Live a Live review: Several incredible short stories, one powerful conclusion

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Title: Live a Live
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix, Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed On)
Release Date: July 22, 2022

When it was revealed a ways back that Live a Live was going to receive a remake on the Nintendo Switch I almost fainted. I love this game so much. I’ve played the fan-translated game multiple times over and couldn’t believe it was finally getting the attention I felt it deserved.

Live a Live is one of the most unique RPGs I’ve ever seen.

From the jump, you get to pick from one of seven protagonists from different points in history. Each is designed by a different famous anime artist to allow all seven stories a very unique look.

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The seven characters are:

  • Pogo, a caveman from Prehistory designed by Yoshinori Kobayashi, who is famous for his many political and controversial mangas
  • Shifu, a martial arts teacher from Imperial China designed by Yoshihide Fujiwara, famous for his mangas which also feature martial arts heavily, including the manga adaptation of Virtua Fighter.
  • Oboromaru, a trainee ninja from the Twilight of Edo Japan. He was designed by Gosho Aoyama who is most well known for the manga Detective Conan.
  • The Sundown Kid, a wondering gunslinger from the Wild West who was designed by Osamu Ishiwata, a master of action dramas like B.B.
  • Masaru Takahara, a traveling fighter from the present day who fights masters of various styles in an effort to be the strongest. He was designed by Ryōji Minigawa who’s famous for not only mangas like Spriggan and ARMS, but also for his character designs in several of the later Tekken games.
  • Akira Tadokoro, a wanderer of the near future out to track down a biker gang. He was designed by Kazuhiko Shimamoto, who’s worked on a ton of fighting-focused manga like Kamen Rider and Skull Man but also as a character designer for another amazing unrated game, “Rival Schools”.
  • Cube, an adorable little robot from the far future who gets named Cube after almost being named “Roundy” by his creator. I meant this because you REALLY need to remember it, hint hint. In a story designed by Yumi Tamura who’s well known for her long resume of shōjo-style stories including the long-running Basara series.
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Each other these stories exist in worlds designed by each manga artist and accompanied by music designed by the famous Yoko Shimomura who not only scored this game but other titles such as Final Fantasy, Street Fighter II (where she wrote all but three songs), Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts, Parasite Eve and so much more. Yoko Shimomura’s score really shines here, including one of her most popular songs ever, Megalomania (not vania, wrong game).

One of the craziest things about her soundtrack was that the original files for Live-a-Live had long since been lost so she basically had to recreate everything by listening to it for this remake.

All this work, all these minds, shine on this game as you explore seven stories that feel and play completely differently only to, eventually, figure out how they all connect to each other in a way that would make Cloud Atlus blush.

And when I say the stories are different, I mean that in many different ways to where it feels like you’re playing seven different games. Even if you try to go in a timeline order that won’t make the next thing feel different. For example, I like going backward through time, from the far future to the prehistoric era. And the far future has you playing as a defenseless robot on a space station where you occasionally have to run from danger and deal with the intense drama that comes from humanity being forced to live together in a small space. While the NEAR future is a story featuring a grid-based battle system, super powers, mechs, and a ridiculous amount of focus on pooping and hand washing.

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Eventually, as you play through these seven games/stories — if you pay close attention (specifically to the names) — you’ll find that there’s one odd thing that ties them all together. This leads to a dramatic finale period opening up in the timeline which leads to multiple endings determined by what you want to do with the information you have.

To say this game is just a remake seems like such an understatement. The graphics have received a massive Octopath Traveler-inspired art style that makes everything in the game look gorgeous. And not only is it pretty like Octopath Traveler but I’d dare to say it looks way better, as you can see from the game’s intro that gives you a Whitman’s Sampler of the various places you’re going to be seeing.

The music has been completely redone with faithful recreations of the game’s original soundtrack. As has the vast majority of the sound work. In fact, just about every character from protagonists to the tiniest one appearance NPC has been fully voiced with some honestly well-done vocal work.

One of my personal favorite things about this game, which may be a turn-off for some, is that each story is very short. You could beat each story in a solid day or two of playing. While some might scoff at the idea of a Square RPG that you can start and finish without aging physically, I loved it. I almost never beat any RPGs just because I lose interest or don’t have the time, and being able to see stories to their completion just feels good.

A cult game that never saw the light of day in the States outside hacked ROMs not only comes to the Nintendo Switch but is completely redone from the ground up. Visuals, music, and controls are all beautiful and chock full of quality of life features the original did not have. Voice acting has been added to all characters. And all in all, the game is an absolute joy to experience. Some might not like the concept of a Square RPG being so short, but for people like me that’s been waiting for an RPG they can actually reach the end without losing interest, this was a godsend.

Live a Live (Nintendo Switch) Score: 9.5/10

Live a Live is a rare and unique title that was already terrific but made even better with an extreme amount of love and hard work put in to drastically improve the experience. To live a life in which you haven’t played Live a Live is a life less lived.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.