RPG Review #49: Live-A-Live

NuMetalManiak Anyone else snowed in? I certainly am, and I'm supposed to start classes tomorrow but I guess that won't happen anytime soon. Instead, I focus more on my playing of these games you haven't heard of. And we are one game away from my 50th review here, you'll probably predict what it is. But for now, have #49, a game known as Live-A-Live. If there truly was a game that was a cult classic, it was this one. Squaresoft may have published the SNES game, but did not do so outside of Japan. Yep, another fan translation was made so that us English-speakers can check it out.

Gameplay: General elements of this game are pretty standard, you run around, pick up items, get into fights, and survive. The battles however, aren't the typical turn-based ones, but more of a tactical strategy game. Here, we see the battles on a 7x7 grid of sorts, where combatants can move around and use techniques to damage, heal, or change the field status. There's no such thing as regular attacks or magic use in this game, every action is to be done by moving, passing, using items, fleeing, or in most cases, using techniques. The techniques each have unique ranges, some are close-ranged, while others hit diagonals only, and some could cover the entire field. Not all techniques are instant, some take a while to charge up. Some other techs can cause status that prevent usage of certain techniques, while others actually change parts of the playing field into damage zones. There's a lot of experimentation with how these things go.

So techs are the bread and butter of Live-A-Live's combat system, because otherwise everyone won't win battles. Up to four characters are possible for battling. Leveling up is mostly standard, but it's similar to say, Suikoden in how characters level up. Characters do gain techs by leveling up, although they stop gaining techs at Level 16, they get to level up more if they want to. Also, all HP and status is restored once a battle is over, negating the need to heal in between fights, which is quite a plus. If a character loses all HP, they are technically just knocked out. Any healing move can revive them, but if they are hit in a KO state they are moved off the battlefield.

As for the rest of the game goes, most of it is plot-oriented. And goodness, we have up to eight different locales to work with! Amazing. With that said, it's a good idea to play this with a guide, because you will be SO lost without one. Things like the item creation in two of the chapters and deciding which enemies to kill in the ninja chapter affect what kinds of awesome equipment will be missed out on. Figuring out everything was hard work, but the combat of Live-A-Live makes this a worthwhile game. Grade: A

Characters: Characters in bold are the main characters of their scenarios, and will reappear for the final chapter of the game.
Pogo: The protagonist of the prehistoric scenario, with a barbaric moveset, one of which involves farting. Very good HP and power.
Gori: Pogo's ape friend which is always nearby. Pretty strong, also has a fart move as well as one which involves throwing poop to make a poison field.
Bel: Pogo ends up falling in love with this cavegirl. Weak, but has a healing move and another really good one.
Xin Shan Quan Master: The old man who is the main protagonist in the Kung Fu chapter. He does not gain levels, instead he passes his kung fu techniques on one of three pupils mentioned below.
Li Kuugo: Sole female student, best trait is speed
Yuan Juo: A bandit who gets good stats with leveling up, but terrible HP.
Sammo Hakka: The fat guy, with good HP but is very slow.
Oboro-maru: Rookie ninja who's the main character of the ninja chapter. Good all around.
Ryoma: A prisoner in the Ode Iou castle that Oboro may rescue. He's optional, but a bit of support doesn't hurt.
O-Robo: A robotic clone of Oboro, has similar movesets. Note that he can permanently die if you fall down a pit or something. Also an optional character too.
Sundown Kid: Main character of Western chapter, a gunslinger who's good at damaging enemies but has little HP to fend for himself.
Mad Dog: Sundown's rival who helps him in his chapter. Pretty much the same thing.
Masaru Takahara: Main character of the present chapter who is a wrestler aiming to be the strongest in the world. How anime-cliche. He gains his techs from being hit by his enemies, and his stats are excellent.
Akira Tadokoro: A moody guy with freaky hair in the Near Future Chapter with the ability to read minds. His techs hit wide areas, but fail to significant damage most of the time.
Taro: Akira's robot buddy of sorts. He doesn't gain levels, but equipped with accessories means he gets new techs and power parts give him more HP.
Kenichi Matsu: The cool biker guy who's Akira's ally for his chapter. Not that bad.
Cube: The robot protagonist for the science fiction chapter. He doesn't fight in his chapter except for the final battle there, otherwise Cube is good for counterattacking and healing (best healer of the main characters).
Oersted: Traditional knight/fighter character. Good all around and such, but his plot takes an unexpected turn.
Straybow: Oersted's rival who journey's with him. A mage, so he can use ranged magic to good effect.
Uranus: Some priest with good healing ability, as well as an attack that hits the entire field.
Hash: The former hero before Oersted, reluctant to journey due to his distrust of humans. Similar to Oersted as a knight.

So a lot of memorable characters for a Japan only game. The main enemy is Demon King Odio, who has several incarnations as the final boss in each respective chapter. Also there's a running gag of characters being a kid named Watanabe (or some other incarnation), and his father, in which the father always dies and the kid cries as it happens. Quite funny. Live-A-Live had some good characters. Grade: A

Plot: This game's plot takes you to seven different scenarios that can be played in any order you like. Naturally, I started chronologically for this, but they can be in any order:

Contact: The prehistoric chapter. This one is a fun chapter because there's really no dialogue in the prehistoric age (language wasn't invented yet), so the speech bubbles showing images and stuff makes anyone laugh. Pogo also can smell the air with the Y button. Here, Bel escapes from being offered as a sacrifice that some red-haired cavemen are doing, and there's some fabulous one among their ranks. Meanwhile, Pogo and his ape friend Gori are living the caveman life in a cave with several brown-haired cavemen until Bel comes along. He falls in love with her, saves her from the red guys, but gets exiled in doing so. Bel gets kidnapped again, Pogo saves the girl, but then they have to fight O-D-O, a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex. The fabulous red-haired caveman known as Zaki helps for this one battle, but beating it ends the chapter where everyone reconciles and Pogo speaks the first word (Love!).

