Release Date: October 8th, 2019 (Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 4)
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Cattle Call
ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Use of Alcohol)
One of our first ever game reviews nearly two years ago was for the fairly unknown JRPG: The Alliance Alive. The Cattle Call development studios 3DS game had been brought to the west by Atlus USA, after Furyu originally published it in Japan in 2017. The review started with a cheesy, tangentially related opening paragraph that asked the reader if they had the a ride or die attitude. I was trying to chunkily link that to alliances. It was not the best by any means, but it had potential to be something more if it was fleshed out better. Fast forward to present day and NIS America is now publishing the remastered game, titled The Alliance Alive HD Remastered, on the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Steam. Did this remaster provide the “new” alliance room for some fleshing out?
First some backstory, FuRyu is a known entity in Japan as they have published quite a number of games in their home country. That being said, they are not very well known in North America as they have only seen a handful of games being brought over. Cattle Call is even more obscure as this is only technically their third game, if you count the original and remaster as separate games, to be released out west. Their first was the JRPG The Legend Of Legacy that many considered as the spiritual predecessor of The Alliance Alive. The former was heavily criticized for its lack of a substantial story, and it will not take the player long to realize The Alliance Alive HD Remastered will be a very story laden game.
To keep it short there are three distinct races in this fantasy world; the Daemons who took over the world a thousand years ago, after the conclusion of the Great Daemon-Human War. Beastfolk who serve the Daemons, and Humans who are subjugated under Daemon rule. The game begins with Azura and Galil in the Rain Realm. Neither has ever seen a blue sky, due to the events many years ago, with Azura wanting to very much see the sky for herself. It did not help that Galil did not believe it is real. That initial conversation jumpstarts a pretty linear first few hours as the main cast of characters and party members are introduced to the player. The main story and open world begins to unfold from there on out. While my initial review was slightly negative in regards to the story, in particular to it hitting predictable beats, I am still left with the same overall feeling as before. This is an engrossing and fantastic story that really just needed a bit of… a less is more attitude with the dialogue.
This dense dialogue almost comes off as Cattle Call overcorrecting themselves after the feedback from their previous game. Outside of the advertised nine main characters, all of the other playable characters do not receive the same amount of progression as the other party members. There are three additional characters that can be recruited in this port. These recruits are only allowed minor character progression, which takes away slightly from the overall game. Another disappointing aspect of the aforementioned character progression is that the story mostly revolves around Azura and Galil, all the while those two are the least developed characters when it is all said and done. With that said, I will give the writers their credit on the exceptional job they did on Ignace’s character development.
Considering the actual gameplay, you will find classic JRPG turn based combat here. The modern spin that is put on the title is the combat does not reward experience. Instead, the player will notice that the party members will receive random Health Points and Special Point boosts, along with the consistent Talent Points and money. Talent Points are needed to unlock skills, and the game just does not hand out enough after each battle to unlock everything the player may want for their team. This can lead to a gameplay loop that focuses on grinding and actively seeking out optional boss battles, which may not be what the player wants. That being said, for the select that want to rush through the story, I did enjoy that more powerful attacks learned by just continually using a weapon with a party member. It provides a deeper, more nuanced combat system that is throughly appreciated.
Lastly, the main reason we are gathered here today for this review…the remaster. Having played the 3DS version, it is like night and day. The remaster is absolutely stunning, with the highlight being the character models. Sadly the overworld and cutscene backgrounds did not receive nearly as much love. This is just a minor complaint, however, as the story is about the characters in the end. The models merely are in a place worthy of their script and story. The fact that not only does this game look amazing in handheld, upsizing to the TV is seamless, with no signs of roughness anywhere. It takes an already great game, and accentuates to a higher plane.
For these reasons I am giving The Alliance Alive Remastered a higher score than the original version. While the game can still become a bit of a grind, with the story still having some pacing issues in the middle chapters, the remaster brings what originally made the game great in the first place and adds updated character models. This in turn takes a great story to a higher level. Better yet, the game is coming to many more platforms other than the 3DS, so certainly more gamers should be able to experience this fantastic game.
Review copy provided by NIS America.