Imagine living in a world where the sky isn’t blue.
In the world presented by The Alliance Alive, available on 3DS and now in remastered form on Switch and PS4, that’s exactly the case. There are rumours that the sky was once blue however, and our plucky heroes want to find to find out if that’s true. But standing in their way are Daemons from another realm.
The Daemons invaded the world a thousand years ago, and quickly divided its land into separate regions. Humans have lived in darkness ever since, cut off from one another. There’s an organisation working to restore control of the world to humanity, however, called the Night Crows. And it’s as you carry out a seemingly routine errand for this group that The Alliance Alive‘s story begins.
An old fashioned JRPG at heart, Galil, a young and sensible member of the Night Crows, and Azura, the headstrong daughter of the Night Crows’ boss, make up the backbone of your party in The Alliance Alive. Throughout the course of their adventure, however, they gain the help of many more allies. With their lives in your hands, it’s up to you to bring out the best of their abilities by placing them into effective formations. After all, you don’t want to put your spellcasters on the front line, do you? That’s a recipe for disaster.
Character development is more along the lines of SaGa Frontier than your typical JRPG. Experience isn’t doled out after a battle. Instead, attributes are increased in a seemingly random manner. Characters tend not to belong to a specific class either; they’re all pretty much capable of equipping any weapon, and by using them they acquire new skills. Use those skills frequently and they’ll grow in power, too. You’re pretty much free to develop your party as you see fit, which is quite refreshing.
The Alliance Alive‘s combat difficulty can be a bit erratic though. As you wander though varied locations and a grand overworld, enemies roam in plain sight. You can try to avoid them if you wish, but your ability to do that early in the game is limited. And besides, you’re going to need to fight to power up your characters. Every once in awhile though, you might find yourself facing off against foes that seem much more powerful than the usual lot. Most random battles are over in one or two turns, but get caught out by a monstrous creatures and it’ll be you who’s on the losing end.
Thankfully, The Alliance Alive allows you to retry any battles you’ve lost, or simply run away without losing any progress. You’ll be thankful too, as true save points are few and far between. You’ll be relying on the game’s quick save ability for the most part, which you can use pretty much anywhere. But it’s not a “proper” save; it doesn’t give you peace of mind should something terrible happen, like your Switch dying, or the game crashing (not that the game has ever crashed on me while I’ve been playing).
Being a HD Remaster, The Alliance Alive obviously looks a hell of a lot nicer on PS4 and Switch than it ever did on 3DS. Some environments still don’t particularly impress, but character models have been cleaned up rather nicely. It’s a game that proves that a really charming art style is more important than technical prowess. I’ve been playing it on Switch and I’ve found that it runs really smoothly, too. The only thing that’s disappointing about The Alliance Alive HD Remastered‘s presentation is that there’s no voice acting, even during cutscenes. You just have to sit there and watch characters go though their motions, reading the dialogue that quickly comes and goes along the bottom of the screen.
In the grand scheme of things, the lack of voice acting isn’t that much of an issue though. The Alliance Alive‘s story has always been its strength, and that’s still the case now. It’s not groundbreaking in any way, but it grabs you from the outset and doesn’t let go. It’s a game with decent pacing, likeable characters, and a cause you really want to fight for. Too many JRPGs ask you to do too much grinding, bog you down with needless exposition or pad out their running times with inconsequential padding. There’s hardly any of that here.
The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is one of the best JRPGs currently available. Even if only because it does nothing to genuinely offend. There’s nothing spectacular about it or forward thinking; it doesn’t reinvent the JRPG wheel. But when it’s so charming, well-paced and simply enjoyable, it doesn’t really matter. If you’ve never played The Alliance Alive before, be sure to pick up this remastered version on PS4 or Switch the next time you have a JRPG itch. It’s launching on PC next year, too.
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