Devoid of any real style or substance, The Alliance Alive is only as strong as its battle system. Fortunately, the combat is interesting and fun, if a bit on the easy side.
What Is It?
As a spiritual successor to The Legend of Legacy, The Alliance Alive comes with a decent pedigree. With writing by Yoshitaka Murayama (Suikoden), game design by Kyoji Koizumi (SaGa), and music by Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy XIII), this 3DS JRPG should have been excellent, especially after having the chance to improve on the design of The Legend of Legacy. Apart from a few aspects, however, the game as a whole falls short.
In contrast to its predecessor, The Alliance of Alive has an actual narrative that’s more in line with traditional JRPGs. The story starts off strong, weaving together several separate threads as it establishes a world where humans are subjugated by space-dwelling daemons, where four continents are separated by an impenetrable dark barrier, and where the sky is perpetually overcast.
The premise is strong, but the story never makes good on it. The first character to be introduced is a girl named Azura who wishes to someday see the clear blue sky of myth. Early on, her eyesight is taken away for meddling with daemons. The irony should have been a great setup for her journey to make the world right. Instead, it’s just one example of how the story as a whole fails. Immediately after being blinded, her closest friend shows concern for her, but she cheerily brushes him off, saying that it’s fine because she can “feel” the world around her through magic. For the rest of the story, her lack of eyesight is never even mentioned, and she gets lost in a cast far too large to give any of them depth. The rest of the narrative is equally as disappointing.
Luckily, the story is unobtrusive and paced reasonably well, so it can serve as nothing more than a guide for players who are more interested in the turn-based combat, which is mostly excellent.
Why Should I Care?
The combat is the saving grace of The Alliance Alive, nearly unchanged from that of The Legend of Legacy. Characters themselves don’t level up; rather, their individual abilities have a random chance to level up when used in battle, and new abilities can “awaken” randomly. Using abilities costs SP, but SP only regenerates one point per turn and doesn’t refill between battles, so careful management of abilities is essential. This system leads to interesting strategies in more difficult battles, but honestly, most battles can be won by simply finding a string of attacks that use little or no SP and repeating them until the fight is over.
HP regenerates between battles, but an interesting twist is that if a character loses all their HP during battle, their max HP can be reduced if enemies continue to attack their corpse. They will revive after the battle, but their HP can only return to its original max by resting at an inn. This works well to punish death in battle without leaving your party completely deficient as you try to make your way to safety.
In the most interesting sequence in the game, you’re forced to split your party into three teams to defend separate areas of a castle under attack. The combat shines here as you need to come up with totally different strategies than those to which you’ve become accustomed. Rather than being frustrating, it’s a welcome change of pace in an otherwise straightforward game.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
It’s difficult to recommend The Alliance Alive to anyone but the most dedicated fans of this specific type of JRPG. The 3DS hardware may be old, but other RPGs like Bravely Default prove that a good art style goes a long way. The style in Alliance Alive is wildly inconsistent and generally unremarkable, especially with no stereoscopic 3D effect. Some of the areas have a decent-looking watercolor effect, but others look like the distorted polygons and textures of zoomed-in Google Earth. The UI is about as bland as can be, which is baffling considering the distinct look of The Legend of Legacy. The music is also unexceptional, despite being from the same composer as Final Fantasy XIII, a game with a soundtrack I love.
Overall, The Alliance Alive improves on some aspects of The Legend of Legacy, but in other areas, it takes a step back. Even the improvements aren’t enough to make it a great JRPG, however. If this team eventually finds a good structure to hang their combat system on, it could make for a special game. This one isn’t quite there yet.