chapter I haven't genuinely enjoyed is Prehistory. So, uh, if you want to play this game, I recommend starting with not that one. (Probably the ideal starting chapters are Present Day, Distant Future, and Imperial China. All pretty simple, good intros to the combat available, and no real "gotchas" for the final chapter if you're unfamiliar with things.)
 

Sprite

(He/Him/His)
I’m really digging the art style. It’s weird that 2D-HD gets marketed as a new twist on 16-bit aesthetics when more than anything it reminds me of PS1 RPGs. There’s tons of pantomime and unique animations that most retro-styled RPGs kind of forget to do in favor of character portraits.

I desperately wish we had more anthology RPGs like this one. It’s such a compelling idea.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Imperial China in the can as my second scenario, and I'm digging the hell out of this. Y'all weren't kidding. It's one of those games that makes me wish that more other games shamelessly ripped it off, which is some of the highest praise I can give to anything.

I don't regret waiting for the official release (one way I think that modern games have unequivocally improved over 199X games is in user interface design), but had I gotten around to playing it in fan translation I'm sure I'd have loved it as well.
 

SpoonyBard

A Bard Named SPOONY
(He/Him)
I was gonna wait but couldn't and picked it up. First went for the sci-fi chapter because I was in the mood for non-combat. So far I'm digging the hell out of this and would love to see more old SNES RPGs redone in the style (looking at you, Chrono Trigger)
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
Oh, for those of you used to certain elements about the final chapter in this game, here's some good news about the remake: Not only is it possible to replay chapters after clearing Middle Ages, you also pull the inventory from each character that cleared the chapter, not just their equipped gear. No more forcing Akira to hold all your extra mods just to staple onto Cube later!
 

Issun

Avarice
This game is good as hell, I'm already at Middle Ages.

The only chapter I haven't genuinely enjoyed is Prehistory. So, uh, if you want to play this game, I recommend starting with not that one. (Probably the ideal starting chapters are Present Day, Distant Future, and Imperial China. All pretty simple, good intros to the combat available, and no real "gotchas" for the final chapter if you're unfamiliar with things.)
I remember Prehistory being the least interesting scenario when I played the fan translation last year. I had started with the Edo scenario, though, and that's not a very gentle introduction to the game, at least in the SFC version. I'm guessing there's some QoL enhancements that make it a little less confusing.

Anyone who's gotten to the final scenario: did they temper the encounter level at all? Because in the original it was ridiculous.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Finished this. First time playing, and I did not like it at all. Rather than try to congeal some kind of articulated missive about why, I'll just transcribe my reactions to how consistently the game provided me with something to be disappointed in. Yes, it's about gender politics, and covers most of the game.

three scenarios into live a live
it's not great. i can see why people would like it but the writing is either nothing or aggressively regressive
entire prehistory story is about man horny for woman, woman being fought over by mans, woman kidnapped as sacrifice, then it ends with both of the protags walking into their rooms to fuck their women and the only written dialogue of the entire scenario is reserved for the caveboy protag having his first orgasm
roll credits
also in a completely non-verbal narrative they slipped some gay/trans panic gags in there. imperial china has a fat joke character

the live a live bullshit train has no stops to it
wild west chapter has one major woman character in it, a saloon-runner. before you even meet her you can walk into her room to catch her undressing. later in the chapter you can return to her room to examine her wardrobe--which she prevents you from doing if she's around, but the plot of the chapter allows you to send her away on a task, so you engineer the trespassing yourself--to find her nightgown. it doesn't do anything and can't be equipped, but you know, just for funsies of violating someone's privacy expressly against her will

in this official remake script it's "censored" to be her diary. the context of it and how the game made a titillating show of it made no sense to me, so i looked up if they had changed it, and sure enough. it's still listed as body equipment in the game, because localizers can't alter the fundamentals of this content

present day chapter is a street fighter 2 send-up, and by far the shortest chapter--just a fight select screen, which mostly prevents it from having opportunities to fall flat on its arse. but even while they're doing a sf2 riff and have seven unique martial artists with the same kind of cultural stereotyping, none are women. i guess the protag doesn't want to learn Women's Techniques, but hulk hogan will do

the near future chapter is a delinquent super robot story--hironobu kageyama sings the op and everything. the protag is a late teen psychic orphan, and there's this bit where you can repeatedly have one of the younger kids at the orphanage go and steal the the protag's mother figure's belongings--the remake tries to play it off like he's trying to pilfer pocket money from her, but it's actually, again, her underwear he's after. you get a succession of items in her clothing articles--censored to be benign in this new release--ultimately rewarding you with her panties. sidequest done. do right by your mother

one of his starting skills is "mother's shame" with the description "confuse enemies with thoughts of their moms so they lose the will to fight." it's possible to interpret it as like, he makes them think of their moms being ashamed of them for being biker punks, but the original name for the skill was "mother image" so it's kind of vague in intent. is he projecting psychic images of their moms being sexually assaulted into their heads, thus her "shame"? that sounds like a reach, but this is a game that goes to that well--the (mandatory!) dialogue choice in the wild west chapter for one, where the protag has to respond to "heh heh tough guy drinks milk like he's still stuck to his mother's tits" taunting with the sexist retort of "your mother's, maybe"
this game fucking sucks

the game feels like an anthology jam project by a boys' club of authors none of whose work is something you'd want to read. i don't know if each person contributed to it beyond character design and the premises of the scenarios, or whether it was all tokita holding the scenarios together, but there's clearly common cause throughout. a sexist voltron

there's a boss named gynophobia in live a live and i dunno what could be more apt
the remake renames her hygrophobia because she's like a demon slug lady dripping liquids. sure, whatever you gotta do to make this shit palatable
your reward after clearing the seven stories of man is the hidden (but not really, as it's part of the remake's promotion) eighth man
which is this Traditional Medieval RPG pastiche that probably thinks it's being subversive because the only trick it has is that eventually everything goes wrong and literally everyone dies, leaving the hero alone and very sad
it still has time to fit in a princess kidnap beat and have it ultimately be about a jealous dude (tokita loves kains i guess) who orchestrated the whole thing because he want woman too. cap it off with the princess's suicide to really sell the tragedy
so everyone and dies and the hero is framed as satan so he just goes "well, i'll just show them how big a satan i can be" and declares himself the new dark lord. twist achieved, roll credits. this is supposed to be the thematic and emotional fulcrum of the entire piece

it makes total sense to me that the 2d-hd team picked this as a project. it has a really compatible sensibility with all the bullshit in octopath

