'Live-a-Live' is a worthy update of the classic
Square-Enix is a powerhouse brand these days, not only producing the archetypal Japanese Role Playing Game series Final Fantasy, but also games like Kingdom Hearts, and even Tomb Raider. But back in the ‘90s, they were much more of a niche brand in America, and only a fraction of their output for the Super Nintendo was ever officially translated into English and released outside of Japan.
Live-A-Live was one of these games. Released for the Super Nintendo in Japan in 1994, I first learned about it from my little brother, who played a mostly complete fan translation of the game 20 years ago. Graphically, it didn’t compete with some of its contemporaries, like Final Fantasy VI or Donkey Kong Country. But what it lacked in visuals, it made up for in ambition - when you launch the game, it gives you a choice of one of seven different stories to play through, each with its own protagonist, and set in a different time. You can play as a shinobi in feudal Japan, a cowboy in the Wild West, or a robot in the distant future, and once you’ve played through all seven stories, you unlock the final story, which links every protagonist’s story in a way I didn’t expect, and ties everything together.
The game was recently remade for the Nintendo Switch, using the same kind of pixellated diorama style as Square’s Octopath Traveler, which was itself very clearly originally inspired by Live-A-Live. This remake uses much of the Super Nintendo game’s graphics, but in a unique presentation that allows the art to shine in a way that simply wasn’t possible back in 1994.
Some things about the game betray its age, like the repetitive random battles in the last chapter, but all in all, it’s a worthy update of a classic game we’ve been missing for many years.