Live A Live – This game was originally released by Square in 1994, and was directed by Takashi Tokita, who was the lead designer on Final Fantasy IV and later directed Chrono Trigger. Like the latter game, this is an RPG that takes place in a variety of time periods. It’s set in our own world, but it seems to take more influence from fictional versions of these times than from actual history. There are seven scenarios that you can play in any order, and I’ve completed four of them, which I did chronologically. And yet, after doing so, I’m still not sure how to pronounce the title. Are the I’s short, long, or one of each? All of them use a turn-based strategy battle system, where you fight on a grid that you and your enemies can move around. In other ways, however, they all have fairly different mechanics in other respects. They vary in length, but so far have all been pretty short.
Prehistory was the obvious starting point, but it was also a weird place to begin in that nobody really talks, as it’s supposed to take place before language. All of the chapters have voice acting, but here it’s basically just grunting. Most dialogue is portrayed in pictures, although fortunately that doesn’t apply to the menu screens. A caveman named Pogo and his sidekick, the gorilla Gori, are kicked out of their cave after Pogo decides to shelter a girl named Beru who had been stealing food. It’s very slapstick, with a lot of it happening at Gori’s expense; and there’s a fair amount of gross-out humor as well. For instance, there are attacks that involve farting and throwing poop. You have to fight a rival tribe whose members ride around in stone cars, with no indication as to how they move.
It’s pretty cool when you get to use Beru in battles, since she has healing abilities, although she’s physically weak. Sadly, she’s kidnapped throughout most of it. The main boss is a Tyrannosaurus who’s worshipped as a god.
In Imperial China, the Earthen Heart Shifu is an aged martial artist who seeks a successor, and trains three potential apprentices. Sadly, only one of them survives, leading to the survivor and the master fighting several battles in a row. The training involves the Shifu fighting his own students to build up their skills. His kung fu moves have poetic names, many based on animals.
The Twilight of Edo Japan gives you control of a ninja named Obomaru, who has to infiltrate a castle to rescue a prisoner. You have the choice of whether or not you want to kill any humans, and there are rewards for going all the way with either route. Since I’m bad at stealth in video games (and in real life, I’m sure), I went ahead and killed some people, but tended to leave them alone when they weren’t in my way. It’s easier to get experience that way, too. Obomaru can use elemental attacks, which seems pretty common with ninjas in games. Aren’t they just supposed to be assassins, not magicians? Then again, what fun would that be?
The Wild West has an explicitly American setting, although it seems to be one that’s fairly popular in Japan. I know the Wild Arms series of Western-themed RPGs started a few years after this game. And even in Final Fantasy VI, while Shadow is a ninja, his theme music sounds like something from a Western, and he had a previous career as a train robber. While I’m not personally that familiar with either genre, I’ve heard there are a lot of similarities between Westerns and samurai films. Anyway, this is probably the least explicitly supernatural so far, at least until the end, with most of the fighting based on gunplay. You play as the Sundown Kid, a wandering outlaw who comes to the mining town of Success, with the bounty hunter Mad Dog hot on his tail. When they find out that a dangerous gang is planning on attacking the place, the two enemies have to team up. You can find various items around town that the residents will use to make traps, reducing the number of participants in the final battle. There’s a time limit on setting things up, so I had to look up how to do so efficiently. It’s possible to beat the whole gang, but very difficult, especially as I don’t think there’s any real opportunity for gaining experience in this chapter. I looked at the next chapter, set in the present, which takes the interesting approach of being a fighting game in turn-based RPG form. I only tried one fight, and was beaten almost immediately. The other two are set in the future, and one of them must be where the robot from the artwork comes into play.
There’s a recurring theme in the main villains all having similar names, and quite likely being different forms of the same guy. The Tyrannosaurus is Odo, the rival shifu who kills two of the Earthen Heart master’s students Ou Di Wan Lee, the Japanese feudal lord Obomaru fights Ode Iou, and the gang leader in the West O. Dio. Ode Iou turns into the Gamahebi, a demon who has features of a frog and a snake.
And when you beat O. Dio, he turns into a purple horse, identified as the sole Union survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, haunted by those who died.
As weird as he is in that form, he’s even more bizarre as a human.
And I guess that’s all I have to say about this game for now.