Live A Live Steam review: transcendent masterpiece comes to PC and PlayStation
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Featured Image Credit: Square Enix
From time to time, we’re lucky enough to play something that feels special. Truly special. A title that makes us stop what we’re doing and just appreciate what’s in front of us. Live A Live is one such game. It transcends barriers, both within its own narrative and in the world of video games as an art form.
See the trailer for Live A Live here:
When Live A Live came to Nintendo Switch last July, I was struck by its brilliance. I praised near-enough everything and even called it timeless. A year on, having been granted early access to the game by Square Enix, I stand by this verdict with all my heart.
Playing on PC - mostly on Steam Deck - I returned to the RPG with the same eagerness as I’d go back to my favourite restaurant (Rudy’s in Manchester, if you’re asking). Having previously played through the entire game, which takes place over multiple eras with a variety of protagonists and even numerous genres, I was in familiar, but no less exciting, territory.
I began with the Present Day chapter, where we take on the role of Masaru Takahara (you can rename him, and every protagonist, for that matter). We meet this young man as he’s training to become the top fighter in the world, and it’s our job to control him through his journey.
Masaru’s tale is essentially a fighting game that’s been adapted to the grid-based combat mechanics used throughout Live A Live’s many chapters. Whereas every other story has you control your hero as they walk around the in-game world, the Present Day section is only combat and cutscenes. Despite this more basic approach, it’s one of my favourite parts of the game.
Next up, I played the Imperial China chapter, where we take on the role of a martial arts master who is nearing the end of his life. Our job is to traverse the land in order to find an apprentice who will study, master, and continue the legacy of this way of fighting. Without giving too much away, there’s an element of choice to this segment, which strengthens the narrative.
While I won’t be spoiling anything properly here, there’s more to Live A Live than is initially suggested. Loading up the main menu, you’ll see the different stories on offer, but once you’ve beaten them all, there’s more to do before getting the thrilling ending. How you get there, and what you do with it, is up to you, but I would argue the overall story is one of the finest in any Square Enix title.
Visually, the HD-2D art style that popped so well on the Nintendo Switch OLED is just as glorious on Steam Deck and desktop PC. Each 16-bit-style character gleams with delightful detail against picturesque backdrops that all deserve to be made into physical dioramas.
Then there’s the soundtrack which is filled to bursting point with charming tunes and wall-to-wall bangers. From the blood-pumping ‘Megalomania’ to the soul-stirring ‘Cry A Live’ (hehe, puns), it’s an OST worth listening to long after the credits have rolled.
I should quickly point out that my one criticism of Live A Live when I played it last year was what happens after death (in the game, not in some metaphysical way). Death scenes can be relatively long and can really hinder your momentum. This time around, I didn’t encounter any because I was fully aware of what to do, but this could still be an issue for some newcomers who want rapid restarts.
While it may seem like a simple retro throwback at first, at least to some, Live A Live is a prime example of why video game remasters and remakes can be so worthwhile. Having been exclusive to Japan since it originally launched on the Super Famicom in 1994, this updated version is new to Western audiences. While this is exciting on its own, it’s also way prettier than the original game, and runs beautifully on modern hardware.
If you’ve yet to try Live A Live because you don’t have a Switch, or you’ve just been sleeping on it until now, do yourself a favour and pick this stunning, transcendent, once-in-a-lifetime video game.
Pros: Gorgeous art style, incredible soundtrack, epic weaving narratives
Cons: Death scenes can kill momentum
For fans of: Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy series, Triangle Strategy
Live A Live is available not on PC, PlayStation 4/5 and Nintendo Switch. Game tested with code provided by Nintendo. Find a guide to GAMINGbible’s review scores here.