There is a slight blurriness to the Nintendo Switch debut version of last year’s Live A Live remake. The image quality just isn’t the greatest, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker. At the time, my thought was that while the game’s gorgeous utilization of Square Enix’s HD-2D engine would flourish on stronger hardware, it was hardly enough of an issue to tell folks to wait on potential ports.
Oops, right? Here we are, less than a year later, and you can now check out this bold and unexpected remake of a previously Japan-only JRPG on not just Switch, but PC and PlayStation consoles as well. What we have been given with these ports is the best-looking and smoothest-running version(s).
I booted up Live A Live on my Switch on one of my two TVs, and my PS5 on the other, and the difference was bigger than I would have expected. I’m not talking in technical terms here – I’m no Digital Foundry! – but from a purely amateur perspective, I can safely say Live A Live on PlayStation 5 is crisp enough by comparison that you’ll likely be impressed, too.
But then I got to thinking, well, Live A Live may look best beyond Nintendo’s bounds, but is that enough to recommend portable-loving gamers skip the Switch? It’s true, this is a terrific game for on-the-go sessions; it’s simple enough at its core that you can dive right back into one of its several story eras for a few moments while on breaks and commutes. (The combat, while neat, is hardly the deepest in the genre.)
That’s where the Steam Deck comes in, right? I don’t personally own one, but from what I’ve researched, the PC version of Live A Live is basically ‘PS5 with more options’, and the game is verified for Steam Deck compatibility. All of a sudden, I’m thinking it’s downright inarguable that this nifty role-playing game is better than ever in 2023.
So, that’s cool. But how is the game itself? If you’re only just now looking into Live A Live, know that it’s an HD-2D reimagining of one of Square’s stranger titles. The original came out way back in 1994, and it stars a group of heroes from separate points in our world’s timeline – from Prehistoric Times, to Ancient China, to the Wild West and Edo-period Japan, on to Present Day, the Near Future, and lastly the Distant Future. (There’s an eighth, in the Middle Ages, but you unlock it later on.)
After you’ve played each hero’s episode, including the Middle Ages unlock, a final chapter binds it all together. It’s a bit like Octopath Traveler – the inevitable modern comparison – but… cheekier? Quirkier? There’s a lot of silliness in here, though there are some prime bits of well-earned drama as well. The tone ranges drastically between eras, so you’re bound to find at least a couple you love; I can’t stand the writing in the Prehistoric chapter, for example, but I adore Edo and the Near Future.
Battles play out in grid-based combat; every time you move someone a space, the enemy units’ own turn timers charge up to the point that eventually they’ll attack. It’s nothing outstanding, but then, it’s a pumped-up rendition of something novel and unique from 29 years ago. For a (far) more detailed overview of Live A Live, swing by our original review.
I still pinch myself that Live A Live got a remake. The old-school Square fan in me wonders what else we might see in HD-2D in the years to come. For now, I’m happy to have replayed this strange and captivating classic with shinier graphics and silky-smooth performance.
Version Tested: PlayStation 5
Disclaimer: Review code provided by the publisher Square Enix.