Something Nice and Fresh for the Fan of Old-School RPGs.
The JRPG genre is alive and well. When I first started The Alliance Alive I’ll admit that fears crept up when I saw the setting we were starting with. My experience over recent years of JRPGs has been one filled with repetitive and flat story telling, with gameplay to match. Unless I knew that the title was well-rated, or a franchise known for quality, then taking a shot at a random new title in the genre was filled with disappointment.
Alliance Alive was a breath of fresh air and quite fun to sink into. From the large cast of heroes, unique plot, and segmented story telling, there was something that felt new and grand about my playthrough of this new title from Atlus. The plot being well done was no surprise after I found out Yoshitaka Murayama, creator of the Suikoden series, was behind the writing of it. Throughout his work you’ll find that there is never just one main lead at the head of a character ensemble and that all minds involved in a story would be more than just support. This style of character building did a lot to flesh out the cast of nine heroes and made them feel like something special and that everyone had their part to play. Though far from Suikoden‘s 108 Stars of Destiny, our nine heroes have just as much weight to them.
Between The Pages
Daemons have split the realm a thousand years ago and our story begins with the search for the painting of a fabled blue sky. The plot revolves around a resistance movement against the apparent tyranny of the daemon race, their power over the human race, how the many characters come together from their different journeys to unearth the mysteries of the divided realms, and the dark current that separates them all.
The chapters are segmented and told in pieces for a good portion of this game and it does everything for Alliance Alive in making me care about and enjoy the different characters we’re working with. Instead of nine characters vying for relevance, we’re led into the larger story by being given each set of characters to appreciate and learn about on their own. There’s a great ensemble cast here and nobody is left in the shadows or causing the plot to feel bloated.
There are some fun puzzles in the game but none that should trip you up for long. Cutscenes could have used a bit more in the way of life. They way they are, it feels a bit lacking. Something along the lines of Golden Sun‘s bleats and squeaks would have fit well here. The purely silent moments for dialogue have a way of leaving one to expect just a little something more.
Them’s Fightin’ Words
One of the best parts of the battle system in Alliance Alive is the ability to switch between multiple methods of attack. You can have weapons, spells, and even fists at your disposal as you tear through the fodder. The fights get more fun if you specialize in just one or two directions, but there’s no penalty for just trying different things for variety. Skills are unlocked as you use a weapon, and innate skills that you buy with talent points can augment your proficiency with each offensive option. Enemies are frequent, but you can lead enemies chasing you into other enemies to chain battles together for greater rewards. HP is replenished at the end of every battle, which goes a great way toward keeping the constant combat fun. Skill points replenish in battle as you hit enemies or as you trigger unlocked passive battle skills.
In many cases, if you just went all-in for two weapons per character, you’ll wreck enemies pretty efficiently. I applaud the battle system here for letting you speed battle up greatly. If you’re revisiting or just chugging through a zone, then speeding up battle animations reduces the issue of tedium sometimes found in JRPG games, but I did still find myself wondering why there had to be quite so many of them.
Boss battles never feel particularly unfair and require little grinding beforehand as long as you haven’t been ignoring enemies frequently. Luckily, even if you have been neglecting your leveling duties, there’s a dire straits mechanic which lets you unleash incredible strength at the cost of your weapon breaking. The ignition gauge fills over time and in that state you unlock Final Strike and wreak havoc upon your foes. To get the most out of this, I recommend always carrying a spare for your favored weapons. Guilds you encounter across the game will help you in battle and out. Players can recruit NPCs to guilds and strengthen any guilds abilities you’d like to take advantage of.
Judging The Cover
Visually, the character models could be compared to Bravely Default and they look good. In battle, the weapons are visualized well and there are multiple skins to admire on your adventure. The customization of characters shone for me here as I made almost every character carry a greatsword (because that’s what I do in RPGs) and it’s quite satisfying in Alliance Alive. Being able to give a variety of weapons to each character rather than all being stuck on one specialization lets you get a good look at multiple weapon models throughout the game, and there’s a lot of quality work to appreciate here.
The towns in this game are all unique. Every city and village has its own aesthetic to admire and can tell you what kind of place you’ve walked into. As an additional touch, to help players appreciate the artwork, the game’s camera will zoom out when idling in town. The distinct city designs do a lot to make you feel like the journey is moving places and set specific points in your mind as you progress through the journey. They’re not so big as to feel cluttered and not so small as to feel lacking. There’s just enough space going on to talk to some townsfolk, visit shops, and round out the world you’re playing in as you like. The buildings, to me, had a painting and papercraft feel to them and I looked forward to taking in the designs in each new town. The music by Masashi Hamauzu of Final Fantasy XIII fame has a smooth, soft, and upbeat vibe to it that excites you into believing the grand adventure you’ve set upon.
I’d recommend any fan of the JRPG genre to take a gander at The Alliance Alive. It took me about an hour-and-a-half before I was very much sold. Between the fresh story and a cast of characters that felt well-fleshed out with their sometimes whimsical sometimes serious dialogue, I was able to get lost in The Alliance Alive in a way I haven’t in ages. A good mix of past and present is found here, redrawing pieces of stories we’ve seen before and twisting them enough to make something that felt brand new. There’s a lot of content here in a classic style that is sure to be a hit, especially for those who enjoy the battle style. For genre veterans this is a solid title and for new fans it has potential to be a favorite.
~ Final Score: 9/10 ~
Review copy provided by Atlus for 3DS. Screenshots provided by Atlus.