The Nintendo3DS may be gone, but it certainly is not forgotten and a great example of it’s rich library is starting to shine through it’s HD remasters making their way over the Nintendo’s Hybrid handheld-home console, the Nintendo Switch. With the release of the Nintendo Switch Lite earlier this month, we are starting to see some “handheld” style title’s make their way to the platform, in retrospect of people playing these titles exclusively in handheld mode. It’s a great sales pitch for anyone who hasn’t either picked up a Nintendo Switch just yet, or are only looking to pick up the unit and play their favourites on the go. It’s risky business bringing beloved Nintendo3DS title’s to a current generation platform, due to it’s pixel density presented on the original hardware’s display, and while some games may have a hard time presenting themselves perfectly on a larger scale, The Alliance Alive HD Remastered has returned to perfect form here on the Nintendo Switch. One of the greatest RPG’s ever developed on Nintendo’s last generation handheld console, and we’re being treated to a fantastic upgrade for the Switch. Now whether or not, it’s purpose here is to be played solely in handheld mode is all personal preference, but is highly advised.
The Alliance Alive is truly a masterpiece and in a class of it’s own. While it may lack in certain departments, it’s narrative is truly one of the most compelling tales in all of video gaming. Legendary game designer Yoshitaka Murayama, penned the project back in late 2015 after being approached by Legend of Legacy developer Masataka Mastuura, in hopes of producing a spiritual sequel to the title while addressing some of the hardware’s limitations. While penning the supposed-sequel, Murayama made note that the title would only echo some of Legend of Legacy, but the title would be an original concept. While world concept was co-designed by Matssuura and Kyoji Koizumi (SaGa Series), Murayama designed all nine of our protagonists and their purpose surrounding the setting. While the title may follow the simplistic formula of a turn-based combat arena style JRPG, the composition and juxtaposition shine through a certain originality that makes the titles presence felt within the genre, and this all comes by way of the three aforementioned masterminds behind this incredible game. After a catastrophic event, almost a thousand years in the making, the title takes place by a world segregated by four separate pieces of land surrounded completely by ocean.
The Daemon race had conquered the human race, and had taken over the world and divided it into four pieces with five different regions, and had cast an enchanted impediment known as “The Great Barrier” (no, not the reef). Now, almost a millenia later, the Daemon race govern the entire world with humanity on the brink of total extinction, and completely jailed-off from other pieces of land surrounding them, turning the sky pitch black, and enslaving the entire populace that remain. We’re introduced to our nine main characters, who are members of the “Night Crows” faction, a resistance who are trained to fight against the Daemons to reclaim, and restore humanity. Most members are comprised by teenagers to young adults, as primarily seen within Anime tropes. Galil, a kind-hearted youngster with a shining personality; Azura, a buoyant lady who leads Galil on her own personal adventures; Renzo, a confident yet cocky lad with wealth of knowledge and information; Barbarosa, a Beastfolk soldier who swore to protect and show loyalty to Azura’s father after certain events prior; Vivan, a daughter of a Daemon King and historian who has turned rogue against the hostile takeover; Ignace, Vivan’s trained servant, who is part Daemon; Tiggy, a young lady who investigates the Dark Current; Rachel, a mercenary who has decided to join the resistance and help train the crew; and Gene, a signmancer who has acquired mystical powers from past associations with the Daemons.
The story itself follows each character arc equally, giving multiple understandings of why each member decides to pursue their own personal quest, which ultimately leads the Night Crows to band together, and take down the evil forces of the Daemon regime. While it sounds like total anarchy on paper, the execution blends itself unimaginably well, and balances itself perfectly in terms of pacing, gameplay, and performance. Certain nuances during the games opening and second arc display the titles “little-big” presentation, while keeping it’s plot and setting in check. Traversing through each map, displaying each navigation point, with each objective displayed in your handy guide book, which can be accessed pressing the “B” button on your joy con. Contrasting from subtle moments of the story, jumping into some sweet action sequences makes this title incredibly fun to experience. It’s traditional turn-based combat, that resonates something quite similar seen from the Final Fantasy series of old, or could be compared to the Fire Emblem titles from the GameBoy Advance. Setting up multiple formations displays a unique precedence. While the design aspect of it’s gameplay may have some tidbits lifted from Koizumi’s SaGa series, the blueprint in place for it’s custom design of unique battle sequences are somewhat unheard of… or at least they were for it’s time.
You will notice where the game has inspired many a JPRG, with some of it’s original conception and design points that have not been placed in role-playing title’s before it, making it one of the most original turn-based systems, to date. While many have accomplished more past this title’s original release, playing this game in 2019 still acquaints itself perfectly within the current gaming climate, especially for hardcore JRPG lovers. It’s a determined tactics-styled presentation, that relies purely on formation, performance, in pure impact. It’s battle encounters are paced to perfection with incredible design. Three main roles are in point for each encounter, Attack, Guard, or Support. Each will allot certain buffs and abilities that will help grow each characters level and experience. The title encourages the player to take their time and essentially learn it’s combat system before continuing any further into the quest. It try’s it’s best to let each player know that there will be difficulty spikes along the way, so be best prepared for any oncoming enemies, you may not expect them to be as easy as your last battle. Weapons types are dependent on each characters class, so be sure to experience them equally, to understand how you may use them in each formation. Some battle’s will require certain characters to enter the fold and use them, so don’t overexert one character’s health points, or you may find yourself at a dead end. The gameplay pushes the envelope in equal performance, so train yourself to use each protagonist dependently.
The game’s design in 2019, is certainly dated. It’s obvious with the HD release, you may play it on your TV if you prefer to, but it’s pure intention lies within the handheld market. It looks fantastic in handheld mode, on the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite. Experiencing this title, on both the Nintendo3DS and the Nintendo Switch, I must say that performance wise, it certainly is a magnificent upgrade. I did take the time to sit down and play at least two hours on my 4K TV, but would not advise this route, as many of the character models and surroundings are completely blurred out. The remaster certainly aims once again to be a handheld exclusive, for those who absolutely loved this instant classic. While personally, I would have loved to have seen it with full English, or even Japanese dialogue, we still receive the silent treatment and are subjected to read text on screen. These were the only shortcomings of this remaster. It’s incredible soundtrack returns, with memorable contemporary music that suit every situation perfectly. Each character design resonate that of the standard Chibi-style anime, used in every handheld JPRG. The title steps out from it’s hardware restrictions, and delivers more on the Nintendo Switch than it could beforehand, with incredible terrain and map design, with gorgeous environments, and vibrant scenery that has become the standard for any great action-adventure.
While it may not be the prettiest game, it certainly is great to look at, on a smaller scale. Pixel density on the Nintendo Switch certainly helps its presentation, while playing it on TV will have you second guessing the title’s “HD Remaster” claim. It has been three years since the The Alliance Alive launched on the Nintendo3DS, yet it’s legacy still lives on for JRPG lovers. To see it return to form for many who have not experienced this incredible tale of redemption, is truly remarkable in itself. Given that we are now at the end of a current generation lifecycle, and have experienced some of the best RPG elements on a grander scale, I certainly appreciated revisiting this game on the Switch, and would only advise to anyone looking to pick this one up that you would play it exclusively in handheld to truly appreciate it. It’s a little-big adventure at heart, that relies on it’s impeccable writing, lovable cast of characters, it’s beautiful design, and incredible gameplay that truly revolutionised combat tactics in the JPRG genre. The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is a welcome addition, to the expanding Nintendo Switch Library, and will still have JRPG lovers talking about it’s originality and incredible detail for years to come.
The Alliance Alive HD Remastered – Bandai Namco AU