Not that I’m anti-handheld gaming, but aside from the original Game Boy and now the Switch, I’ve carelessly skipped over most games on machines like the DS. Of the many titles I’ve missed, The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is a game that has been released on the Switch from publisher NIS America.
First impressions, The Alliance Alive HD Remastered reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy VII. Not that it is the same scenario, but the presentation and general ambiance exudes a little of Square Enix’s fragrance. In a good way. It’s not a clone and very much stands out in its own right. You can take that cookie and 25 points for surmising that this is a JRPG. Boom.
The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is a big game compared to most Switch titles, and I bit off a little more than I could chew in getting as far as I could in time for the release. It’s not a pick-up and play for a few minutes entry, this is a ‘one more quest’ game that results in many lost hours, but they would be hours well spent. You see, the game world is quite enticing. You play as one of two characters in the beginning, unlocking many more as you progress in a turn-based-strategy mould.
Your first characters are Azura and Galil from the City of Rain, Svalna. They are tasked with an immediate quest: drop off some food to an acquaintance of Azura’s father. His day job is a landlord of a pub, but he also moonlights for the resistance group Silver Rain. He does make it clear that the errand is a decoy as this friend is part of the resistance’s network, looking to oppose the oppressors of the game, the Daemon. In simple terms, the Daemon have blocked out the sun of the land for millennia and rule over humans. Folk have had enough and joined forces to take back their land and reclaim the skies as well. In the intro, it’s stated that the world has never witnessed a blue sky.
Much like in the shape of any decent JRPG, you start off with a local town made up of a few locations to stock up on health and equipment, then venture out into the darkest regions using a world map. When traveling, your party moves across the plains encountering many random enemies; they’re mostly random in appearance, but you can see these on the map in real-time, so there is usually the option to attack or avoid.
The encounters themselves are a standard affair: take turns using a series of moves or magic to defeat your opponents. While not a new mechanic, placing your party at the front or the back has an impact on their role through a grid-like system. The back line works as support, healing or providing ranged attacks at the expense of power. Those on the front hit harder but also take more damage. It’s a sound system that adds a lot more depth for your play.
Each member from your party can equip different types of weapons, clothing and accessories throughout. You aren’t restricted to individual classes, so you can tailor your party however you see fit. Though it makes sense to have a balanced group. A party of tanks can provide devastating power, but the lack of any other attacks or strategy gets old fast. Leveling up your characters so that they can master most weapons is a sound idea, but an area of combat where your party can excel at is their talent.
Along with XP, your character receives talent points that can be used to learn new moves and unlock new tiers for a greatsword or unarmed combat. It makes you more adept at fighting and also the signmancy – a sigil that casts magic, such as healing or knocking down walls. Later in The Alliance Alive HD Remastered, you can sacrifice specific talents to boost the ones you are more likely to use in a battle. This adds variety to the game, making this one of the few JRPGs that offer this much control in combat.
Throughout the battles, your characters are awarded what is called an awakening. This is essentially a notification that you have a new move, and they perform it immediately. These in turn do use up your resources, but they are often deserving of your approach to the gameplay. Another feature in combat is telegraphed support attacks from nearby towers. If you have already unlocked them, usually through a task or dialogue with the dwellers, they will aid you in your attack or defence on any groups within the vicinity. A nice touch, in my opinion.
It’s not just combat as there are puzzles throughout. I found these quite refreshing as they were intuitive, and if you spent more time solving them than expected, you’d get hints from someone in your party. From my perspective, The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is almost an entry-level JRPG. It’s undoubtedly a big game but not on par with, say, Octopath Traveler. I haven’t even touched upon the guilds. Further down the line, you can enter guilds that also boost your playstyle. One guild will focus on tactics, while another will be the blacksmith who can seriously boost your armour and weapons, and with the number of weapons you can wield in this game, the latter is a good choice.
When I look at the graphics, they aren’t cutting edge, but they are an improvement on the original DS visuals. But that’s unimportant; The Alliance Alive HD Remastered pays homage to those of us who enjoyed the dawn of the 3D JRPG, such as the aforementioned Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Cross and Grandia. It isn’t as expansive as some of its predecessors, but there are plenty of hours to lose in this game. I realise that I haven’t mentioned this, but the soundtrack is excellent and really sets the mood throughout.
Developer: FuRyu, Cattle Call
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 8th October (US) 11th October 2019 (EU)
Do you agree with our review of The Alliance Alive HD Remastered? What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments below.