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Cult ’90s Square Enix RPG Live A Live to get long-overdue Western release

HD-2D remake hits Switch in July

Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

It was easy to miss in the middle of an absolutely stacked Nintendo Direct yesterday — but for enthusiasts of classic Japanese role-playing games, it might have been the most exciting announcement of the bunch (in the continuing absence of Mother 3).

Live A Live, a cult 1994 Square RPG that has never been released in the West, is being remade for Nintendo Switch. The new version uses the retro-modern HD-2D engine from Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy, and will be released on July 22, published by Nintendo itself.

Live A Live’s gimmick is that it encompasses seven eras, each with its own distinct storyline, art, and gameplay style: prehistory, the Wild West, Imperial China, Edo Japan, the near future, and the distant future. Further, unlockable chapters tie these stories together, and there’s a turn-based battle system uniting all of them, adapted to the combat style of each era.

It’s certainly an ambitious premise, and the game has a great pedigree too: It was directed by Final Fantasy 6 designer and Chrono Trigger director Takashi Tokita, with music by the legendary Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter 2, Kingdom Hearts).

If you want to understand why the game is so beloved of the cognoscenti, IGN’s Peer Schneider posted a passionate and enlightening Twitter thread about Live A Live after the remake’s announcement. And if you are one of those cognoscenti, then you may want to ogle the luxurious Japanese special edition of the game (via Nintendo Life), which comes with a model kit, soundtrack CDs, and an actual board game, among other things.

Live A Live isn’t the only classic Square Enix RPG getting the HD-2D treatment: A remake of Dragon Quest 3 is also in development. And while it may not be as beloved as that game or as intense an object of fan desire as Mother 3, it looks to be a fascinating recovery from the vaults.