After almost three decades, Square Enix’s cult classic Super Nintendo RPG Live A Live will be released outside of Japan with a new remake later this week after 27 years of Japan exclusivity. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have an email interview with the producer of the Live A Live remake and director of the original game Takashi Tokita.
The original Live A Live was the first game Takashi Tokita directed however he’s had quite the career since then. He would later co-direct the critically acclaimed RPG classic Chrono Trigger and the cult hit Parasite Eve.
In our interview, Tokita told us more about what Live A Live meant to him, the struggles he had with bringing it overseas and to new consoles, as well as what it was like making the original game.
Bringing Live A Live outside Japan in HD-2D
The first notable aspect of the Live A Live remake is that it was made using the same HD-2D art style that previous Square Enix titles Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy used. The style has become popular among fans and revitalized interest in old-school RPGs. For our first question of the interview, we asked Tokita if he could tell us more about the decision to use HD-2D for Live A Live.
He ended up telling us about how he always wanted to bring the game outside Japan and has attempted to remake it in the past, before being finally given an opportunity after seeing Octopath Traveler.
Tokita: “We originally intended to launch a global release, but as the sales prospects in Japan did not seem particularly promising, we did not localize the game there. We attempted several times to remake the game and port it to other platforms, but we did not see those through to completion.
While it has been a long time since the launch of the original version, we noticed that many fans have continued the legacy of this title on the Internet in their own special ways. I understand that translations have been created by fans from all around the globe, and other fans have approached us at events overseas to commend the game — notably, sharing that it’s a legendary RPG.
A few years ago, when I joined the Asano team that is known for their hit title, Octopath Traveler, I saw an opportunity for the HD-2D remake for LIVE A LIVE. I’m glad to say that after around 30 years since the original plot was released, fans can enjoy the global release soon. I hope everyone in the world will play this game!”
Returning the Live A Live
Tokita made his directorial debut with the original Live A Live all the way back in 1994 for the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo). We asked him how it felt to be returning to such an important game for him all these years later.
Tokita: “I could not be happier and was so deeply moved to be returning to the game.
The title’s name was set as LIVE A LIVE with the will to express various ways of life, but I soon realized that it became my way of life itself. As mentioned earlier, we attempted several times to remake the game and port it to other platforms, but the remake was never realized. However, it is thanks to the enthusiastic support of our fans that made the remake possible.
It has been around 30 years since the game’s original development, and we couldn’t have completed the remake without the unwavering support of everyone involved in the creation of the game. My deepest appreciation to everyone!”
The unique gameplay of Live A Live
The original Live A Live was a unique take on RPGs, being split between multiple stories which implement the battle system in different ways. For example, only one chapter actually has random encounters and another has no combat at all outside of the final boss.
Tokita told us more about making this more unique gameplay style compared to other RPGs at the time.
Tokita: “Games nowadays are very diverse, as they differ in genres, settings, and gameplay. However, looking back, I feel that many games followed a certain format.
During the RPG movement created by Family Computer and Super Nintendo Entertainment System, we were aiming to express the genre and game feel more in the title, which did not exist in RPGs. However, by dramatically changing the story, maps, and battle elements, we strived to achieve a never-before-seen gaming experience.
I think there were pros and cons to our approach at the time of the original work, but in this modern, diverse world, I believe our intention to make the game different than the others can be enjoyed by many.”
The Dark Eighth Chapter
Another feature that made Live A Live memorable was that after completing the initial seven chapters, a new secret chapter was unlocked that was known for its darker tone and surprising plot twist that you wouldn’t often see in the generally more lighthearted games of that time.
We asked Tokita if he could tell us more about developing this chapter and the decision to give it such a somber tone.
Tokita: “While there are many unhappy endings and dark plots featured in games that are popular today, it wasn’t that common in RPGs back then as many of them adopted a simple hero tale.
The intention ties back to when I was younger and was dreaming of becoming a manga artist. When anime was getting popular, I then took up drama and acting in order to become a voice actor.
At that time, there were a lot of manga, anime, and dramas that featured a dark progression in their storyline, which in turn induced deep emotions within me. This influenced me to become the creator that I wanted to be. I think that the challenges included in the game had contributed to the title’s popularity over the years since its launch.
I also believe that as the game is an RPG, players can become one with the protagonist and are able to enjoy the game in a much more immersive way as compared to other genres.”
Live A Live’s International Debut
We’ve already briefly mentioned that this will be the first time the game is available outside Japan. For our final question of the interview, we asked Tokita his thoughts on Live a Live finally being available to people around the world.
He mentioned that despite being Japan exclusive, the game had quite a following overseas and that people had even fan-translated the game, acknowledging their passion for the title.
Tokita: “Back when the original title was in the works, I was shocked that we could not localize the game for our international audience. However, I was deeply moved when I found out that people overseas played the game in Japanese, and there were volunteers who had translated it to other languages as well. There were also a lot of people who talked about LIVE A LIVE with such passion and enthusiasm at events overseas too.
It has been around 30 years since the game’s original development, and now fans and newcomers can finally play LIVE A LIVE at its best! The localization of the game has also received excellent reviews for its quality, with careful translations and casting made for each chapter.
I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who has been supporting us for a long time, and I’m sorry to have kept all of you waiting for such a long time! We hope that all HD-2D fans of Octopath Traveler and TRIANGLE STRATEGY, who will be playing LIVE A LIVE for the first time, will also enjoy it too.”
The original Live A Live was fan translated into English by the translation group Aeon Genesis. It’s always nice to see creators acknowledging fan works and translations.
While we have no confirmation, it wouldn’t be surprising if this international fan following played a part in allowing the remake to happen, showing that the game has an audience that wants to play Live A Live even after all of these years.
Live A Live, Alive Again
We’re very thankful to Takashi Tokita for taking some time to write to us about Live a Live for this interview. As a veteran of Square Enix and classic RPGs, hearing his thoughts on developing the game and finally, seeing it reach the global market was fascinating.
For a game all about telling different stories, it seems Mr. Tokita has lived quite a life of his own.
The Live a Live Remake will be released for Nintendo Switch on July 22nd.