Inheritance: The aging Xin Shan Quan master needs to seek a successor before he dies, so he looks for students. All three of them end up being bandits: Li attacks the master in the forest, Yuan is dealing with other bandits, and the fat guy Sammo is stealing food. He trains the students in the art of kung fu, giving his skills to his pupils, but his dojo is attacked while he's away. And only one student is able to survive. The master and his pupil journey to the place responsible, which is Odi Wang Lee's school, where the master and the pupil demonstrate the secret kung fu technique to win. The master does die though, so the surviving student decides to carry on after his death.

Secret Orders: The ninja chapter, where the Enma clan sends Oboro-maru to Ode Iou's castle to stop him from throwing Japan into chaos. This chapter can be done in numerous ways, by killing everyone, killing no one, or killing people somewhere between numbers 1 and 100. So many ways to do it. But it all ends up in getting to Ode Iou and killing him.

Wandering: In the Wild West, Sundown encounters Mad Dog and duels him. They then arrive in Success Town, where they and the townsfolk decide to hold off an even bigger group of bandits by laying traps. For this, Sundown must find the materials necessary and assign duties to the townsfolk, all while the bells ring. After the eighth bell has rung, O. Dio, the leader of the Crazy Bunch, and his men all come in. After they are defeated, Sundown can duel Mad Dog one more time.

The Strongest: Masaru is like Ash Ketchum, striving to be the very best, except in his case he has to be the best fighter. This chapter works sort of like Mega Man, where you pick your opponent to fight in the ring. There's six in total, all with set names and such (the one known as Max Morgan is a lot like Hulk Hogan, for instance). Masaru's final opponent is Odie Oldbright, who's motives are the same except he killed all his challengers.

Flow: Akira's chapter is set in an anime-like scenario. Mind reader Akira and his sister Kaori are living in the orphan house run by Taeko, and is also helped by the biker guy Kenichi Matsu and the inventor Toei. There's also this rival biker gang known as Crusaders, who's ultimate goal is to get people liquified (it is as terrifying as it sounds) to power up an idol known as Odeo. Akira gets help from Matsu and Toei on this giant mecha known as Buriki Daioh to confront the giant idol.

Mechanical Heart: Cube's chapter is set like a survival horror game in which there is no combat so to speak. There's an optional game within a game known as Captain Square, but there are no rewards for beating it really. Cube and his creator Kato help wake up the other crew members aboard the Cogito Ergosum, the ship setting in the chapter. Soon though, things go wrong, and crew members get killed, while a monster runs loose (one that can kill Cube instantly). It all boils into a "Who's the killer?" scheme, but Cube manages to solve the case and finds the master computer, OD-10, is the one responsible.

After playing those chapters, there's an eighth one, and after that, the final:

King of Demons: Oersted wins a fighting tournament and wins the king's daughter, Alicia, who then gets kidnapped. Sounds cliche? Sure is, but press on. Oersted gets the help of Straybow, his rival, Uranus, an old wizard, and Hash, an old hero, to fight the demon king Odio and rescue Alicia. Only that wasn't the demon though. Hash was sick the whole time and dies after the battle, while Straybow is trapped in the trap that came afterwards. Alicia is still nowhere, and as Oersted and Uranus head back, Oersted is tricked into killing what looks like the Demon King but is actually the king of Lucretia, which is his country. Everyone outs him and Uranus as demons, and they are jailed. Uranus dies in his cell, and Oersted journeys alone to find out who's responsible for ruining his name. Turns out it's Straybow, who faked his death so that he would get Alicia out of jealousy. When Oersted kills him, it is then Alicia who outs Oersted on not letting Straybow get his chances in the spotlight, and to top it all off, she commits suicide. It's then that Oersted, who has been a silent protagonist up until now, finally starts speaking, how everyone he knew betrayed him or died, and decided to be the new demon king Odio. You really wonder why these names all sound similar do you? In either case, Oersted's fall from grace is one of the most memorable RPG moments, especially how he is played up until then.

Final: This one can be played in two different ways. One is by picking Oersted, who then proceeds to use seven statues to control the final bosses, fighting each of the main heroes of the other seven scenarios, for either a sad ending or an ending which is an Armageddon. The other is by selecting one of the seven other protagonists to fight Odio. They would then recruit other protagonists to help them in any case. There's also optional dungeons and equipment to be had as well. After defeated Odio, Oersted asks to be killed, and either is or if they refuse, all seven heroes have to fight their final boss incarnations one last time, and then Oersted dies saying that as long as evil is in this world there'll always be a demon king.

Well with all those plots, I'd say Live-A-Live is all cut out for it don't you think? Grade: A+

Music: The music caters to each respective setting, so expect oriental-themed tracks for the ninja and kung fu scenarios. The nouveau techno beats of the Near Future cater to it. The sad themes are excellent, especially for Cube's and Oersted's scenarios. Different fight themes help as well, the only one to translate to every scenario for the final bosses of each chapter is Megalomania, which is okay at best. Overall though, Live-A-Live's music is great. Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

Wonderful settings, wonderful characters, wonderful gameplay, yet so unknown this game is. For shame really, since the settings were what made this game. That and Oersted's own chapter, his own fall from grace from beloved knight to demonic king. This game sure delivered and I'm glad to have played it.


Just want to let everyone know that I've backed up each and every one of my RPG reviews in the unlikely event that TheTopTens shuts down or something else similar happens. If that were the case I'll just go ahead and move all my work to a blog site or something. - NuMetalManiak

Outstanding post as always. - visitor