To at the present time, the SNES period is taken into account the golden period of RPGs. Beloved fan favorites corresponding to Secret of Mana and Tremendous Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars stand side-by-side with “Finest RPG” chart-toppers corresponding to Chrono Set off and Remaining Fantasy VI. That stated, a number of the system’s most beloved RPGs have nonetheless but to come back west, with many of those falling underneath Sq. Enix’s umbrella (or Squaresoft on the time). Thus, many followers of RPGs—myself included—needed to resort to shoddy fan translations on unruly emulators. Fortunately, Sq. Enix has been rectifying their previous errors by remaking and remastering beloved classics and lastly bringing them to the West. One in all these beloved classics is 1994’s extremely experimental RPG LIVE A LIVE. Does this quirky and distinctive RPG remake reside as much as the practically thirty-year wait?
LIVE A LIVE is a group of vignettes that seemingly have little to do with each other at first. It’s a story instructed by time, considered by the lenses of seven (finally eight) individuals starting from prehistoric instances to the far, far future. Upon beginning the sport, gamers are proven seven of those characters and given the selection of what order they full the tales in. Every period has a novel spin on the sport’s mechanics: some introduce studying strikes from getting attacked, some let gamers learn characters’ ideas, and a few give full freedom over dealing with the duty at hand. Every period leans onerous into LIVE A LIVE’s experimental nature, which is the sport’s biggest power.
The sport’s narrative breaks down into bite-sized chunks specializing in a specific setting. Rescuing a kidnapped love curiosity from fur-clad cave dwellers, saving a frontier city from rampaging bandits, and skulking a couple of spaceship underneath risk are only a few of the sport’s tales. But even inside these easy plots lies a whole lot of depth, and the power of those tales rests with the characters themselves. Whereas a number of the plots could also be fairly predictable, the way in which the characters deal with conditions is sort of refreshing. My favourite (by far) is the Imperial China period, the place an aged shifu decides to move on his Earthen Coronary heart fashion. Gamers can select their subsequent disciple, although I imagine Lei Kugo—the sport’s solely playable heroine—to be the canon selection, for she matches the themes of each her period and the sport’s meta-narrative the very best.
Whereas I gained’t spoil something concerning the total narrative except for the truth that there are eight to undergo (regardless of seven displayed: the eighth is on the duvet), I’ll say that all of it got here collectively in a method that excited me. These with a eager eye might discover some consistencies throughout eras. I’m ashamed to say that I utterly missed one thing that, looking back, was blatantly apparent. The storytelling in LIVE A LIVE is deceptively easy, and I applaud how the story feels recent even when touching upon ever-familiar tropes. The sport shocked me most of the time with its narrative, which I discover fairly spectacular.
The exploration and battle system in LIVE A LIVE is primarily the identical from period to period, barring a couple of notable exceptions. Gamers management an HD-2D pixel character, roam throughout a extremely detailed 3D world, and encounter enemies randomly or through image encounter, relying on the period. Fight takes place on a 7×7 grid and makes use of a flip system just like Remaining Fantasy’s ATB system—the Wait model, particularly. Whereas characters solely occupy one house on the grid, enemies typically take up two or extra. This distinction is notable, as every character has a set of strikes with an assault vary like a tactical RPG. With enemy sprites usually far taller or wider than your personal, it makes concentrating on foes a lot simpler, because of their enlarged hitbox.
Whereas there are the standard parts corresponding to fireplace, water, wind, and earth, there are additionally injury sorts within the type of fists, ft, leaping, binding, and so forth. Enemies have strengths and weaknesses as anticipated, but many strikes have further debuffs or standing results they’ll apply. This retains fight extra tactical, as utilizing a transfer an enemy is immune to would in any other case be ignored. Nonetheless, if that transfer has an opportunity to blind an enemy and drop their protection, it would simply be definitely worth the injury discount. Battles do range from period to period, with some extra targeted on melee and martial arts whereas others deal with ranged battles or elemental warfare. I admire any system that lets me stack standing results on foes.
Having solely performed a little bit of the unique recreation a few years in the past on an emulator, it’s tough to match the 2 immediately. Nonetheless, LIVE A LIVE’s visuals completely show the HD-2D fashion. Whereas the character artwork itself is expertly designed, the artwork route and digital camera framing do wonders for capturing the sensation and aesthetic of a 90s-era RPG. The surroundings in every period is vivid, and every period is virtually a personality itself, guaranteeing every city and site shortly turns into memorable. As soon as the climactic boss battles start, nonetheless, the artwork design actually shines in each the set-piece battles and the extremely detailed and larger-than-life bosses.
Although the visuals and artwork design are spectacular, the soundtrack is likely one of the standout features of LIVE A LIVE . There may be all kinds of music expertly crafted to suit every period. Be it whimsical flutes and tropical drums within the prehistory period, lonesome acoustic guitar blended with whistling for the Western period, or the straight-out-of-the-90s saxophone-laden jams in The Close to Future, Stay A Stay manages to seize every period’s distinctive feeling masterfully. Moreover, I wish to acknowledge voice appearing when it’s achieved properly, and LIVE A LIVE’s solid simply clears the bar for an outstanding efficiency. Every actor nails the voices, bringing life to the 2D sprites. Some do ham it up a bit an excessive amount of; I chalk that as much as being a part of the appeal.
Whereas the expertise is sort of constructive total, a couple of ache factors that make the sport extra irritating than it must be. The principle challenge in my playthrough was the general pacing. As the sport is an anthology, story lengths range wildly (as anticipated). Some eras have been simply shy of two hours, whereas others crept into three or 4. But it’s not simply the size of the episode, however the pacing inside it. The Close to Future period was the largest offender by having the participant go to explicit areas quite a few instances inside a short while. Having to speak to a personality within the lavatory 5 instances, making an attempt to go away the home 4 instances, or chasing down enemies by winding alleys properly over ten instances is a irritating affair. Some episodes have pointless filler that pads out the playtime, however fortunately it solely feels noticeable in a handful of eras.
The opposite main criticism I’ve is concerning the battle system. Whereas the builders do distinctive issues with it, the battles shortly develop tiresome by the point you’ve hit your fourth or fifth period. By the tip of every, I used to be primarily spamming one huge space of impact transfer. Additionally associated to fight is the abundance of enemy encounters within the final space of the sport. Mercifully, some eras have minimal fight. Lastly, of minor annoyance: I want the final character confirmed up on the character choice display screen, maybe with a bit lock to indicate different eras wanted to be accomplished first. After finishing my seventh period, I used to be prepared for credit to roll and be achieved with the sport, but there have been one other 5 or so hours forward of me. The problems are minor, all in all, and definitely not a dealbreaker by any means, but they’re definitely noticeable over time.
Stay A Stay is an excellent little gem from nearly three a long time in the past. The remake precisely captures what a basic SNES RPG ought to appear and feel like, and the fashionable additions make the sport far simpler to digest for newcomers. It’s extremely experimental and oftentimes bizarre, but it retains that wondrous appeal present in video games like Terranigma, Secret of Mana, and Remaining Fantasy V. It’s whimsical when it desires to be and severe when it must be. Whereas the pacing is a bit off at instances, and fight does develop a bit stale by the 15-hour mark, there’s a lot to like about Stay A Stay, and any fan of SNES RPGs—or RPGs generally—ought to give the sport a glance. It’s a glimpse into the previous with a contemporary contact, which is becoming for a recreation about residing lives all through time.