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Review

Review: The Alliance Alive HD Remastered

Even after the release of the Switch, many gre­at RPGs still mana­ged to make their way to the 3DS in Eng­lish. From Poké­mon and Yokai Watch to a mul­ti­tu­de of Atlus releases, the sys­tem mana­ged to keep buil­ding up a solid libra­ry of games even after a year of being overs­ha­do­wed by its suc­ces­sor. The most obscu­re of the­se RPGs would most likely be The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve, a char­ming game that tri­es to do its own thing, and often suc­ceeds. Even a bare-bones remas­te­ring isn’t enough to stop us from recom­men­ding The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve HD Remas­te­red to tho­se loo­king for a rela­tively short JRPG with a lot of cha­rac­ter. 

The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve revol­ves around a con­flict bet­ween humans and dae­mons. Long befo­re the events of the sto­ry a bar­ri­er splits the world into, segre­ga­ting humans into realms con­trol­led by dae­mons. Even after 1000 years, the bar­ri­er has still not disap­peared, and huma­ni­ty is still ens­laved. The sto­ry focu­ses on three groups, who each find them­sel­ves working tog­e­ther to try and final­ly free humans from the rule of dae­mons. The ope­ning hours to The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve are spent with each group of prot­ago­nists, as you learn more about the cur­rent sta­te of the world they live in. 

This approach to sto­ry­tel­ling is a gre­at way to intro­du­ce many cha­rac­ters, let­ting you get to know each of them befo­re moving onto the next group. From child­hood fri­ends Galil and Azu­ra, to the eccentric dae­mon Vivi­an and her but­ler Ignace, they each add more to the sto­ry as you pro­gress through the initi­al chap­ters of the game. Com­pa­red to a game like Octopath Tra­vel­ler, whe­re you’re expe­ri­en­cing mul­ti­ple sto­ries with litt­le con­nec­tion, the character’s fates in The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve are more intert­wi­ned, and you’ll get to see cer­tain events from mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives. Even with the game going through mul­ti­ple cha­rac­ter intro­duc­tions, it never takes lon­ger than nee­ded. This is a short game when com­pa­red to many modern JRPGs, and it makes full use of the hours it does spend on the sto­ry. While the sto­ry may be enjoy­a­ble over­all, the omis­si­on of voice acting is jar­ring during cuts­ce­nes. It almost seems like it was plan­ned ori­gi­nal­ly, but wasn’t pos­si­ble in the full release for wha­te­ver rea­son. It’s not enough to ruin the sto­ry, but it would have been nice for this updated ver­si­on. 

While the main sto­ry may move to a more line­ar struc­tu­re after the ope­ning chap­ters, a hea­vy focus on explo­ra­ti­on allows for an abundance of extra con­tent. The game con­stant­ly adds new fea­tures, from optio­nal par­ty mem­bers and are­as to new vehi­cles that open up more of the world. While some of this is tied to your pro­gress during the sto­ry, the­re is a lot that you’ll have to find on your own. It real­ly rewards you for che­cking out 100% of the map, sin­ce you’ll usual­ly find some­thing of worth off the bea­ten path. One of the vehi­cles you unlock later on does some­what ruin the sen­se of dis­co­very due to how easi­ly it can move around, but there’s still enough con­tent to keep things inte­res­ting. 

A grea­ter focus on explo­ra­ti­on and side events ties into a main fea­ture of the game, the guild sys­tem. In the world of The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve the­re are five guilds, each with a par­ti­cu­lar spe­cia­li­ty. When adven­tu­ring you’ll often come across pla­ces whe­re you can build new guild towers. The­se allow you to gain the bene­fits of a spe­ci­fic guild, along with any other towers that are lin­ked with it. Guilds level up by buil­ding new towers and recrui­t­ing new mem­bers, each of the­se requi­ring you to scour the land for new buil­ding oppor­tu­nities and recruits. The­re are many named NPCs in each area of the game, so tal­king to ever­yo­ne you meet is more worthwhile than a lot of other JRPGs. 

