01) Imperial China
Imperial China is, as stories go in Live a Live, perfect. It just is.
The story puts you in control of Earthen Heart, a shifu who’s realizing he’s nearing the end of his life and doesn’t want his ancient kung fu to die with him. You travel the town as this ridiculously powerful old man finding troublemakers and taking them under your wing to teach them discipline and your techniques.
And the story is very well done. I loved Earthen Heart as he was kind, genuinely, and with rare exception, calm as still water. Each recruit of the three was vastly different as well. A trained thief that lived in a tribe in a bamboo forest, a perpetually hungry rotund man who moves way faster than someone his size should which helps him leave restaurants without paying, and a young weak kid who steals to help his grandmother. Each has very different personalities and reasons for joining you and over time they all become better people for a time.
In addition to a fantastic story about legacy and stopping the evil Ou Di Wan, the game also plays remarkably well. The maps are well laid out. Every spot is overflowing with detail.
It also has a really cool thing that’s impossible to tell without spoiling several major story points but here goes.
A big part of the Imperial China story tasks you with training your three students. You only have four sessions a day to split between the three. At the end of those three days, the baddies roll in and, sadly, kill two of your students and leave one wounded. Whichever one you trained the most will be the survivor. This is huge for two reasons. One, it completely changes the ending of who gets to inherit the kung fu technique and the dojo and what they do with it. And two, and this is really big, there’s a part in the finale where the characters from different timelines meet and instead of summing Earthen Heart, you get either Hong, Lei, or Yuan, depending on who you trained the most meaning it also affects the game’s ending, not just the individual story ending.
You can guess which of the three I picked by looking at the header and seeing who’s standing with the gang. Spoilers, it’s Hong.
A great story, a fantastic area design, wonderful characters, and choices that affect not just the story but the entire game’s finale easily put the Imperial China story as my number one go-to destination of the Live a Live timeline.
So, what did you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments which one was your favorite or least favorite chapter in Live a Live.