I had always stayed away from Live A Live because at a glance the entire premise seemed so suspect to me: eight protagonists, with not a woman in sight? SaGa it is not but SaGa it clearly borrows from in a number of ways, so that too should've been a willing consideration. Maybe the problem really was that they contracted all these Shueisha-affiliated boys' comics authors (with the lone Yumi Tamura representing a different demographic of artist) and they simply went to work on what they knew, and the scenario writing by Tokita followed suit--it's not a tone he had to especially reach for at this point in his career, because the things that set me off about this game are mirrored in his work in stuff like FFIV. The degree to which that this game made me feel unwelcome in the story it was telling and the characterization it was dealing with, however, took me aback, because it's not part of the game's reputation. People aren't bothered by it in the way I am, or they didn't notice, or it does not warrant mention in the discourse that it's cultivated over nearly three decades. I wanted to interact with it on the presumed baseline of an underappreciated niche favourite, but continued play ended up framing that supposition as an overestimation of what the game was, in love with the concept and novelty of it and repeatedly let down by the reality of the execution. I have seen these concepts explored in other games, sometimes by this very studio, whether it be genre or structure or tone that overlaps--I can't think of a field in which Live A Live is exemplary that some peer of its doesn't do at least as well, and with much less of the caveats that make interacting with it so draining.

This was a hugely disappointing game to me so a couple of good points that stood out:
  • as a remake, I have no qualms with what the game does presentationally at all; 2D-HD is not my favourite "medium" for these sorts of projects but they are getting better at utilizing the concept's strengths over time, like incorporating more dynamic camerawork and framing that the polygonal environments allow. To see this amount of freshly created spritework and how well it all fits together is a huge treat, especially so with the previously established highlight of giant boss entities. What's even more impressive is the existence of forward and back-facing sprites per any character or creature that appears in battle, doubling the workload for all objects.
  • they really went all out with voice acting in this. There's just so much of it, with such a diverse cast that's also regionally and culturally authentically cast as often as possible. It's not segregated into just main story scenes either, with especially battle quips being too numerous to keep track of, punctuating the drama without becoming an indistinct wall of noise. While I'm not fond of the writing, the localization effort made into conveying it is also beyond reproach, elevating much of it along with the related performances.
  • the Distant Future chapter was by far my favourite one. While it doesn't really seem to be case that the respective character designers had much or any input at all into the actual scenario work, it may have been influenced the other way around in Square's writers trying to fit each story stylistically to who conceived of them. It's the only thing that goes toward rationalizing how different in tone Cube's scenario is, not only structurally and thematically (a non-combat slow burn survival horror piece) but also in how the people in it are characterized, and how effectively; I would argue it's the only compellingly character-driven story out of all of them. I'm exceedingly pre-disposed to like it, because it deals in just about everything I gravitate to, but even so for a game that presents itself as experimental I thought it was among the clear success stories of the bunch.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
Glad you at least liked Mechanical Heart, Peklo. When so much of Live A Live is bogged down with various kinds of misogynistic B.S., it's nice to have this one li'l Japanese sci-fi story focusing on a small crew designed by the lone female manga artist that mostly eschews combat in favor of something more akin to an adventure game. And whenever combat does come into the mix, it's more of a puzzle than a battle.

Definitely a high point for me, and not just 'cuz I'm really into 2001-esque Japanese sci-fi.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Present Day was another chapter that worked for me, because when people sell this game as a "short RPG", that's one of the only scenarios that I think actually worked a deliberate compactness to its favour. So many of the others drag on for the story they're telling, how they're telling it, and how much mechanical iteration there is to carry the interactions for the duration--the running times per chapter may be short in objective terms but they rarely feel in sync with the surrounding design. Present Day's Street Fighter II commitment is total enough that it really does make the anthology format worth it, and it's just fun to hear Shimomura riffing on her own work so soon after the fact.

Twilight of Edo Japan was also a relative highlight because I found this game stiflingly on-rails just navigationally speaking. The layout of the castle is very fun to come to grips with and internalize, and was probably the only time the game engaged me with its level design. It's a very ambitious setpiece with many granular interlocking parts.
 

RT-55J

definitely not a robot
(He/Him + RT/artee)
Dang. That your mom bit is so fitting I can't believe it was made up in localization.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Finished off the Edo scenario today, defeating both superbosses while upholding pacifist conduct. It was a challenge, even with guidance from friends. I rather think that doing it the "regular" way, killing when it is convenient or narratively satisfying, might have been more fun, but I just can't help myself when there's acknowledgment for doing something perfectly. It makes interesting use of its historical placement.

Five down. Common narrative themes are starting to emerge, but I'll wait until I've put the whole thing behind me before I make the big writeup.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Old West down. It seems like there wasn't a whole lot going on there, but it did it with panache, much like its inspiration. Sergio Leone movies, I think, are basically exercises in pure style.
 
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