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, for all of the posi­ti­ve chan­ges The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve brings to the gen­re, it doesn’t qui­te mana­ge to go all the way in crea­ting an enga­ging batt­le sys­tem. Batt­les are turn based, with a par­ty member’s attacks cos­ting SP that is par­ti­al­ly res­to­red each turn. Simp­le stuff, but the­re are few aspec­ts to this sys­tem that don’t qui­te work. First­ly, you learn attacks by using wea­pons ins­tead of leve­ling up. Figh­t­ing stron­ger enemies seems to increa­se the chan­ces of lear­ning new abi­li­ties, but it’s still up to chan­ce whe­ther you’ll learn a new move. While a solid sys­tem in theo­ry, many moves end up fee­ling red­un­dant thanks to a com­bi­na­ti­on of simi­lar effec­ts and the talent sys­tem. 

Batt­les reward talent points in lieu of the stan­dard expe­ri­ence used in RPGs, with HP and SP having a ran­dom chan­ce to increa­se after batt­les. Talent points are used to unlock talents which are split into cate­go­ries that cover each wea­pon type, along with extra bonu­ses like che­a­per shop pri­ces or a lower chan­ce of being ambus­hed by enemies. Some of the­se talents are use­ful wit­hout being over­powe­red, like the ones that lower your chan­ces of being atta­cked when using a spe­ci­fic wea­pon. Others, main­ly the talents that redu­ce SP usa­ge and increa­se rege­ne­ra­ti­on, end up tri­via­li­sing most batt­les. Most of a weapon’s move set ends up being useless when you can spam strong attacks for a lower cost, or even for free. There’s also litt­le rea­son to expe­ri­ment with mul­ti­ple wea­pon types, sin­ce most of the best attacks are just varia­ti­ons of ‘Deal x amount of dama­ge’. 

If the game’s dif­fi­cul­ty was increa­sed slight­ly, and some chan­ges were made to talents and SP, the batt­le system’s bet­ter fea­tures would have more of a mea­ning. For­ma­ti­ons allow you to tailor how your par­ty is posi­tio­ned, and each cha­rac­ter can be assi­gned a stan­ce to chan­ge their stats. This allows for more con­trol over whe­re dama­ge is going, while also giving dif­fe­rent wea­pon types some impor­t­an­ce, howe­ver minor it ends up being in prac­tice. Shields will block dama­ge done to the ent­i­re par­ty if used by a mem­ber in a guard stan­ce, while healing can be impro­ved using a sup­port stan­ce. It’s a sys­tem that allows for a lot of micro­ma­nage­ment, espe­ci­al­ly when you upgrade the tac­tics guild and unlock more stan­ces, but the­re are only a hand­ful of batt­les that requi­re much under­stan­ding of how it works. 

Even with the­se short­co­m­ings The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve is a fun JRPG, but the “HD Remas­te­red” part of this release lea­ves a lot to be desi­red. Visual­ly many of the tex­tures and cha­rac­ter models look out­da­ted when brought to HD con­so­les, even when play­ing in hand­held mode on the Switch, and the game still has a 30 FPS lock. The hand-drawn art style still retains its charm, but the lack of any updates to the gra­phics out­si­de of reso­lu­ti­on is a big disap­point­ment. On a more posi­ti­ve note, the menus and UI that had to be rede­si­gned for a sin­gle screen have been imple­men­ted well, though some menus look a litt­le clut­te­red. 

Conclusion 

The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve HD Remas­te­red does a lot of things right, and a lot of things poor­ly, but on the who­le it’s still enjoy­a­ble. Its cha­rac­ters and explo­ra­ti­on are enough to make up for the short­co­m­ings else­whe­re, all wrap­ped tog­e­ther in a plea­sing art style. Litt­le has been done to update the game’s visu­als for more power­ful sys­tems, and there’s no extra con­tent for peop­le who have play­ed the 3DS ver­si­on, but this is still an excel­lent way to play The Alli­an­ce Ali­ve. 

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