Live many lives
A short demo for the upcoming HD-2D remake of Live A Live is out on the Nintendo Switch eShop right now. And after spending a little bit of time with it, I’m pretty keen on playing the full game.
The demo was announced during yesterday’s Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase, allowing fans to get an early hands-on with the July 22nd release. The Live A Live demo also carries save progress over to the full game, so don’t worry too much in that regard.
Still, even in demo form, the unique charms and ideas that have made Live A Live a sought-after port for ages really come across. Its demo has short slices of just three of its paths. But just playing them, Live A Live really feels like something Switch RPG fans need to keep an eye on.
If you haven’t heard of Live A Live before, a brief explainer is that it’s an RPG spanning different characters and time periods. Each hero and era has its own quirks to master. And while doing so, you can learn what ties all these stories together.
The original game was released in 1994 for the Super Famicom, but never officially came over to North America. Still, it made an impact on those who played it. A Live A Live remake was even reportedly pushed for several times. Now, years later, the sought-after remake arrives in less than a month.
A sneaking mission
For my own demo playthrough, I started with the Twilight of Edo Japan period. This section stars a shinobi, tasked with infiltrating a castle and eliminating the ruler within.
This is honestly a great place to start if you want to really see what makes Live A Live such a different experience. Almost right away, you’re faced with choices. You can choose to hide from enemies, sneak past guards, and flee from battles. Or you can fight and kill, with your protagonist reflecting on how many have died by your blade with each victory.
For every win, you gain experience but also have a moment of reflection. You’ve effectively removed an NPC from the map. I’m very impressed with how this concept of exploring an open castle feels like a mix of RPG and Metal Gear Solid.
Way of the fist
After spending some time sneaking around and assassinating guards, I went to check out the imperial China era. It’s very easy to save a file for one timeline, and then hop back out and dive into another.
This era put me in the place of a mighty kung fu master, the Earthen Heart Shifu, in search of new disciples. He was already quite powerful, and any battle he undertook offered little reward.
The crux of the Imperial China arc, it seems, is gathering and training disciples. It’s another concept that just immediately hooked me in. During battles, which play out using a grid-based system with charging action bars, I had to consciously decide whether to go for swift victory or risky plays with my disciples.
Path to the stars
The last of the three sections in the Live A Live demo is the Distant Future. It was probably the slowest start of the three, and didn’t offer a ton in the way of combat, outside an arcade cabinet that’s pretty fun to play.
Rather, the player takes on the role of Cube, a robot helper on a space voyage. Without divulging too much, tragedy strikes. The slower pace and impending dread felt just right for a sci-fi story. While it’s the one that left the least impression on me, it was also only a small slice of the pie.
All in all, Live A Live‘s demo really does make a good first impression. This anthology-style remake was already on my radar, just by word of mouth. But after playing some of it, and seeing how much work has gone into the HD-2D remake of it, it’s becoming one to watch for July.
Granted, Live A Live has some stiff competition with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 launching in the same month. But if you’re a fan of classic RPGs or just really interesting design and storytelling, I think you’d be remiss to not give this demo a shot.
Live A Live launches on July 22, 2022. You can find the demo here on the Nintendo Switch eShop.