Cattle Call’s first attempt at making a love letter to JRPGs of the past, The Legend of Legacy, was a flop for even the niche 3DS market for JRPGs. Teaming back up with Grezzo (The Unofficial Nintendo’s 3DS Zelda team) and FuRyu (Most notable for… Unchained Blade and a large handful of Japan exclusive license games), The Alliance Alive aims to fill the that niche that The Legend of Legacy failed to fill.
The development team for The Alliance Alive is a mix of industry veterans along with newer names in the industry. The two biggest name attached to the game is Game Designer Kyoji Koizumi of Romancing SaGa fame, Writer Yoshitaka Murayama of Suikoden fame, and Composer Masashi Hamauzu who have done music for various Square-Enix projects.
The Alliance Alive takes place in a fantasy world of humans, beastkinds (anthropomorphic animals), and Daemons. The world has been split into quadrant by the Daemons a thousand years ago. The Daemons set up a barrier, later to become known as the Dark Current, to suppress the humans and control them. The beastkinds are put into place to keep the humans in check. With the Dark Current in position, each of the four island continents underwent extreme climate changes.
There are nine playable main characters from across this world. The story begins with the first two of our heroes, two humans: Galil and Azura from the Rain Realm, a land that hasn’t seen the blue sky since the Daemon’s subjugation of the humans. Azura’s dream is to see the blue sky before the Daemon’s rule over the lands. Galil and Azura are part of the human resistant, leadered by their Azura’s father, to free the human domination by the Daemon’s and beastkinds. Along the way, they would meet up with other companions who they would join with:
- Renzo and Barbarosa, a human and a beastkind, that works with their father in the resistance
- Vivian and Ignace, Vivian being a historian and daughter to Daemon nobility and Ignace is her butler
- Tiggy, a child prodigy researching the Dark Current
- Gene and Rachel, a human who served under the Daemon and the mercenary assigned to him
With Kyoji Koizumi at the helm of the game design department, the gameplay is a throwback to the SaGa series more than a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. In the overworld map, there are no random encounter as most JRPG. All enemies are placed on the map and by running into them, or them running into you, will start the battle. There are several different type of overworld sprites that contain different types of units: beast for beast type, birds for bird type, skeleton for undead type, etc. Unlike previous SaGa series, the overworld is not swarming with monster. There’s only a few at a time and sometime they’ll spawn right in front of your path making encounters unavoidable.
Battle takes place on a grid with a front line, middle line, and back line.
Wherever your characters are placed and what stances they are in, all affect the manipulation of the enemies and damage output of your characters. Front line are usually for melee and tanks, middle line for range, and backline for support. The enemies are also on a grid of their own so keep that in mind also when adjusting your team and selecting your attacks. Just because your units are set a certain way in the beginning of battle, you can always swap your battle position before you start your turn as long as it’s one of the position you have already a preset for. Position is crucial to late game play as monster start hitting much harder. You don’t have to create any of your own preset as the game automatically give you 5 preset to start with for multiple scenario but I would highly suggest making a few that fit the way you play.
At the end of every battle, your HP get restored to maximum HP. Even though it gets restore to maximum HP, your maximum HP can be reduced if your characters repeatedly knocked out. Game Over state is either when your entire party is incapacitated or if one of your party member reaches 0 maximum HP. If your character reaches 0 HP, they can always be healed and brought right up. If they’re not brought up and continue to take attack, that’s when they’ll be taking damage to their maximum HP. Healing can be done so using abilities or using items; items must be equipped before the fight. Maximum HP can be restored by resting at inns or guild towers.
One thing I absolutely love; the game has a speed toggle that speeds up combat by x2 or x4 speed. It also has an Auto function that uses the last used ability till Auto gets turned off or the battle is over. It’s a great feature to quickly get past enemies and for grinding. Unlike the Auto x4 speed in such games like Bravely Default, you do have to toggle the Auto at the beginning of every battle.
There is no traditional level progression in the game. After each fight, if your characters are not incapacitated, you have a chance at getting an increase in your HP or SP (skill point). The bulk of your damage and defense will come from the equipment you have for each character and how strong the move you used is. The stronger the move, the more SP it will require to be used. To get stronger moves, it’s also a random progression chance of learning a new move. On my playthrough, I was still getting new moves on weapons I’ve been using the entire game for on the final boss. The more you use a specific move, the more chances you get at leveling up that move to be stronger.
Speaking of Bruce Lee, Unarm is an absolutely viable playstyle. Each of your weapon has a Final Strike you can do once your Ignition meter fills up. Final Strike incredibly powerful but will break your weapon making them unusable afterward. Broken weapons can be repaired by resting at inns or guild towers.
After every battle, your party get TP (Talent Point). You can trade TP for Talents. Talents for individual weapons to lessen the amount of SP needed for abilities, or Talents to increase the rate you gain HP/SP/abilities level/etc. You can grind for TP, but it’s not necessary. Even by the time I finished the game I’ve only obtained 17000 TP total and many of the higher Talents requires that and so much more. Highly suggest 2-3 weapons per character for variety. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but don’t also spread them out too thin.
Unlike the SaGa series where you have a series of characters to choose from, the story was written by Yoshitaka Murayama and have several influences by his work, Suikoden. Overall, the story is adequate to move the game along. You go to one Realm, solve the issue in that Realm, then you move on to the next, and repeat. Along the way, you’ll setup Guild Towers which helps you in battle and improve other aspect of your journey such as new armor and weapon, more tactical stances, different Sigils and Spells for combat. Once you clear an area, you have the option to recruit townsfolks to join your adventure and help out in one of the five guilds: Recon, Library, Signimancy, Tactics, and Blacksmith. The more guild members you have, the more each of the five guild will help you out in your adventure.
The presentation of the game is also a throwback to JRPGs of old with how everything is laid out on the map. Overworld and towns has a very penciled and water colored look to it, but once you go into a building or dungeon the insides are rendered in generic 3D models. The 3D character models are what is expected of a 3DS title.
The music, scored by Masashi Hamauzu, is fitting for the game. It’s not entirely memorable but does what it needs to do and fits the mood and feeling of the world, town, whatever the scene is presenting. A lot of it is calming and soothing, but when it needs to kick up for harder enemy battles and boss battles it does so.
As you progress the story, you’ll receive new way to explore the world. There’s many nooks and crannies to find that may lead to an optional boss fights for sweet loot or a specialist to sell you something or join your crew to populate your Guilds. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can also reach Water Devil dens and fight for sweet loot and TP.
The problem that arises with having 9 different multiple playable characters is that you’ll find the party you like and usually stick with it through the game. That means that the characters that don’t get used don’t gain any HP/SP or abilities. At the end of the game, I had two character I never ever used and it was apparent. While my main party was sitting at 350-400 HP, these two characters didn’t even break 200HP with hardly any abilities. This usually wouldn’t be an issue but there was a segment where you had to split your party into small groups and have to use all of your characters. (The game will tell you when that point occurs)
The Alliance Alive is to Suikoden and Romancing SaGa as Bravely Default was to Final Fantasy. While not perfect, it’s an enjoyable throwback. The characters, even though none of them really stand out, are charming and fun. The world was genuinely enjoyable to explore to find the little secrets that it hides. If you’re looking for a pocket size RPG to take with you, and you haven’t got yourself a Switch. Definitely give The Alliance Alive a try!
Total play time: 35:50:48
Actual play time: ~40 hours
Game copy was provided by Atlus